Millions of children in the mid-1980s tuned in to the syndicated cartoon series "Jem" (1985-88). At the time, singer, songwriter and actress Britta Phillips was best known for providing the singing voice of the cartoon's titular character, but she later became a respected indie rock musician, achieving her greatest renown as half of the duo Dean & Britta alongside her husband Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500 and Luna fame.
Britta Phillips was born on June 11, 1963 in Boyne City, Michigan, although she grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania for most of her childhood. Phillips was raised in an environment ripe for future musicians; her father, Peter Phillips, composed jingles and once tutored musical legend Paul Simon on piano. When she and her father moved to New York City while he worked on Broadway plays, Phillips decided to pursue a musical career and moved on her own to Brooklyn at the age of 19.
Phillips already had inside connections to the musical industry through her father, who used his contacts to secure an audition for the title role of an upcoming cartoon series, "Jem." The show followed the adventures of Jerrica Benton, a seemingly normal musical company owner who has an secret alter-ego as Jem, the sensational pop singer of the band The Holograms. For her audition, Phillips provided a demo tape of the cartoon's theme song. Based on the strength of that tape alone, she was immediately hired to perform all of Jem's songs; in fact, that demo was consequently used for the show's opening sequence. During the show's run, Phillips was also cast in an episode of the stylish TV noir "Crime Story" (NBC 1986-88). After reprising her singing role as Jem in the TV movie based on the show, "Jem: Truly Outrageous!" (1986) and finishing her final takes as the show ended its 65-episode run, Phillips landed her first feature film role in the teen rock band movie "Satisfaction" (1988), where she appeared alongside Justine Bateman, Julia Roberts, and Liam Neeson. The film has since become a touchstone of bad rock and roll-based movies, but Phillips managed to avoid the critical lampooning that her bandmates received.
In the 1990s, Phillips ditched acting to focus on her musical career. Around 1990, she and fellow singer/guitarist Jody Porter formed a band called The Belltower. Although most of the band members were from New York City, they moved to London to become part of British "shoegazing" music scene; their sole album Popdropper was released in 1992. After the band (and Phillips and Porter's brief marriage) split, Phillips eventually joined another indie band, the regrettably named Ultrababyfat, and briefly worked with Australian musician Ben Lee before she auditioned in 2000 to join Luna, an established dream-pop outfit led by ex-Galaxie 500 singer Dean Wareham. During her time in Luna, the band released two albums, Romantica (2002) and Rendezvous (2004), Phillips and Wareham began a romantic relationship during this period, and married in 2007.
Before Luna announced their break-up in 2005, Phillips and Wareham had begun collaborating as a duo. Wareham was working on a new album titled L'Avventura (2003) as a solo project before he decided to include Phillips after listening to a few of her demos. After the members of Luna parted ways, Wareham and Phillips spent the following year working on film scores, most notably on Noah Baumbach's critically acclaimed "The Squid and the Whale" (2005). In that same year, Phillips returned to television once again as a voice actor in the religious parody animated series, "Moral Orel" (Adult Swim 2005-08), where she voiced the mother of the show's eponymous protagonist. In 2007, Dean & Britta released their second album, Back the Numbers. Afterwards, Phillips began to multitask between her work as a musician and a voice actor. In 2010, she worked once again with the creators of "Moral Orel" to lend her voice for another program called "Mary Shelley's Frankenhole" (Adult Swim 2010-12) while finishing up her third album with her husband, a series of impressionistic soundtracks called 13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests. In 2012, Phillips reunited with Baumbach, acting in a small role in his film "Frances Ha" and contributing a pair of tunes to the soundtrack.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Cast as the singing voice of Jem
First feature film "Satisfaction"
Joined the band Luna
Formed Dean & Britta along with husband Dean Wareham
Actress in "Frances Ha"