Interview: Greg Attonito & Shanti Wintergate (Play Date)

It was only last year that one-time Skankin' Pickle member Mike Park released his foray into kids music, the album SMILE.
And now he's got a whole kids music label, Fun Fun Records.  One of the two debut releases from the label is Imagination from the band Play Date.  The band consists of husband-and-wife team Greg Attonito (of punk band The Bouncing Souls) and Shanti Wintergate.  They dipped their toes in creating art for kids with the publication some years back of the book I Went for a Walk.  They took some time last month from their summer touring schedule to talk about laying down under pianos, positive energy, and Imagination's inspiration.
Zooglobble: What are your first musical memories?
Greg Attonito: Listening to my Mom playing piano at our house. I would lay down on the floor under the piano keyboard at my Mom's feet and feel the sounds of the piano. I really loved that... and sometimes singing along when my Grandmother would play piano and sing at her house. 

Shanti Wintergate: I've been surrounded by music since I was in the womb.  My musician parents have always been performing and playing music throughout my life, so it's hard to pinpoint a specific was just always there.  Our whole family was always singing and harmonizing together as long as I can remember.  My brother and I used to lay down by the side of our pool and sing the same note into the water. We would watch the water move and listen to the reverberations and echoes of our voices. We would sometimes do this for hours. 
When did you decide you wanted to be a professional musician?
I thought it might be possible when I was in high school learning our favorite punk rock songs with friends.  We played shows in our hometown and talked about rock 'n' roll dreams.  Miraculously we made them come true.  It has been an amazing adventure. I have learned so much through the experience of making music with those same high school friends over the course of 23 years.  I'm excited to be bringing all I've learned from being in a rock band into making music for kids.
The idea first occurred to me, when I started learning how to play guitar to accompany lyrics and melodies I had always written.  There was a freedom in being a self-contained musical creator.  I was asked to perform one of my songs in a local summer music festival, which I did and I've been hooked ever since.
When did you first start thinking about recording an album of family music?  Was it around the time of publication of I Went For a Walk or was it later than that?
We had talked about it a bit before that. I think the first time might have been when we played for our nephew's 2nd grade class.. That was the initial spark. We continued talking about it during and after the "I Went For A Walk" tours but we were so busy with pre-existing projects there wasn't time for it. 

What was your guiding philosophy in writing the songs for the album?

Our main focus was creating music that parents would enjoy as much as the kids and to infuse some positivity and fun into the world.  We were also really careful about the energy we put into the entire creative process.  We wanted it to feel effortless, and naturally uplifting so we committed to only working on this project when we were in the right frame of mind.  We found that usually just working on this music in and of itself put us in a great mood so it wasn't really a problem.  I know this might sound silly but, our hope is that anyone listening to the record will feel like they had a blast hanging out with us singing songs and getting silly for forty-five minutes or so..... and maybe even feel a little more loved and cared about through the experience.  :)

What has surprised you (positively or negatively) as you wrote/recorded/started to promote and tour the album?
I was surprised at how much fun we had recording the record.  I knew it would be fun but it was way more fun than I expected!

I can't think of anything negative, but there have been lots of positives.  I also had a feeling we were going to have fun creating this music, but I hadn't expected the fun to be so contagious.   It seems everyone who has been around or part of the recording process has been influenced positively by the experience.... it's just too fun to resist!  Writing and recording this record, I allowed myself to explore musical boundaries that I didn't even know I had.  We also played all the instruments on this record except drums, so there has been a great satisfaction in that.
What's your impression of other music being recorded for kids -- any favorites, or have you tended to stay away?  Has that impression changed at all over time or as you've been recording/finishing the album?

I have just recently had my ears open to the world of kids music so I don't know many of the artists.  I like They Might Be Giants.  Their kids music is really good.  Our friend Kepi's new kids record is great, too. It's called Kepi For Kids and it will also be coming out on Fun Fun Records.

In the past I think it was a little more challenging to find music for kids that wasn't too "dumbed down" and obviously "children's music"... but it seems like today it's becoming easier to find good music for kids. MORE musicians are putting MORE effort into making quality music for kids.  It's so important!!  The music that kids are exposed to early on influence their musical tastes as they grow and there's plenty of evidence of music influencing emotional and mental states.  The importance of music in child development is finally gaining some well deserved ground.  Kids need a wholesome diet for their EARS as well as their BODIES!  

How much touring do you plan to do as Play Date? What have your experiences been playing for kids thus far as compared to playing in the Bouncing Souls or as a duo?

We just did a show last week in Montreal that was a blast! It was the first year the PouzzaFest hosted a kids stage at their big rock festival.  They did a great job and a lot of families came out and had a great time. 

We may do some dates this fall in Southern California. We intend to submit for more festivals with kids stages for next year and we are exchanging ideas right now about setting up a package tour with all of the artists releasing kids music on Fun Fun Records... so that is what is in the works at the moment. 

I have really enjoyed the new experience of playing for the kids in a more family friendly environment. The shows are earlier in the day..HAHA! It's broadening my musical horizons and challenging me to be more free with music in writing and performing.
What's next for you (kid-wise or otherwise)?

The Bouncing Souls released a new record on June 12th so I will be on tour in the U.S. all summer supporting that.  Play Date's record is coming out on October 9th.  We are really looking forward to getting the new Play Date record out in the world and supporting its release.  It's going to be really fun to see how it impacts the world.
Photo credit: Mike McLaughlin