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White Plains, New York, United States | SELF

White Plains, New York, United States | SELF
Band Rock Folk




"Pink White Blue Green: CD Review"

"Magical” is perhaps the best term to describe the folk-rock duo of Dania Abu-Shaheen and Zilpha Starnes.
As women from completely different backgrounds, the two effortlessly meet in the middle to craft instantly
likeable songs, each bringing their own experiences to the table in the process. With an acoustic EP and a
previously released full-length album under their belt, Pink White Blue Green is a symbol of growth,
reminiscent of artists such as Hazeldine, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals and even Boston’s own Avi & Celia.
Tracks such as the melodic opener, “Romance the Throne,” as well as the sexualized undertones of “Saturn
Starter Home” and the ever-changing world as seen through “Rocket Science,” could easily be heard on the
radio any given day of the week. “Teeth,” “Fit, Fit, Fit” and “Confetti” are especially effective and “ear-
catching” through means of repetition. In terms of originality, each song soars with harmonies, intricacies
unlike anything this reviewer has heard before. Only time will tell, but the talented ladies of Starnes & Shah
could very well be the next big thing to hit the music community.
- Julia R. DeStefano, The Noise - The Noise (Rock Around Boston)

"Starnes&Shah featured on Cheap Thrills - Boston"

Starnes&Shah are a welcome arrival on the music scene; when a really good band moves between Boston
and New York, they're usually heading south. In this case, we have two new voices that sound so good
together. Starnes&Shah dance splendidly on the fence between folky-rock and rockish-folk, but it doesn't
matter with great lyrics and melodies.
- Rob, Cheap Thrills - Boston -

"Starnes and Shah Choose Boston's Indie Music Scene"

I recently sat down with Dania and Zilpha from the band Starnes and Shah, and they dished about their new move to Boston, their busy New England tour, and new record, ‘Pink, White, Blue, Green,’ which is releasing in May 2009. While chatting it up with the group over papaya martinis, I found out what makes Boston such a great indie music scene, and it’s not the groupies…

Liz: What were the beginnings of Starnes and Shah? What made you guys decide to make music together?

Dania: Starnes and Shah had started in 2005. I had played alone for a while since college. Zilpha and I went to the same school [Sarah Lawrence] but didn’t really know each other until after we graduated. I did a lot of coffeehouse shows in the city, open mics and little features. After I graduated, I was still working in Bronxville and needed a roommate, and Zilpha and I met each other through a mutual friend, and we ended up living together. For the first year, we didn’t play music together at all. I knew that she sang and played music but for some reason we never played together. Then we both moved to Queens, NY, and one day, I had written a song and heard Zilpha humming in the other room, so I said, could you indulge me for a second and sing along, and she did, and that was it. From that point on, I forced her to sing with me forever. [Zilpha laughs]

Liz: I’ve heard several of the samples provided on the website. Very creative stuff. How would you describe your sound?

Dania: I tell people it’s a vocal duo and usually people cringe when they hear that but really what we are is sort of indie/folk and now we’ve evolved into rock, but still a vocal duo. There’s no backup singer. There aren’t really any indie rock vocal duos out there.

Liz: What’s your process for writing music?

Dania: I write the songs. The basic lyrics and melodies. I see myself as the storyteller. And at that point, they’re half-cooked, but when Zilpha and I get together on them, they really come to life, because when I write songs the second voice is always missing. We come from very different musical backgrounds. I don’t know how to read music. I’ve never been trained to play anything. And Zilpha is a classically trained singer and musician, and had a music background in the church band and didn’t know who Zeppelin was when I met her. It’s been pretty educational in terms of the structured way to view and arrange music, which is really Zilpha’s strength. Each of our strengths is another one’s weakness and vise versa. It’s very collaborative.

Zilpha: The consistent thread for me [whether it be music or acting] has been relating to a story that’s already been created and trying to make other people present in the telling of that story. I want to complement the story, not compete or undermine or change it. It means a lot to me to be in a group and make music again with people who are receptive to what my strengths and interests are.

Liz: Have you guys been on tour a lot in the past, and how will this upcoming tour be different?

Dania: We were both working full time jobs in New York, so we weren’t able to go on tour, so we were a regional band at the time and played in New York, and we did a show in Austin Texas. We’re really looking forward to starting this Boston tour, because we’ll have some rock shows, some acoustic shows. The nice thing about living in Boston is that there are other cities nearby that we get to play at like Burlington, VT and Portland, ME. We have a radio show in New Hampshire and we’re setting up other performances there, and we want to continue to play in New York. We really want to extend our reach. Our goal is to be able to get in a van one day and go everywhere and anywhere.

Zilpha: I’m originally from Dallas, and I really hope that we can play a string of shows in the Dallas and Austin areas.

Liz: Is there a favorite venue that you’ve played at so far?

Dania: [without a pause] Our favorite music venue, I would have to say is Patty O’Reilly’s music bar in New York. This guy named Rick Johnson holds a great open mic there. He used to hold one at this famous club called the C Notes, which closed, but he arranges open mics around a feature act, which is great because the showcase interacts with everyone else, and the bar scene is great. We did it a few times with a full band. We’re definitely looking forward to discovering which Boston venue will be a favorite.

Liz: I’ve heard your previous record Summer in the Woodshed, which is available now on iTunes, and selected songs from your new record on your website [] and I noticed great similarities between you and the Indigo Girls. What are your musical influences and your response to this comparison?

Dania: I’m a huge fan of the Indigo Girls, and I dragged Zilpha to a few of their shows so she’s a fan too. My musical influences are scattered: I love Oasis, which I still get a lot of flak for, and I loved Pearl Jam. I still and will always love them. I love Tori Amos. She is a great singer/songwriter and she has a great band behind her. When we were performing in New York, I made it a mandate for the whole band to see her perform live. I love the band America and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. My romance is vocal harmonies. Since we’ve been in Boston, I’ve heard some great stuff recently from the local band Faces on Film.

Zilpha: I grew up listening to a lot of country music, which would surprise everyone, George Strait, and Randy Travis, a lot of Randy Travis. I was a big fan of girl harmony groups like Envogue and Ace of Base and ABBA thus triggering my Swedish phase. I like to pretend I’m Swedish. My dad actually looks like one of the ABBA band members. [laughter] My biggest influence has been the people I knew personally that wrote and played music as I grew up.

Liz: What made you decide to move from New York to Boston?

Dania: New York is a great city, but it can be exhausting to pursue your art and pay the bills. We wanted to find a city where we could really tap into the artistic community, but at the same time, we didn’t want to go too far from New York. Boston has an amazing music scene, and other great music cities nearby.

Zilpha: I think that we were really fortunate when living in New York, because we had a “not New York experience.” We had a very intimate work environment at Turtle Bay Music School, where everyone knew that we did our music thing on the side, and that was our passion. And I don’t think we would’ve had the balls to move to Boston, if it wasn’t for our supportive workplace that believed in us.

Liz: Did the groupies follow you from New York to Boston?

Dania: Ha, well the groupies are PG-13, so none of that. But we’ve had some awesome people, who were friends, fans and supporters, period. We have some really dedicated fans across the country. It’s hard to make that commitment and move somewhere for art, and say I’m gonna give art a go, but we’ve had so many friends come out and say ‘we support you and good luck,’ and that’s why we didn’t want to move too far from New York, because we have a group there that support us and believe in us.

Liz: So what can we expect from Starnes and Shah in the near future?

Dania: I’m really excited. I know the band is excited. We have a bunch of shows all over New England. We’re gonna get a Zipcar van and just go, try and document all of our trip, and post snip-its on our web site, and then we have our CD release party in New York, which is very exciting. For us, we’re coming out of our 9 to 5 lives and dedicating our lives into this project, so we want to document all of it.

Zilpha: I’m very excited about the shows that we have. We’re going to play with the Bella Birds at the Lily Pad, and I think its great that we’ve already reached out to a local band. Similar to putting together a great mixtape for someone, I feel like we’re putting together a really fun evening of folk and soulful music. And we’re playing at Midway café with one of the members of Hotel Universe, and we’re putting together a rock compilation to compliment his style.

Dania: I think the best part about it is being able to reach out to musicians in the area and form a community. We’ve been able to contact bands we like and say, hey, I like you sound, we should play a show together.

Liz: So I guess since you’ve come to Boston, you’ve been welcomed by other bands in the area and have already become a part of the local music community.

Dania: So far yeah. Right now, we’re ramping up about our first show on the 17th at Midway, but we’ve reached out to other bands and gone to see them play. Going to these shows makes me think, yes, indie music is alive and well in Boston. We couldn’t wish for anything better.

Liz: Fences the Plea is one of the songs off of your upcoming album, Pink, White, Blue, Green. The combination of the heartfelt lyrics and the strong build up sounded like an eclectic campfire for the advanced listener. Could you tell me what inspired the lyrics and music for this song?

Dania: Fences the Plea is a story of venturing into a new world. I visited Australia last summer. We both did. And I wrote this song before even going there, because Australia was a present place in my mind and my reality. The continent is so massive, and there’s something so open and wide about it, but in that space there are still people who feel trapped and encaged. And it’s a common love story, where someone feels a lack of freedom, but I thought it was really compelling to think of that in the context of Australia.

Liz: Pink, White, Blue, Green. It’s a very interesting title. Can you elaborate on where you got the title from?

Zilpha: We were discussing the title on one of our whirlwind weekends between Boston and New York on the Bolt bus [big plug, its great, it has wi-fi], and we were at Tick tock diner, and they have this retro table that was white with pink, blue and green speckles, and Dania asked me what the title should be and I said, pink, white, blue, green. And that also refers to the song Confetti [which has said phrase]. I always liked album titles that referred to a song in the album.

Dania: Pink white blue green is just about being all over the map at once and being in a small space at the same time, and bouncing crazily from one thing to the next, and to me that’s a metaphor for living in New York and trying to get out, but wanting to stay. We chose the album title because it was really representative of what we were feeling—unsure, all over the place, kind of loving it, a little bit scared, and it’s been an interesting ride and has been changing colors dramatically.

So, if you want to see Starnes and Shah live in Boston, watch them kick off their live tour on May 17th at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain, or go to their web site for more dates. Keep a close watch for their record releasing in May 2009. - (Boston)

"CD Review: Pink White Blue Green"

Starnes & Shah - Pink White Blue Green
2009, Starnes & Shah

Dania Abu-Shaheen and Zilpha Starnes are New York and Boston wunderkinds Starnes & Shah. The duo made a name for themselves on New York City's Folk/Rock scene with gigs in venues such as Kenny's Castaways and The Living Room, garnering a reputation as a folk group with a dynamic live show. In May of 2009, Starnes & Shah released their third CD (2nd full length), Pink White Blue Green, featuring intelligent and melodic folk tunes with tight harmonies, is bound to gain Starnes & Shah critical attention. If you can imagine Neil Young crossed with the Indigo Girls you have a vague idea of what Starnes & Shah are about musically.

Starnes & Shah have a very unique sound in their harmonies. They don't blend exactly; it's more like their voices co-exist in harmonious fashion, yet both remain materially distinct. The result is harmony with just a hint of tension that's always beneath the surface. Consequently, not everything on Pink White Blue Green works for me as the listener. The more lyric or mundane tracks fizzle out a bit, but then there are songs like Fit, Fit, Fit and Romancing The Throne, where Starnes And Shah are at the top of their game. On the best tracks it's as if the producer captured a live performance at home sitting around a coffee table. The sound is edgy and raw and full of the bare character of both performers. Leave Sonny is the absolute highlight of the disc; an archetype of that raw and unrepentant sound that makes Starnes & Shah who they are. The songwriting here is exceptional; it's one of those songs you can imagine other artists finding and wanting to record for themselves. The second half of the CD is much tamer, and consequently lost me a bit. Other highlights include Half Hitch, Rocket Science and The Precious Face And Familiar Bride.

Pink White Blue Green is uneven and gets a little lost for much of its second half, but the first five tracks here are as interesting and enjoyable as anything you're likely to find in Folk/Pop music. Starnes And Shah have an amazing vocal harmony sound that sounds nearly as competitive as it is complementary. The tension they create in coming together adds an extra spice to the songs on Pink White Blue Green and causes intrigue in listeners. Starnes And Shah are definitely worth spending a little time getting to know.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5) - Wildy's World

"Second Stage: Starnes and Shah: Wilt", August 30, 2007 - Starnes and Shah seem like an unlikely folk band. One member is an Arabic, rock and roll hopeful from Lebanon, another a former choir singer from Texas, and one member is a heavy metal drummer from New Mexico. But the trio, now based in New York, finds common ground in heartfelt acoustic songs.

Calling themselves an "Arab expat, a dixie deportee, and a desert drifter," Starnes and Shah features singer and guitarist Dania Abu-Shaheen, vocalist and keyboardist Zilpha Starnes and drummer Eric O'Connell.

In 2006 the trio completed their debut EP, Here Again on the Island, recorded at the Loft Studioes in Bronxville, NY.

Their new, full-length CD is Summer in the Woodshed, which includes the track featured here, "Wilt." - NPR Second Stage

"Starnes and Shah, Red Brick Tide"

If you take Dania Abu Shaheen, a Lebanese poet and combine her with Zilpha Starnes, a songtress from Dallas then you get, Starnes & Shah promoting their latest release, “Red Brick Tide”, and what a combination they do make.

When you hear a band like these two young ladies you can not help but think both were put on this earth solely to find each other and create musical fusion. They have a rare dynamic that intertwines their vocals into beautiful melodic threads. At times it is difficult to hear what they are singing about because your so wrapped in the cadence of the instrumentation. Of course, their voices are as much of an instrument as the guitar and drums themselves.

However, Dania must be putting her poetic skills to use. These girls seem to know exactly how to build impactful lyrics. They have a clear beginning, middle and end. Each song is a short 3 minute movie. Their message is universal leaving nothing to your imagination. It evokes you to put your own experiences in place of theirs until your lost in a world under your own terms. As a songwriter myself, I have to say, well done that is not an easy thing to do. These ladies are refreshing and bring a whole new playing field to the music industry.

The CD title, “Red Brick Tide” is brilliantly visual and fitting for the music that is compiled in this project. I enjoyed it and highly recommend it to anyone out there seeking something fresh and new.

Rebecca Hosking – - Skope Entertainment, Inc.

"Review of Pink White Blue Green"

Now here’s an interesting cultural collision. Zilpha Starnes, a former choirgirl from Texas, and Dania Abu-Shaheen, a rock music loving Lebanese expat, established themselves as a “vocal folk duo” in 2005 after sharing a New York apartment together for a year or so. Already a veteran of the city’s coffeehouse circuit with a solo album to her name, Abu-Shaheen initiated the collaboration and the pair soon found themselves the toast of the scene. Pink White Blue Green follows on from their 2007 debut Summer In The Woodshed, and was written in the midst of a bold move away from their NYC comfort zone and into the Boston artistic community. It’s hard to say exactly what impact this relocation might have had on the album, but Pink White Blue Green is nevertheless a clear step forward for the unlikely pair.

Though in some ways the duo recall other closely harmonising pairings like the Indigo Girls, their unique and powerful voices curiously don’t quite blend as one would expect. Their intelligent yet awkward harmonies and predominantly vocal slant on a folk-rock sound is original and enchanting. Highlights include ‘Rocket Science’ for its beautiful, melodic a cappella breakdowns, ‘Fit Fit Fit’ for its purity of purpose, and the stunningly raw and powerful ‘Leave Sonny’. In keeping with the colour wheel hopping of the title, there are times when Pink White Blue Green can leave one feeling a little lost and dizzy, but there’s always something just earthy enough around the corner to steer us back to an expedition of appreciation. - Claire Robinson


Red Brick Tide
all songs © 2011 Dania Abu-Shaheen

1. Cardinal Marks
2. Tantrum
3. Sick July
4. Estimate and Then
5. Lucinda
6. Settlers' Folly
7. Harpoon
8. All That Love
9. Half Hitch
10. Case For You
11. Think Twice

pink white blue green
all songs © 2009 dania abu-shaheen

1. romance the throne
2. half hitch
3. saturn starter home
4. rocket science
5. teeth
6. fit, fit, fit
7. leave sonny
8. fleet
9. fences, the plea
10. confetti
11. the man in blue
12. precious face and familiar bride
13. ok to look now

summer in the woodshed
all songs © 2007 dania abu-shaheen

1. wilt
2. two weeks
3. narrative
4. slow
5. love politic
6. syrup
7. the wager and the when
8. 3000 miles
9. cynthia

here again on the island (EP)
all songs © 2006 dania abu-shaheen

1. here again on the island
2. cameron
3. shiseido
4. who is he?
5. inas
6. muzzle



Starnes&Shah, featuring vocal duo Dania Abu-Shaheen (guitar/vocals) and Zilpha Starnes (keyboards/vocals), was formed in Astoria, NY in 2005. Bring a poet/songwriter from Lebanon together with a choirgirl from Dallas, Texas, and you get a unique musical counterpoint.

The songs range from pared down acoustic ballads to rock anthems complete with choral arrangements and layered guitar effects. They are stories rendered with Dania’s poetry and music. Zilpha’s harmonies play between exchange and tension to produce a signature sound.

On November 12, 2011 Starnes&Shah will release "Red Brick Tide," their third full-length album. "Red Brick Tide" packs a rock'n'roll punch with vocal and compositional complexity. Quirky synthesizers and hard-driving guitars augment the duo's trademark harmonies to conjure up nuanced narratives.

Starnes&Shah have released an acoustic EP titled "Here Again on the Island" (2006) and two full-length albums, "Summer in the Woodshed" (2007), and "Pink White Blue Green" (2009), featuring full band arrangements.

S&S have played shows in Northeastern cities including Burlington, Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, and their current home city, New York. They continue to play regular shows in New England and New York, and will be touring to promote "Red Brick Tide" in the spring and summer of 2012.