“Yellowjackets” composers and songwriters Craig Wedren and Anna Waronker jumped at the chance to write the original music and lyrics contender “Sit Right Down” for Episode 7 of the Showtime series.
“We were deep into the blood, fragmentation, descent and sanity-shattering music,” Wedren says, referring to the events that the survivors have to endure this season. The producers asked them to write an “MGM, old school standard number meets Bob Fosse.”
The dream sequence happens as Simone Kessell’s Lottie asks the adult Yellowjackets to choose a therapy option treatment at her “wellness retreat.” Misty, played by Christina Ricci, finds herself in a sensory tank after picking “Guidance.” She needs it. In the teen timeline, Misty (played by Samantha Hanratty) makes a new bestie in Crystal, a fellow theater lover. Except, Misty’s openness with her BFF during a round of rapid-fire secrets comes to a sad end when Misty confesses she sabotaged the flight’s black box recorder. Mortified, Crystal asks if Misty will “poison her,” to which she replies “I’ll fucking kill you.” Moments later, Crystal has accidentally fallen off the cliff to her death. Meanwhile, adult Misty is racking up the “deaths” after kidnapping and spiking a reporter’s cigarette.
In the fever dream sequence, the sensory tank becomes a musical haven for Misty as her beloved pet bird Caligula has taken human form, played by Broadway star John Cameron Mitchell.
Misty’s face is superimposed in the background, watching as Elijah Wood’s Walter dances around in a top hat with sketches of a needle, axe and the black box floating in the foreground to the tune.
As ’90s veterans — Wedren of the band Shudder to Think and Waronker of That Dog — Waronker calls the project a “dream assignment” because it tapped into their musical songwriting and comedic skills that they had been doing for years. “It was very quick,” Waronker says of the songwriting process.
Wedren admits the music theme and the descending line for “Sit Right Down” came to him right away. “I picked up the guitar and started plucking it out.” By the time Waronker came over to work on the song, the two began to tweak the melody and swap lyrics back and forth. He says, “By the end of the day, I thought, ‘Now that’s a show tune.’”
Waronker says their approach for the song, which had lyrics that tell Misty to “bathe in the sound and sit right down,” “was to take a song with these classic style melodies and use the lyrics in a ‘Yellowjackets’ way, so that it was multi-layered with lots of meaning and there has to be a sense of humor but not over-the-top funny and not a gag.”
He continues, “We knew that it was a therapy session where Caligula is giving Misty a pep talk about being murderous and just not to hold back and to kill every motherfucker that gets in your way. So, we had a ball writing that because it’s punk…it’s kind of ‘Sweeney Todd.’”
Wedren, who was speaking via Zoom from New York and had just seen the “Sweeney Todd” Broadway revival, says “The whole time I was thinking, ‘This is what I love about ‘Yellowjackets.’ There’s blood, horror, humor, strange music, traditional music and it’s very irreverent. But there’s something grounded and rooted in it, and ‘Sit Right Down’ had a little bit of that in it.”
When the collaborators were penning the song and laying down music, Mitchell was not on board at first — but he became the perfect addition.
Wedren says, “We were relieved because it was clear we would have to add nothing, and he would just add, add and add. His addition was like the whipped cream, caramel and maraschino cherry on top of the sundae.”
Mitchell, who penned the Tony Award-winning musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” didn’t need much guidance. Says Wedren, “We need to book a studio and see if John can come out.” Instead, they sent the multi-hyphenate an instrumental which he recorded at his home. “When we got it back, it was like Liza Minnelli meets ‘The Exorcist,” jokes Wedren.
In all, Mitchell provided them with six different takes of the tune. Says Waronker, “We had a variation of our favorite moments to take for the final version. I thought, ‘This is my job today, cutting John’s incredible vocals together.’”
Watch “Sit Right Down” below.