The Twin Cities' Adam Levy's got a lot going on -- still working with his main band The Honeydogs and a side project with a name he hesitates to use on a kids music site (it's OK, Adam, I mentioned it anyway), he's also got a kid-friendly side project called Bunny Clogs. He released More! More! More! earlier this year -- it's definitely one of the most interesting kids' CDs of the year, but it's also got some of the most entertaining tracks of the year, too. (Here's the review.)
Adam recently answered a few questions about the project -- read on for how the album's like an old De La Soul disk, the unique aspects of playing for kids, and his defense and critique of contemporary pop music (in other words, arguments for and against Miley Cyrus).
Zooglobble: What music did you listen to growing up?
Adam Levy: Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. KISS. The Beatles. Sly and the Family Stone. Hendrix. Dylan. I'd have to say the diversity of '70's radio was the biggest impact in my early childhood -- you heard elements of everything in pop radio from that era: British pop, soul, funk, country, classical, disco, prog, hard rock, blues. I also remember an explosion of interesting children's music in that Sesame Street era -- Free To Be You and Me, Carole King's Really Rosie, Harry Nilsson's The Point.
When did you first know you wanted to make music for a living?
When I was 12...
You've been writing some of the Bunny Clogs songs for a while now -- how did you get into writing these songs?
I had just finished the darkest, most intense songwriting and recording of my career up to that point (a concept album, 10,000 Years with the Honeydogs) in 2003 and started buying home studio stuff. The songs happened quickly as I was learning to use all of the gear. Sort of got my mind out of the dark place I had been for the last ten or so years.
In the late 80's/early 90's I got into De La Soul and the Beastie Boys and always loved the worlds those guys created in their albums -- characters, inside jokes. Bunny Clogs gave me permission to take the best things about my family life and relationship with my children, those inside jokes, nicknames, love of food, rhyming, surreal goofiness... and share it with others.
How does the process of writing the songs with your kids work?
My kids participated in all kinds of ways: giggling in the background, contributing lyrics, clapping, singing. It was dad messing around with music at home. My son did all of the artwork for the record.
Photo by Tony Nelson
What are your kids' favorite Bunny Clogs songs, either for listening to or playing live?
"Midtown Greenway," "Song For Powderhorn" -- for their musicality. "Butter," Shpilkas," "3 Dogs and a Pancake" for how crazy they make the kids go. Both girls are becoming quite comfortable on stage. Both are singing really well. Esther, the oldest, is becoming a visual centerpoint for the show -- her dancing is ridiculously good.
What do they (at least your daughters) listen to generally?
They like some cool stuff like St. Vincent, Bird and the Bee, Tupac, the Beatles, but they also dig Miley Cyrus, the JoBros [Ed: The Jonas Brothers, for those not yet in the know], Taylor Swift. I am tolerant and let them listen to contemporary pop radio because I know how big of an impact it had on me in my own childhood. I hate to sound old, but modern pop is so homogenous -- production, songwriting, arrangements. There are many musical moments, but I fear many kids who are not listening to indie music or being exposed to older stuff are getting a very limited sonic landscape in pop music these days.
You've played a few Bunny Clogs shows now -- what have you learned about playing live shows for kids?
Kids are the toughest audience. They don't pretend to be interested or physically moved by the music. It's visceral for them and you have to engage them constantly. They love to be part of the show, too.
Keep the show short.
You participated in a kids music panel at SXSW -- what has surprised you about the family music business as you've gone about releasing More! More! More!?
There is an explosion of interesting family music. The big labels aren't interested because the sales aren't big enough. That's OK -- I think there's room enough for all of us.
What's next for Bunny Clogs and the rest of your musical endeavors?
Lots of shows coming up. Trying to figure out some ways to tour with the band. Working on new material for Bunny Clogs, Honeydogs, and another project. [Ed: It's OK -- you can say it here -- "Hookers and Blow."]