‘Bad Sisters’ Composer Tim Phillips Invented New Instrument With P.J. Harvey They Call The Pollytron Sound & Screen TV

The score for Apple TV+’s Bad Sisters features a collaboration between Tim Phillips and P.J. Harvey. Phillips recalled inventing a new instrument with Harvey so she could record most of her work ahead of her album and book tour.

“We came up with an ulterior plan which ended up becoming the sound of the show which was to build her into a huge series of sampler instruments which she then named the Pollytron,” Phillips said at Deadline’s Sound & Screen: Television event. “We spent a couple days basically sampling her, building huge libraries of her doing all sorts of different things. We cut the title track as well.”

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That title track is Harvey covering Leonard Cohen’s “Who By Fire.”

“She turned up in the studio and told me just as she was about to go in the booth, ‘I forgot to mention, I never do more than three takes of anything,’ ” Phillips recalled. “It is literally the first take you hear on the show with maybe a couple of words cut in from something else. It’s 99% that take.”

Phillips also helped Harvey harmonize with herself. The show is about four sisters who plot against the fifth’s husband.

“Polly [the “P.J.” in Harvey stands for Polly Jean] came up with the idea that we should have a harmony for each sister,” Phillips said. “There’s five of her singing in that. One is pitch shifted down.”

Throughout the score of the episodes, Harvey employs a Bulgarian style of singing. Sharon Horgan, who adapted Bad Sisters for Apple, suggested the Bulgarian female vocals.

“That’s very expressive and uses a lot of cackles and whoops,” Phillips said. “It just so happened that Polly Harvey had recently been studying this form of singing. It was the biggest, wildest fluke whatsoever. We went and got her doing all that stuff. It just really seemed to work within the tone of the show.”

Check back Friday for the panel video.

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