Girls Wanna Dance!

Milkshake spends – or I should say reinvests all its money into new stuff for our audience. Last year it was Got a Minute, our fifth CD. This year we’re thinking videos. Making videos is a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too, and I think kids like to watch music just as much as listen to it. While playing Midnite Noon, our annual New Year’s Eve show at the Maryland Science Center, we noticed that most of the audience got up and danced when we played “Girls Wanna Dance.” But true to the idea behind the song, most of the people dancing were girls. Is it just that guys are shy? Are they bad dancers? Do they enjoy sitting more? In the green room after the show, we decided to explore this phenomenon by doing a video of the song.

Milkshake, circa the 1970's!

Milkshake, circa the 1970’s!

Tom came up with the storyline: a middle school dance circa  the seventies. The guys would wear tuxes, kids would dress up more than they do today, the setting would be a school gym and Shepp would wear a giant afro wig. Each of us would have alter-egos: I would be the stern old librarian, breaking up a slow-dancing couple; Brian would be the nerdy, book-reading professor walking through the dancing throng, oblivious; Tom would be the PE coach stopping a boy from playing basketball; Shepp would be the principal, walking in as the song ends; Cord would be the janitor, pushing a mop across the dance floor; and Mikel would be the health-nut hippie teacher, trying to get kids to eat carrots instead of lollipops. Mikel’s wife, Donna Reilly, would be the cool 70’s mom with Farrah Fawcett hair, dropping off her kid to the dance.

The band as their alter-egos.

The band as their alter-egos.

We found a perfect place to film, Park School’s Blaustein gym, and soon after found our film crew at WOOF Digital Motion. Soon we had 46 great kids from Park School, City Neighbors Charter School and a few other Baltimore-area schools signed up to be part of the video. Tuxes were rented, a new tutu was created, props were bought, including 62 golf ball-sized lollipops.

making a video.

making a video.

Rick Lewis and Terry Campbell of WOOF worked with us to make sure we had what we needed, from stage lighting to a back-up generator. They were both very together and Rick was always at the pre-production, refining, planning and even drawing the set as it would look on the day of the shoot. They were fantastic and we thank thank thank them.girls floor plan

Food was an important issue, too, since no food = hungry kids and crew. Luckily, Mikel and I had just done a private show for an executive at Wendy’s, and Wendy’s generously catered the shoot for free, so big thanks to Rick Borchers and the people at Wendy’s for filling up a car with bags of chicken nuggets, salads and burgers.

Wendys

a few of the 17 bags of Wendy’s food.

Our friends Brendan Williams and Russell Cory from Verve Broadcast Design came by with a camera and microphone and roved around the set and staging area, taking footage, interviewing some of the cast and using the footage to create a short preview for us. Thanks guys!

On March 2nd we worked on the “Girls Wanna Dance” video from 7 AM to 7 PM. It was a long day, but everything came together. Special thanks to all the kids and their parents, Bob Peck at Park School, Jill Andrews for the gorgeous new tutu she designed and for making sure the band looked good. Thanks to Steve Parke for coming by and taking pictures, and to assistant director Sandy Asirvatham who kept everything flowing nicely, guiding and directing the kids. And last, thanks to Donna Reilly for being a great mom in the seventies car, Cory Moon for helping on the set and being Moo, and to Christopher Lewis and Joe Manack for their all-around assistance. Enjoy these pictures, taken by Steve Parke and Jill Andrews.

LINK TO THE FINISHED VIDEO: Girls Wanna Dance

 

Rumpus Room Fun at SiriusXM Radio’s Kids Place Live

We’ve performed at the Rumpus Room at SiriusXM Radio four times, now, and every time it’s a memorable and joyously messy experience.  Live radio is usually an anything-can-happen idea in the first place, but radio in front of a live audience is something a bit more open to a find-a-balance stress, especially since our audience is so young and loves when we dance with them. Unfortunately, that’s hard to do connected to head phones and wired for recording, and kids wonder why we have big things covering our ears and don’t seem to play with them as much. It’s a fine line between doing a great performance for this audience, and trying to get a stellar recording. Inevitably, the star rating for each song will vary depending on the perspective. But what I love best besides the incredible SiriusXM recording studio and the warm, friendly people behind the Kids Place Channel is that we are encouraged to try new things we might not do live.

For this Rumpus Room Concert, we thought we’d be more radio-focused and created a couple skits purposely for the show. Nodding to the beginning of the new Got a Minute? CD, we started the show with a skit, inviting bandmates to come on down to the SiriusXM Studio. Each one had something else they were doing – Cord, for instance, was still cleaning up after a Super Bowl Party, trying to get bean dip out of the X Box, and Tom discovered he was just outside, standing on the corner of Florida Avenue in DC. Tom created a sarcastic question and answer with me we fondly titled Yep. In between these bits, we played mostly songs from the new CD, and it felt good. Got a Minute? is full of variety and I can’t wait to play the songs at our CD Release Party at Rams Head Live April 14. It was wonderful to see Program Director Mindy Thomas and Kenny Curtis again, and we hope SiriusXM Radio listeners enjoy the concert if they catch it on the channel. Our concert airs March 22, 23 and 24.  Check the radio website for exact times.  Special thanks to good friend and photographer Bill Auth for capturing the event in pictures.

Finally Finished!

FINALCOVERcolored4x4It took more than just a minute, in fact a bit longer than we anticipated, but the new CD, Got a Minute?, is finally finished.  We have a lot of people to thank: All the Kickstarter friends who pledged to help us make the CD, artist/teacher Danamarie Hosler who did the cover and inside poster, Steve Parke for taking new band pics and putting the CD cover together, Bill Auth for documenting our time in the studio in pictures, Dave Nachodsky for co-producing and continuing to be our favorite studio dude, the kids who suggested song topics: Ethan & Sara Scally, Savannah Radz, Addy Velasquez and Luca Zamero, and of course the many fine musicians who joined us on some of these new songs. Previous posts have mentioned some of them: Adrian Cox played tuba on “Fish,” Willem Elsevier added violin and viola to “Starry, Starry Night,” and “Anyday Waltz,” Dave Hadley played incredible pedal steel on “Looking Out the Window,” Howard Markman added some great guitar playing to “Workin’ Kid Blues,” ” Seabreeze,” and “Anyday Waltz,”  Duncan Parke played upright bass on “Seabreeze,” Kyf Brewer sang on “Starry, Starry Night,” and “We Just Wanna Have Fun,” adding bagpipes to that last one, Cathy Fink added banjo and sang on “Snowy” and Marcy Marxer played mandolin and sang on “Snowy,” and added ukulele to “Tiptoe Thru the Tulips,” Alex Handy rapped on “More Than Me,” and Vance Thomas did the same on “Baltimore,” and sang in the kid chorus of “Workin’ Kid Blues” and “Hiccup,” Lauren Reilly sang on the kid chorus of “Workin’ Kid Blues,” and “Hiccup.”

And then there’s our kids: my daughter Jesse played and sang her original song “One Day,” and Mikel’s son Eric played drums on “One of a Kind,” and both of them sang for the kid chorus.  Remembering back to our first CD (Happy Songs, 2002), when Jesse’s baby gurgling was heard at the beginning of “When You Were Born,” this is full-circle in a way, as our kids have made guest appearances on our discs through the last 10 years, but now are so very grown-up.  I can’t help but feel the Milkshake project of reflecting our kids growth and adventures through childhood has been a worthwhile and beautiful one. In some ways Got a Minute? is almost a retrospective of this because of the combination of simple songs we wrote for PBS KIDS in 2006, and the newer, more musically and thematically complex songs, both found on this new disc.  I look back fondly over the 10 years doing this project, and each CD takes me back to that certain place and time.  We learned how to count with “Fingers & Toes” (Happy Songs, 2002), signed and sang our ABC’s with “ABC of Me” (Bottle of Sunshine, 2004), played and pretended with “Superhero” (Play! 2007), learned about friendship with “Enemies” (Great Day, 2009) and found strength in ourselves in “Let ‘Em Know”and “More Than Me” (Got a Minute? 2013).

Got a Minute? will be released worldwide March 26, 2013, and we’re excited to share this new disc with you.  Advance copies will be available via our website beginning in January, and we’ll be having an official CD Release Party at Rams Head Live in Baltimore Sunday, April 14.  More on that later 🙂

Sing in Joyous Revelry

Singing on “We Just Wanna Have Fun”

It was background vocal time on Sunday July 15. The whole band came back to the studio to do one of the things that I think sets Milkshake apart: harmony vocals.  Everyone in the band sings (Brian, Tom, Shepp and Cord all sing or share lead vocals in other bands), but getting everyone singing in a creative, seamless harmonious way is another thing.  Still it’s something Cord, Brian and Shepp do especially well together, and listening to them throw harmony ideas around like they toss jokes back and forth is a crazy, exhausting, joyous experience. On “We Just Wanna Have Fun,” a song inspired by the raucous Irish tunes from our Barleyjuice friends, everyone crowded into the vocal booth and let loose. The guys sung and shouted and laughed through eight vocal tracks, creating an aural mayhem not heard since, oh, the last time we drove in a van for four hours en route to a gig in Arkansas. The song is somewhat autobiographical, as our raison d’être has always been to have fun making music together.

Cord & Brian sing on “Looking Out the Window”

On “All the Girls Wanna Dance,” Shepp sang an incredibly low vocal line while Cord added a harmony in the style of “Jive Talking” and together, they take the song to a better and more interesting place.  “Workin’ Kid Blues” finds Cord channeling Johnny Cash, while Brian added an amazing counter-point to my vocal on the title track. Both Cord and Brian added country-tinged harmonies to “Looking Out the Window.” Everyone layered harmonies on “Rainbow.”  Lots of laughs, lots of great singing; all in all, in a great time for everyone.

Photo by good friend Bill Auth.

Sundays are better than Mondays

For some reason I love Sundays in the studio.  They always seem the most relaxed, with or without Bloody Marys and bagels in the lounge.  And although today’s schedule was a bit intense, time just felt different.  This was our second Sunday at Invisible Sound, and on this July 1st we were joined by three friends who were determined to track some incredible music.  After I recorded a lead vocal, Dave Hadley came by. Dave’s a brilliant pedal steel guitarist originally from Northwest Illinois who found his way to Baltimore.  Adding to many firsts on the CD, Dave played pedal steel on a song called “Looking Out the Window of My Car,” taking the tune to the country-tinged place it wanted to be. I have always loved the pedal steel for its unique, almost wistful sound.  Here’s a video of Dave tuning up in the studio before tracking…

Our old friend and band-mate Willem Elsevier came by next, with violin, viola and mandolin in hands.  Love Riot fans will remember Willem, who played electric violin in our alt-rock band from days gone by.  Love Riot found some fame in the nineties after winning a worldwide music competition sponsored by Yamaha, along with having songs featured on the NBC TV series Homicide – Life on the Street, several soap operas and a couple movies.  When Love Riot ended, everyone seemed to go about making families, and Willem came to the studio accompanied by his beautiful 9-year-old daughter Amara.  While Willem played violin on an instrumental called “Any Day Waltz,” Amara and I decided to test out our waltz steps.

It was great to hear Willem play again, and I love what he tracked on the waltz and a lullaby called “Starry, Starry Night.”

Duncan Parke adds bass to “Sea Breeze”

After Willem, Duncan Parke joined us, along with a friend and his mom.  Duncan brought his electric upright bass and added a wonderful, almost watery bass line to Mikel’s instrumental “Sea Breeze.”  It seems especially fitting to have Duncan play on this CD, since his dad Steve Parke has done the graphic design on every Milkshake CD except the first one (we didn’t know him, yet).  I love that this last CD will include our now-tween kids playing and singing.  True, they added voices on earlier discs – Jesse was the baby gurgling on the intro to “When You Were Born,” and both Eric and Jesse sang on previous Milkshake recordings through the years. But now they also play instruments – Eric plays drums, Jesse plays piano, and Duncan plays bass.

The day ended with Cord singing some Johnny Cash-inspired vocals on “Workin’ Kid Blues” and channeling sixties rock on “Rainbow.”  Another Sunday well spent.

Rap, rap and a beautiful thing.

Mikel & Alex

Mikel & Alex in the studio

Invisible Sound was hopping on Wednesday, June 20th. After tracking a couple vocals we were joined by Alex Handy, who came by to rap on “More Than Me,” a song about looking outside oneself written by Mikel. Now, it helps to understand that Mikel and Alex work together on the night shift at UPS and that Alex doesn’t rap for a living. But he’s the real deal – a guy who works hard and is determined to do the best he can for himself and those around him – and he brought that understanding to the song.

Alex tracks “More Than Me”

I sang a few lines throughout “More Than Me,” pretending I was Rhianna for a little while.  Milkshake hasn’t done a rap/hiphop song before, and we’re anything but hard core. And yet Got a Minute? has not one but three songs that include raps, or maybe I should say “rap-like features.” Our second rap-inclusive tune is “Baltimore,” a song I wrote about our hometown. I know Baltimore has gotten a bad rap (no pun intended) from people like Randy Newman and Counting Crows, but it’s our home. And if you’ve heard our “Christmas In Baltimore”you already know of our affection for the big small town.

Vance

Vance tracks “Baltimore”

“Baltimore” is an all-out rock anthem until the breakdown at the end when my daughter’s classmate Vance Thomas raps. It seemed fitting to me, since Baltimore is very alt-rock and very urban. It’s no surprise Baltimore’s known for bands like Wye Oak and Beach House and Dru Hill and Bossman. Let’s not forget Joan Jett and Tupac Shakur are both from here. Vance did a great job and I think he enjoyed his first experience in the studio, including his part in the kid chorus featuring my daughter Jesse, Mikel’s son Eric and niece Lauren.

kid chorus

The Kid Chorus! (l. to r.) Eric, Jesse, Lauren & Vance

Needless to say, Eric and Jesse have grown up surrounded by our music and lots of outside musical experiences. Eric plays drums, Jesse plays piano, and they both have some incredible moments featured on this CD. But at this moment, all we needed were singers and we couldn’t have asked for better! Laughing and joking and full of confidence, the foursome tracked great harmonies on “Workin’ Kid Blues” and “Hiccup.”  After that we called it a very good day, and did an “Oh, yeah!” dance as Dave and Mikel chuckled.  Things are certainly going well, and this CD is so full of such variety I feel like we’re looking through a musical kaleidoscope — a little chaotic, but enchanting.

dancing in the studio

“Oh, Yeah!” job well done!