Surreal dance fun with Adam Levy
Soon after Adam Levy of the Minneapolis band the Honeydogs began goofing around in his home recording studio with his daughters Ester and Eva Bella, they had created an album of funky danceable music — and the Bunny Clogs were born.
“It’s been pretty amazing to get so much attention for something we created on the fly,” Levy says. Princess Records released More! More! More! in January 2009.
The sound, he says, is “Shel Silverstein-meets-Prince surreal dance fun,” while the lyrics are captivatingly simple: “I love olives, olives, olives,” and “We made a fried chicken pyramid.” Parents will pick up on the sophisticated chords and references to the Midtown Greenway and Powderhorn.
Backed by members of the Honeydogs, Levy and the girls play everything from birthday parties to the Cedar Cultural Center.
“Children can be a tough audience, because they can’t help but be honest,” Levy says, “but that has made me a better musician.” Along with projects for five bands, Levy teaches full time.
Making music together is a way to fit more family time into that busy schedule; it’s only a matter of time before their song “Confessions of a Teenage Lima Bean” becomes more pertinent.
— Karen Locke
A band of his own
Last summer, dads in jeans, sandals, and baseball caps met in the lobby of the Linden Hills House of Music in Minneapolis, guitars in hand.
When everyone has gathered, they hammer out the mechanics of a Beatles song. Within 40 minutes they are playing the whole song through with improvised solos.
This is Rock Camp for Dads, the brain child of Mike Michel of the Bill Mike Band, who leads the four jam sessions that culminate in the campers’ big concert.
“It’s about getting together and playing. It’s about not being a dad for a bit, and just being a kid,” said Brad McLemore, owner of Linden Hills House of Music.
The first camp session was an instant hit. Michel got calls and e-mails the same week he posted a camp description on Craigslist. Dads from all corners of the Twin Cities, as far as Lakeville, St. Paul, and Coon Rapids signed up.
“I was looking for someone to jam with; someone with the same crazy schedule that I have, someone who understood that Friday nights are bad because it’s family ice cream night,” said camp alum David Morabito.
Right now the camp is just for guitarists and bassists, but McLemore said it might open up to more instruments, possibly drums. All adults, including women, are welcome, even those without kids. The only qualification is that you can play a song.
The camp is $175 and runs once a week for five weeks, ending with a 20-minute performance at a live concert. Practice is usually Tuesday or Wednesday from 7:30–9 p.m. with a little extra jam time at the end.
— Carly Reynolds
Welcome to Clementown
One day in early 2006, not long after her second daughter was born, Kate Lynch, a Minneapolis musician and former professional dancer, was itching for a project.
Her first stab at adaptation was a quick sketch for an opera based on the children’s classic Madeline. But after she showed it to her husband, musician and composer Chris Beaty, they changed course completely.
“He said, ‘Cool idea, but I hate that book,’” she recalled. “So we just kind of ran through the house and got one of our favorite books.”
That book was Polkabats and Octopus Slacks, a collection of smart poems by writer and illustrator Calef Brown. (They liked it so much, the couple had already swiped the name of their cover band, Clementown, from a Brown poem.)
Six months later, they mailed a batch of early recordings to Brown, with all his poems from Polkabats and Dutch Sneakers and Fleakeepers set to music word for word.
“I was just blown away,” recalled Brown, from his home in Maine. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I didn’t expect that: having every song like a gem, so different from the next.”
Brown said he grew up loving Dr. Seuss and John Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice in Wonderland. His own illustrations manage to look both naïve and sophisticated, with wacky characters painted in a distinctive, dusky palette.
They were inspiring for Lynch and Beaty, who developed the sound of certain songs based as much on Brown’s images as his words. They hopscotch from pop to folk to reggae to country, creating a unique sonic landscape for each of Brown’s quirky poems.
By December of last year, the funky track “Kansas City Octopus” was in heavy rotation locally on 89.3 The Current’s kids’ music spin-off, Wonderground Radio, and Lynch and Beaty have their eyes on more musical collaborations and adaptations.
— Dylan Thomas
The sweet sound of parenthood
Children’s music wasn’t always the plan for the Sweet Colleen’s third album. A local folk-pop favorite since 1999, the five-member band has spent much of the last decade promoting its 2003 and 2005 albums “Flop” and “Half a Mile From Home.”
“As my two children were young, I started writing songs for them,” says Jeremy Greenhouse, the Colleens’ cofounder and songwriter. “And whenever we’d play our regular music at a festival, kids inevitably ended jumping around up front. Our drummer, Jeff Gram, is also expecting twins. It’s just the age the band members are at right now.”
Thus was born The Monkey Dance: All the Kids Are Doin’ It!, a10-track album geared for listeners ages 2–9. The title track, “The Monkey Dance,” is a rock-and-roll sing-along that adds interactive body movements with each verse. Another highlight is “No Beans, No Brownie,” a song inspired by a conversation between Greenhouse and his son.
“Much to my wife’s chagrin, ‘Big Fat Wet and Goopy Poopy Diaper’ is also becoming a fan favorite,” Greenhouse says. “People think it’s either really funny or really stupid. I’m in the first group, which is why it made it to the album.”
The Monkey Dance stays true to the Sweet Colleens’ original eclectic style, ranging from ’60s rock to Cajun, folk, and Carribbean tunes. The Minneapolis Youth Chorus lends background vocals to five songs.
Look for children’s performances by the Sweet Colleens at local venues and festivals. “I don’t see us transitioning solely into a kids’ act, but it’s gratifying and enjoyable,” Jeremy says.
— Megan Hussong