Video: “Lighter Than Air” – Recess Monkey + Dads Who Rock! Father’s Day Q&A with Jack Forman

RECESS MONKEY HOT AIR.300Recess Monkey just celebrated the release of their 12th album, Hot Air. Man, talk about prolific! Throughout the band’s kindie music career, there has always been a Beatles-esque quality to their sound, and their admiration for the Fab Four can be seen on older album covers and in album titles (see Animal House and Tabby Road).

Their most recent video for the song “Lighter Than Air” contains elements found in classic Beatles songs á la Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Club Hearts Band (think “A Day in the Life”). The arrangement is filled with lush orchestration and infectious Pop-Rock hooks (there is even some megaphone).. There really is no exception to who will get the most out of this recording, and really the entire album. In terms of their audiences’ ages, I guess you could say the sky’s the limit.

Hot Air is a CD/DVD combo containing 15 audio tracks plus a 40-minute beautifully animated story that follows the path of a young boy named Andrew and his adventures with flight, and a penguin. Listen to and purchase the album through Recess Monkey’s store, or from my affiliate Amazon. Make sure to keep up with Recess Monkey through their Facebook page, Twitter or by subscribing to their newsletter (or make it a Trifecta and hit all three!).

Today’s double feature continues with Jack Forman, chief funny man, bass player and beloved host of The Monkey House, an afternoon radio show featured on Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live (ch. 78), as he joins us for the next Father’s Day Q&A. As expected, Jack’s answers are as bright and entertaining as he is. Below Jack explains why laughter is the fuel that runs his familial engine, gives mad props to his wife Ellen and talks about how they find a parental balance, and shares his plans for Father’s Day (which naturally includes rockin’ out).


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KCG: What is the best thing about being a Dad?
JF: Both of our kids have completely contagious laughs that are just impossible not to get wrapped up in – there’s nothing quite like the feeling of one of your kids finding something hysterical. That energy is way up there on the dad-scale: laughter can fuel an entire day for sure. But honestly, it’s getting to be a dad alongside my wife who is an exceptional mom. We do a good job of tag-team parenting, and I’m able to be with our kids a lot while Ellen’s teaching during the school year, but I constantly learn from her when our lives become parallel enough to actually be parents in the same room at the same time. She’s crazy intuitive. Though I love 1-on-1 times with each of our two kids, my favorite times are when both kids are happily playing and my wife and I get to kind of not be parents for a couple of unified minutes. Our kids are young and you take those opportunities when you can!

KCG: What is the hardest thing about being a Dad (especially if you’re a touring artist)?
JF: Our son Oscar is just now getting to the age where he notices me being away from home when we go on tour as a band. Skype is a total lifesaver. It’s kind of lucky that we paid a lot of band dues before my kids were born- we get to be a lot more choosey about the shows that we play now, and can strike a better balance of time on the road with time for our families. Out of maybe 110 shows on the books for this year, about 90 of them will allow us to sleep in our own beds. That’s a huge deal and a big stress relief.

KCG: How often do you play music/sing with your kids?
JF: I’m constantly singing or listening to music with our kids- most recently Oscar’s been a die-hard Pop Ups fan and Bea kind of growls along with songs and butt-dances when we have music playing at our house. They both come to a lot of shows of ours- Oscar watches Korum drumming intently, and Bea just grooves on the floor, doing a “baby twist” dance move. We’d call her “Chubby Checker” but we don’t want to give her a body image problem.

KCG: Do your kids join you on stage during performances?
JF: Both kids are big music fans but neither has become a part of our live shows in Recess Monkey- Beatrix is so “Gerberiffic” that she really would help our band’s cuteness factor too… It’s a real missed opportunity. Oscar’s an aspiring drummer and we think Bea’s going to dance. No idea if they’ll ever be in bands of their own, but music will surely play a role in their lives as they grow up.

KCG: What are your plans for Father’s Day?
JF: Ha ha… What else? SHOWS! Summer is our crazy season in Recess Monkey and we’ve booked ourselves 75 shows between now and August. We have two on Father’s Day, but the first is right around the corner from my house so the kids and my wife Ellen will probably come to that one. The only request I’ve made is to sleep in until at least 8am, which I can guarantee you will not actually happen. Our mornings are really fun right now- Pjs until at least 11am, but for Father’s day we’re going to push for noon! This family runs on coffee.

Playlist: Music for Hipster Youth by Spotify

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The other day I was talking with a close friend who sighed as she said that she is sadly probably one of the few people who still buys physical copies of albums. She even still seeks out vinyl. A woman after my own heart! As we were talking, I asked her if she uses any streaming music services like Pandora or Spotify since I like to understand how people find Kids music. She said, rarely, but if she does use any services it’s Spotify for the convenience of its playlist feature. Curious, I went to check out Spotify’s Browse feature which, according to Spotify, contains “expert playlists for every mood and moment.

As I was scrolling through the “Kids” section, passing familiar categories such as Folk, Sing-Alongs, and Lullabies, I stumbled upon one that was intriguing. Enter the Hipster Youth playlist.  The Hipster Youth playlist contains a large selection of top kindie artists like The Verve PipeThe Pop Ups, The Okee Dokee BrothersGustafer YellowgoldRecess MonkeyJustin RobertsBig Bang Boom, Ralph Covert and Dan Zanes among others. There is also some Yo Gabba Gabba representation, of course! Despite it being an excellent playlist filled with “hip and indie kids music” (note: The Goo Goo Dolls with Elmo and The Spin Doctors somehow make an appearance) the actual naming of the playlist is what caught my eye. Since it is a Spotify generated list (some lists are generated by Spotify members), I wrote Spotify to see if I could get more information on how the name of the list was chosen. As suspected, I was pointed to the help text which states that “Spotify Browse adds the human touch to our recommendations, creating a three-dimensional approach to music discovery. Between your friends, our personalized recommendations and real music experts, it’s the perfect formula to ensure you’ll always have the right music for every moment.”

While I wouldn’t necessarily identify myself or my daughter as a hipster (although I did buy her shiny gold leggings from American Apparel and joyfully exclaimed that she looks like a hipster), I have to admit that the label is catchy. Although, I’m not sure how many artists or listeners would identify with it. I like to think that in many ways it reinforces the coolness of this genre and makes me feel even more grateful to be a part of a thriving musical community made up of artists that value independent thinking, appreciation of art, creativity, intelligence, and clever wordplay. All of which you will find among the tracks below.

I checked in with Jack Forman of Recess Monkey on what he thought of being a part of a playlist called Hipster Youth: “[hipster youth] definitely makes me think of little kids with handlebar mustaches. So I guess that means I like it? There’s some chagrin in the family corner of the music world about media people who write the “FINALLY there’s music for kids!” article. I understand the frustration: we’ve all been at this for a long time. But really, whatever you want to call this kind of music we all make, it’s still extremely niche and most people don’t get it until they see one of our bands in person, watching their kids connect at a show, or really spending time with a record. All that being said, I think every time someone breathes new energy into the definition (kindie, hipster, etc.) is just that many more people who may discover it. But I think the bigger story here is Spotify will pay all of these artists, Recess Monkey included, a laughably small royalty. Sure, music discovery is an important part of being a career musician… but what Spotify is doing is downright criminal. At least hipsters aren’t thieves!”

To reinforce Jack’s statement, if you like what you hear, I would urge you to support these artists by checking out their sites, seeing them live, purchasing the songs and even a full album from media outlets like iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon. While Spotify is convenient, it provides a fractional financial “thank you” to artists. Besides, there really is no substitute for the real thing.

Interview with Recess Monkey

RECESSMONKEY47.300Just in time for summer, Recess Monkey released their 9th studio album, Deep Sea Diver and it’s making a big splash in our home. In this album, listeners are taken on a journey into the deep blue by a rhythm powered submarine. As they sail through the sea of songs, Recess Monkey delivers infectious hooks, solid beats and stellar songwriting while addressing such topics as fear of jumping into the deep end of the pool, beach balls and seagulls. There’s even a song about singing coral called “Choral Reef.”

I had a chance to catch up with Drew Holloway, Jack Forman and the newest monkey, Korum Bischoff (also known as “Fish Sticks” on the album). Going into the interview I had fully anticipated lots of talk about music, which there is, and what I received was that these guys are seriously hard workers fueled by their enriching day jobs as teachers and fathers, and most importantly, their undeniable appreciation for family.

Kids Can Groove: Since this is your first time on Kids Can Groove can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Drew Holloway (vocals, guitar): I’m a product of a Mom who liked to sing to me as a baby and toddler and a guitar playing father who surrounded my older brother and I with instruments and a great record collection. During the school year, I teach preschool, kindergarten and music. On the weekends, and all throughout the summer, I rock out for families with my buddies Jack and Korum. My favorite job, however, is that of dad to my two school-aged daughters, Mira and Sadie.

Jack Forman (vocals, bass): Like Drew, music has always been a huge part of my life. I took cello lessons as a preschooler and bounced between different instruments until I joined the Northwest Boychoir in Seattle. The organization really changed my life – tons of ear training, I learned how to read music, and I got to surround myself with other people who loved music. A friend said once that the best way to grow as a musician is to join a band filled with people who are better than you. I’ve benefited from that advice several times over in my life! In addition to being in Recess Monkey, I also manage all of the business side— booking, production, video, etc. I also joined the Kids Place Live channel on SiriusXM about 6 months ago where I’ve been hosting a 5 day a week live radio show called Live From the Monkey House. My wife, 2 year old son and I live in an old house here in Seattle.

Korum Bischoff (vocals, drums): My birth announcement, back in 1975, looked like a record release promotion and my dad owned a home studio, so I guess you could say I was born into a musical life. When I was 10, we sold the house and moved onto a sailboat where I lived until I was 23, so I have a very tight-knit family that loves to play music together. I married my high school sweetheart with whom I have 2 funny, smart, talented and very different boys. We live on an island in Puget Sound where we both grew up and are very engrained in the community. I’ve been teaching drums privately for 22 years and taught music at a middle school for a couple of years. I’m also a graphic designer and worked in the entertainment industry in Seattle, slowly switching more and more into marketing and event production. Now I’m the Director of Communications and Events at a botanical reserve called Bloedel Reserve.

KCG: We are really enjoying Deep Sea Diver. Your albums tend to have themes but Deep Sea Diver has an evolving storyline, ultimately leading to your next album, Desert Island Disc. What inspired these ideas and how did you plan for the fact that you would need to release two discs in the same year, months apart?

DH: We wanted to do a sea-themed CD for a while but when Korum joined the band it just seemed as if the tide was incredibly strong. I mean our first brainstorming session was on an actual ferry and Korum spent most of his formative years on a sailboat. We were meant to take to the water! The two cd-narrative was something that evolved, mostly due to having such a wealth of material. All three of us are writing and it makes for a heaping bouillabaisse!

JF: We discovered along the way that we had two different kinds of songs – the really electric, exciting, uptempo songs that seem synonymous with an adventure, and some more relaxed, stripped-down tunes that felt more like life on a beach. As we approached the recording sessions with upwards of 30 songs, we divided them into two piles that worked really well together. Deep Sea Diver is part one, the adventure, and we’re returning in October with Desert Island Disc which is being pressed as I type this!

KB: Before going into the studio we talked about what songs would appear on each disc. When we arrived at the studio, we tackled each disc separately which allowed us to stop and really think about how we wanted the discs to sound and create a different vibe for each. The first disc is much more electric and heavy-hitting. Disc 2 is lighter, more acoustic instrument focused and less busy on the drums.

KCG: You guys were quoted as saying that this is “the most recess monkeyest Recess Monkey album.” Can you explain?

DH: With every album the recess monkey-ness gets stronger. It’s just a result of us getting to know ourselves and the process of recording better and better.

JF: I can’t overstate what a huge step it was for us as a band to have Korum join. He’s such a talented, detailed and nuanced drummer with this amazing inventory of creative beats and ideas. So many of the songs kicked into high gear when he added his parts. This is also the first time that all three of us have written songs: historically, Drew has shouldered the entire weight of writing an album. It’s a good thing, too: he’s so amazingly creative and musically eclectic. I can say for myself that I learned how to write songs by watching him write 150 of them. Adding Korum’s and my writing voices into the mix just increases the number of places that we can go on a record.

KB: Wow, thanks Jack. Being that this is my first disc with Recess Monkey, I’m happy that my playing is being received by the band and our fans as Recess Monkey-ish! As a longtime fan, I always thought of Daron’s drum parts as an integral part of their sound. Coming in, I had a little bit of fear that my playing might not gel as Daron and my background and styles are very different. But once we got in a couple of songs in the studio, I knew that it was going to work.

KCG: What things did you do differently on this album that you hadn’t explored as a band before?

DH: We have never tried to record this many songs at once. It was an all out blitz with very little down time. Increasingly we have been all playing live together during recording and even tracking live vocals. That’s a bit of a tight-wire act but also makes for real, human-like performances caught “on tape,” like snapshots. One new thing we did in the demo stage was having Korum record a bevy of drum loops. “The Deep End” and “Fish Sticks” were totally inspired by drum patterns that Korum had laid down prior to writing lyrics or creating melody lines.

JF: This is also the first time that we’ve included true orchestrations on our songs.  “Stranded” features Jherek Bischoff’s stunning orchestral arrangements, which foreshadows several more that we’re including on Desert Island Disc. Hearing those arrangements for the first time was like Christmas morning!

KB: Um, I recorded with THESE dudes…

KCG: Do you have a favorite song from Deep Sea Diver?

DH: Probably “The Deep End.” I just love when the song breaks out after the bridge. Jack and I have a lot of fun trying to mimic the horns when we play that song live.

JF: Shrimp!” The song is inspired by some of De La Soul’s songs, but when we recorded it, it took on a more Sugar Hill Gang kind of flavor. The video we made for the song kind of sealed the deal. Agreed with Drew about the breakout on “The Deep End.” That section is 100% about Korum’s drums, and then another 100% about Tom Baisden and Dean Jones’ horns. You read that right – that section is 200%.

KB: I really love “The Deep End” as well. I’m very happy with how it came out and it is a fun challenge to pull off live. Plus, it really reminds me of going to the pool with my kids who do NOT like jumping in. I also really love “Compass Rose.” To me, it is a quintessential Recess Monkey song and I love the phrasing at the end of the chorus.

KCG: I have always enjoyed your videos and I love how you get into character. Have you done any acting or improv?

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DH: Thanks! I haven’t done any acting work, it’s the result of many goofy videos made as a middle-schooler. Seriously, while the videos have a real home-spun quality to them with an air of improv, they’re the result of lots of planning and multiple takes. Also, we have a great director.  He’s the one in the funny red hat.

JF: Just like Drew, my friends and I made tons of weird little videos in middle school- we somehow conned our teachers into actually getting class credit for a lot of them. The fact that, 25 years later, we still get to make these videos is such a triumph over the notion that you have to grow up!

KB: Appearing in videos is new for me and I hate watching myself. I’m definitely out of my comfort zone, but I love new challenges and look forward to growing in that area. I actually have a ton of video experience, but it’s all behind the camera or computer monitor.

KCG: Do you connect with a particular song and then come up with a character you can play, i.e. “Sack Lunch,” the driver in “Tambourine Submarine” and the host of the Coral Club in “Fish Sticks“?

DH: We try to prioritize with the videos we want to make. From there it’s just trying to be true to the vibe of the shoot, what’s been recorded, audio-wise, and making sure the nerdiness shines through!

JF: Some songs just have a totally implicit video idea worked into them- but my favorites are the ones that are kind of a left turn. We have this video for “Grandmom’s House” set in a bowling alley where our band gets schooled on the lanes by our grandmother doppelgangers. That premise has really nothing to do with the lyrics of the song itself, but I think it really works. We discovered early on that it’s the energy behind a video that’s more important than the premise. Kids will pick up on that energy right away!

KCG: How does teaching influence your involvement with Recess Monkey?

DH: I’m a teacher first and come Monday morning I’ll be leading a class through some crazy serpentine of a lesson. The job gives me the opportunity to practice the art of listening which is essential to helping a student stretch to the next step or in the case of a band for families, write a song that connects with kids/parents or know how to structure a set and interact in a live setting.

JF: My classes have always felt like families, and the truth is I spend a lot more time talking to kids every day than adults. Probably 3:1!

KB: My students inspire me constantly. Their willingness to take risks, their dedication to learning, and their passion for music is refreshing. Plus they help keep me current on music trends and amazing drummers.

KCG: How do you manage teaching, music (writing and producing music) and family?

DH: Recess Monkey is bigger than Korum, Jack and myself as we all have great partners at home who help oversee the circus of doing a second or third job while raising kids. My wife is a teacher as well. We are fortunate to have schedules that work in pretty good harmony, giving us time to be together each night for dinner and at least one weekend day to get things done or head out as a family to do something fun.

JF: I actually took the plunge 2 years ago and became a stay at home dad after 13 years in the classroom. My wife was unbelievably supportive of that choice, not to mention her infinite patience when shows take us away from home for a weekend, or recording sessions make me resemble the common underground mole. We’re at a point as a band where we can’t possibly take all of the gigs that we’re offered, which is a nice freedom to be a little choosier, making time for our families.

KB: It’s official, we couldn’t do it without our families. I think that what we’re doing resonates with them, too. I love that my family can enjoy this together. I think my wife sees what a positive example we’re setting for our kids: the hard work, the joy we bring, and the hard-earned successes. I’m a bit of a work-a-holic, so it’s lucky for the family that we’re all on the same page with Recess Monkey.

KCG: You guys did a circus themed tour for In Tents, do you have something similar planned for Deep Sea Diver?

DH: We’re super-lucky to know the fine folks at Teatro Zinzanni, a fabulous dinner theater in Seattle that features some great food and amazing circus artists. It was a synergistic smorgasbord that led to a twelve show run of “In Tents” under the big top. It was the coolest thing we’ve done by far and we hope to bring Deep Sea Diver and Desert Island Disc to the tent this fall and winter. You’ll have to come to the Emerald City to see it!

JF: The big question is how we’re going to turn a circus tent into a submarine, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out!

KB: Do we ever! I’m picturing acrobatic jelly fish and a trio of stranded ukulele players at center ring.

KCG: The Dancing Bear video and song is one of our favorites and also a tribute to The Beastie Boys (one of my all time favorites). Would you say they are a big influence for you?

DH: We all grew up with hip hop as a big influence. As a middle-schooler I was ping-ponging between The Beatles’ White Album and Yo! MTV Raps. I had “It Takes a Nation…” and “Straight Outta Compton” on cassette in my Sony Sports Walkman, oh so bright yellow. I liked the Beastie Boys but I’ll give the hat-tip to Jack who was a bigger fan of the fab three and definitely advocated for the BB treatment of “The Dancing Bear.” He hit a home run on that one!

JF: That was a really fun song to perform in the tent. Korum was actually in a giant bear costume, leading kids in a conga line during the break.

KCG: When you have downtime, what do you enjoy doing most?

DH: I’ve been a runner since high school and it’s my favorite way to get some some down time. It’s also a great way to see a new place when you’re out and about traveling from town to town!

JF: This hardly seems like down time, but I find remodeling projects to be really meditative and cathartic. I was a huge Lego fan as a young kid and now I just do the same thing with wood!

KB: I can’t remember the last time I had downtime, but I do enjoy gardening/landscaping and riding my bike (which I try to incorporate into my commute). About once a year, I get an hour or two when I can get out my brushes and watercolors. That’s what I’d like to do more.

KCG: What is your favorite thing to do with your family?

DH: Anything active! Walking the neighborhood or hitting the many great parks of Seattle. I’d love to do more hiking and camping. Our youngest is just about ready to handle the rigors of carrying some gear and staying overnight in a tent. Movie nights are fun, too. We like huddling around to watch My Neighbor Totoro, Wallace and Gromit or one of the Harry Potter films.

JF: Honestly, it’s talking. Our son is coming into a really fun language period right now and he, my wife and I have been taking turns making up stories at dinner. They usually end up being about going to “the drum store,” since drumming is my son’s #1 recreational choice.

KB: I love going exploring and bike riding. But the best thing of all is to just snuggle and stroke their hair. My older boy is 9 and he still loves to cuddle. I’m trying to savor every minute of it while I can.

KCG: Have any authors/stories inspired your music/songwriting?

DH: The poetry of Jack Pretlutsky has been an influence. As my kids get older we’ve been diving back into classic chapter books like the Hobbit, The Narnia Series, Roald Dahl’s books and the works of Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. You can’t help but hear a golden line and get scribbling on a song idea or two.

JF: Louis Sachar’s Sideways Stories from Wayside School books were so fantastic- the absurdity of it all, I just loved those.

KB: Despite being a musician for almost 30 years, songwriting is new to me. Arranging is a different story though and I really came up as a jazz student more than anything else. I love the process of working through a new song and figuring out what is going to work through trial and error. So, I guess you could say I approach the process like a “Choose Your Own Adventure book!”

View this: “Tambourine Submarine” – Recess Monkey

Recess_Monkey_Tambourine_Submarine_Video_93791348_thumbnail Monkeynauts take heed!  Recess Monkey just released the first video from their upcoming album, Deep Sea Diver. I would say that the album is highly anticipated but I think, in general, any album from this enthusiastic troupe is typically highly anticipated.

In “Tambourine Submarine,” the Seattle trio takes to the deep blue in a blinged out u-boat powered by rhythm and propelled by a spinning tambourine.  Although I hesitate to use the word “cute” to describe what the guys refer to as a “mean green rhythm machine,” I cant help but want to sling one on my keychain and jingle jangle it all ’round my hood.

“Tambourine Submarine” is a fantastic voyage filled with creativity and humor. Check it out!