Josh and the Jamtones' "Bear Hunt: The Movie"!

Project:  Josh & the Jamtones present "Bear Hunt: The Mini-Movie!"

CreatorJosh and the Jamtones

Description:  When Josh & the Jamtones' album Bear Hunt was released last fall, I liked the music and the energy the band brings, but I -- an admitted grinch when it comes to skits on albums -- was less keen on the skits on this particular album.  Not because they weren't funny -- they are -- but because they felt like they part of a different thing altogether.

But when I heard that the Boston-based band had set up a Kickstarter to turn the skits into a series of animated shorts and videos for DVD, I thought it was a brilliant idea.  Without a doubt, those skits (featuring head honcho Josh Shriber and drummer/producer Pat Hanlin) are going to shine in a visual format.  With only a couple days to go, the band's shot way past its $12,500 goal, but there's still time for you to get into the action.  You can watch the Kickstarter video below for a sense of the humor here, or read Shriber's responses to a few questions...

Zooglobble: How much fun do you have creating and recording those sketches?

HAHA!  [Jamtones drummer/producer] Pat [Hanlin] and I have spent a LOT of time going on Bear Hunts in studio, performances, parties, kids classes and we even embarked on a mad bear hunt live in-studio at the Sirius XM Rumpus Room with Mindy last year.  That was long before the album was even in progress.

Anyway, what you don't hear in the final product is all the times we had to cut 'cuz we were hysterically laughing at each other.  Doing these skits improv-style is one thing but being separated in different rooms (for sound purposes) puts a completely new unknown spin on this whole thing.  We were listening to each other with out seeing each other so we really had no idea what the other was thinking and it just added this whole crazy spontaneity.

OK, short answer?... I've never had so much fun in the studio!   I'm super lucky to have found Pat.  He and I really work well together, we get along great, and crack each other up on an all too often basis.  Though this is some good comedy action, we have just as much fun in the studio when we're recording music, dialogue, rippin' solos, and so on.  If it's not FUN in the studio, especially in this genre, the listener will surely hear it. 

Seriously, are you, like, a comedian who plays music, or a musician who likes comedy?

Well I've been a pied piper for years, hitting schools, hangin' out at our performance center in Wellesley, Massachusetts every day, rockin' shows with the Jamtones, teaching music to the children, et cetera.  So while I thank you for thinking we have any skill in the comedy world, we've been going at this from a musical standpoint all along!   I've never been on stage in a stand up, theatrical, comedic role in my life.  I've just always felt that for this audience, you need to inject humor.  I mean how can anyone take themselves serious while singing about the likes of race cars, row boats and rocket ships.  Oh and trains!  Every kindie artist loves a good train song.  C'mon if its not somewhat funny, then to me it's just corny and cheesy, ya know?  Ooooh, cheesy corndogs anyone?  I'm gonna take a quick lunch break... be right back.

Was a movie always part of the plan (or hope) when y'all created "Bear Hunt?"

Not at all!  But once it was done, we knew there was so much more we could do with this!  I also have 2 young kids at home in the same age range as our Jamtones demographic and they love music but they really LOVE their screen time.  I know Raffi will be mad at me for saying that but what kid does'nt love veggggggin' out in front of the TV or iPad?  And when you listen to the skits, they are funny (if I do say so myself) but we felt there was sooo much humor sorta left on the table -- like the awkward silences, the sarcasm that can be heard but would be so much funnier if it could be seen in body language and facial expression.  Plus we have crazy imaginations around here and we're playing with this material every day in our Program Center.  When you are so involved with your material and keep tweaking it, it often morphs in different directions... who knows where our bear hunt will take us tomorrow.

Anyway, once it lives as a final product on a CD, you start thinking, "What if we did this, that, these, those to bring this to life?"  So here comes the movie where we get to flesh out the 13 million ideas we've had since this CD was released in October.

A bear?  In the Kickstarter video?  OK, whose idea was that?

Well obviously?!?!?!  Leading up to the release of the Bear Hunt CD, we were doing photo shoots, practicing for release parties, and needed to continually rent this bear suit from a store about 45 minutes north of our center.  It cost a lot and was a total hassle.  SOOOOOO we called China and said, "Hello, China?  Please send us a very expensive, crappily made Bear suit."  And they did.

Now that bear lives and works with us every day.  He makes cameo appearances in our classes, makes babies cry, interrupts classical piano lessons and basically just distracts us and helps us lose as much focus as possible on any given day.  That bear is a real pain in the [tuchus].  We didn't want him in the video but he forced our hand.

Debut Kids Album from Yumzah! (aka Steve Lee)

Project:  Yumzah! Pre-Order

Creator:  Yumzah!

Description:  OK, this isn't really a crowdfunding campaign as I've come to think of it -- or, rather Nashville's just being more open than most creators that his album as Yumzah is done, and his Indiegogo flexible funding campaign is purely for pre-orders.  But if you've heard What Did You Do Today, Stephen Scott Lee?, you'd know that new music from this guy (and folks like The Wood Brothers, Chris Wood, Kyle Andrews, and more) is worth checking out.

ScratchJr: Coding for Young(er) Kids

Project:  ScratchJr: Coding for Young Kids

Creator:  Mitchel Resnick at Lifelong Kindergarten at MIT

Description:  Coding for kids is all the rage these days -- seems like you can't go through Kickstarter pages without running into at least one of these every week (here's one of my favorites).  But it's also true that the Lifelong Kindergarten lab at MIT has been interested in the subject for a long time, most visibly in the creation of Scratch, a web-based programming interface for kids ages 8 and up.  Now, with ScratchJr, they hope to expand that work down to kids ages 5 through 7.

The website is free, so rewards are for ancillary items such as t-shirts, stickers, and seminars.  But if ScratchJr is as cool as its elder sibling, it's worth pitching in.

Ep. 16: Suzi Shelton's Kids Music Album "Smile in My Heart"

In this episode, I talk with Suzi Shelton, who's using Kickstarter to help fund her third full-length family music album Smile in My Heart.  We chat about how she got into kids' music, why this is only her third full-length album (really, I was totally surprised to realize that!), and the myth of the DIY musician.

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Links 

Smile in My Heart - A New Family CD by Suzi Shelton

Suzi Shelton

Suzi Shelton on Facebook

Suzi Shelton on Twitter

Suzi Shelton on YouTube

"Cinnamon Bear" video

May 4 show at Brooklyn Bell House

Marc Bazerman

Suzi Shelton on StageIt

Steve Elci's Next Kids Music Album, "Imagination Nation"

Project:  "Imagination Nation" The new children's CD from Steve Elci

Creator:  Steve Elci

Description:  The Connecticut-based pop-rocker Elci goes simple in his Kickstarter pitch for Imagination Nation, his follow-up to his kindie debut Crayons in a Box.  Short funding period (only 25 days at launch), short pitch video (less than 30 seconds!), and short list of rewards (CD, signed CD, concert, and sponsorship).  But it seems to be working thus far -- he's already raised more than half of his $3,500 goal, which'll fund not just recording costs but the costs of producing an animated music video.

Ep. 15: Joanie Leeds' 6th Album for Kids "Good Egg"

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I talk with Joanie Leeds, who's going back to Kickstarter to raise money for her forthcoming sixth family music album, Good Egg.  We chat about her path to making music for kids, recording in upstate New York, and what she learned about doing Kickstarter from her last Kickstarter project (for her previous album Bandwagon).  I had lots of fun talking with her -- sadly (really!), our discussion of weather highs and lows in our lives did not make the recorded portion of the chat.

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Links 

"Good Egg" - Joanie Leeds rocks her 6th Kids CD

Joanie Leeds

Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights on Facebook

Review of Joanie Leeds' album Bandwagon

Dean Jones' No Parking Studios