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Over the past two weeks leading up to Rock Father’s Day 2014 here on THE ROCK FATHER, I’ve been profiling fellow “Rock Fathers” from different corners of the music industry. While I’ve had a fine assortment of great musicians, great Dads, and just plain great people, one thing I have not featured until today is an entire band – you could even argue that they’re a “great” band – most certainly among the most prolific and consistently entertaining in the kindie rock scene today, regularly releasing satisfying concept albums built around a central theme, and on Tuesday, June 17, their latest album WIRED, will hit the streets. Ladies and Gentlemen, from Seattle, Washington… Drew Holloway, Jack Forman and Korum Bischoff, collectively known as RECESS MONKEY!
Watch: Recess Monkey – “Wired” the music video
Drew Holloway – Vocals, Guitar
Offspring: Daughters, Mira 8¾ Sadie 5½, fractions are important.
Musical History: Singer/Guitarist for Recess Monkey, aged 8 and three quarters. Played in basement based bands in high school, often fueled by my dad’s homemade pizza. Rocked out in pop bands in Seattle clubs for a few years before deciding 2am was way too late to be loading out gear. Now, when not teaching preschool and music, log nearly 100 shows a year on weekends and vacations with my fellow monkeys. It’s a living!
Jack Forman – Bass, Vocals
Offspring: Son, Oscar (3); Daughter, Beatrix (2 months)
Musical History (in his own words): I’ve played music since I was four years old, but the largest chunk of time has been as the bassist emcee of RECESS MONKEY. I’ve also been a live on-air host on SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live for the last year and a half, and manage the business side of RECESS MONKEY with what little time I have left!
Korum Bischoff – Drums
Offspring: 2 Boys. Calder (10), Garner (5).
Musical History (in his own words): Drummer. Joined RECESS MONKEY in 2012 and played on DEEP SEA DIVER and DESERT ISLAND DISC. Played with Johnny Bregar (kindie artist) for 1.5 years. Prior to that I played in an indie band called THE DEAD SCIENCE for many years as well as many different sideman gigs. Also spent 11 years in the event/concert/festival production world.
Listen: Stream Recess Monkey’s WIRED in it’s entirety…
JAMES (THE ROCK FATHER): When/how did you find out that you were first going to become a father – and what was your reaction?
DREW: I still remember the positive result on the home pregnancy test. It was an exhilarating moment, one filled with excitement, great anticipation and a healthy dose of fear.
JACK: Thinly masked terror! We’d been planning on having kids for years, and my wife and I were very excited about it– but that didn’t stop me from walking around my elementary school classroom the following day in a full catatonic trance! That terror was only matched by the moment that, Oscar in car seat as we approached the exit doors of the maternity ward, we realized that they not only were going to let us take him home, but they kind of expected that we would!
KORUM: I came home from work ready to celebrate the closing of our first house, a tiny little cabin with one bedroom for us and one for my drums and was greeted by my wife with a present that was a wrapped-up book about fatherhood and a positive home pregnancy test. I was over-the-moon. I had wanted to be a dad since I was about 8, so I was very ready. However. We outgrew that brand-new home about 15 minutes after we took ownership, but the added bonus is I now have a separate music studio where I can play and teach without bothering the family.
JAMES: Were you at all concerned that you wouldn’t be able to balance your family life with your musical life?
DREW: A bit maybe. I think I had the thought that life as I knew it would change forever and it did. But in some ways it didn’t at all. Life with a very little one was different but calmer in a sense. Life with a couple of kids that dodge, duck, run and spin is a bit more hectic.
JACK: I taught elementary school for 13 years, but left the profession soon after Oscar was born to become a stay-at-home dad. As he became more independent, I was able to add more to my plate but thankfully I’ve been able to scale my professional life to match my family’s needs. I’m a notorious workaholic, but I think we’ve found a good working balance!
KORUM: For the other Monkeys, the kindie music thing was already happening when they became fathers (or at least it went hand-in-hand). For me, I was doing the indie rock thing prior to having kids and after a year or two decided it just wasn’t working. Artistically it was fine, but I was no longer in the position to be losing money to play what were often pretty crappy shows. There were a few gems in there, but mostly is was empty clubs at one in the morning on a work night and I’d spend more money getting there, paying my ferry fare, and parking, than I could ever possibly offset in drink tickets without a trip to the E.R. So I took five years off to focus on my day job and be a dad until I hooked up with the kindie scene through Johnny Bregar which eventually led to my position with Recess Monkey.
JAMES: What kind of exposure have your kids had to your creative works? What do they think of their Dad as a musician?
DREW: My kids are my creative works! While some of what I write comes from my childhood and my classroom, most of it comes from my time as dad to two school aged girls. They like being at ground zero as songs are born and take shape. They have lots of ideas and opinions about songs but are really just counting the days til they have their own bands.
JACK: Bea has been to a couple of shows, but she’s a little young to tell us what she thinks (I’ll not take it personally that she has slept through the majority of her time with Recess Monkey- she’s two months old). But Oscar has been to maybe a hundred shows and is pretty sure that if our drummer Korum gets lost on the way to a gig, he’ll step in as drummer. It’s funny: last weekend, Korum forgot his drumsticks and Oscar actually got to lend him his very own “fish sticks.” I’m pretty sure Oscar thinks that makes being our official drummer just a matter of time!
KORUM: Exposed is an understatement. They are huge Recess Monkey fans and are “working on their six packs” by carrying gear (they’re competing with Drew’s daughters to carry the most which works just fine for Drew and me). They’ve heard my older music and spend a ton of time with me, my dad and my brother jamming and making noise, whether we’re playing instruments or sampling flatulence, we like to have fun with sounds. Recording songs together, learning new instruments and from time-to-time performing together.
-WHAT FATHERHOOD MEANS-
“Fatherhood is defined a lot from what my father shared with me. A million tiny moments… in the car on the way to baseball and hockey practice, summer nights grilling on the porch, trips to see my grandmother, grocery shopping, great music collections and access to instruments… and so much more. Trying not to take any of these moments for granted.”Drew Holloway
JAMES: Has being parents – or, “Rock Fathers”, changed your creative output or the way you view your musical life?
DREW: Much of what I write is like a love letter to the girls’ childhoods. I’ve tried to write an adult song from time to time but it’s just not in me right now. My heart and soul are tied up in Saturday morning pancake fests, stuffed animal negotiations and massive LEGO creations.
JACK: Honestly, not really– pre-parenting, I was already surrounded by kids as a teacher, so having some living with us hasn’t been too huge of a paradigm shift. But I definitely have been listening to our albums a lot more now that Oscar requests them! Maybe subconsciously that has had an impact on what I’ve contributed since then– what happens when you hear a song you wrote through the ears of your child! All things considered, I’m really happy that he likes the songs!!
KORUM: It has greatly INCREASED my output, which is something I never would have imagined. But without my boys I would have never learned about this amazing family music scene, and had I never heard those first DAN ZANES, THE NOT-ITS! and BOARD OF EDUCATION CDs, I’d probably still be on that musical hiatus.
JAMES: There’s always a lot of talk about “Work/Family Balance” – What do you find hardest about balancing your music with your parenting duties?
DREW: We play a ton of shows. Most of them fall on Saturday mornings. That means my amazing wife does a lot of heavy lifting on those days. I miss a lot of my youngest’s creative ballet and it makes it hard to have some weekend getaways. However, I’m lucky enough to take my kids to school each day and have dinner with them each night.
JACK: The hardest thing about balancing music and parenting is having the courage to say “no” to a gig offer or identify when a scope of a particular project is just too much. I’m the last one in our band to have kids, so Drew and Korum have been able to strike that balance for longer. I can’t say it’s too hard of a challenge, though: who can complain about getting to spend an entire weekend in PJs with your family in lieu of schlepping about a metric ton of gear in and out of several gigs? These are good problems to have!
KORUM: It is hard to be gone so much on weekends. I work a full-time job during the week and teach drums 2 weeknights per week so it can put a lot of pressure on my rare “off” days for them to be super-duper fun and a lot of those days I’d really just love to mow the lawn and take a nap. But one benefit of this genre is that the family can take part in it and it has led to some fun family experiences and trips that we’d never have done otherwise.
-WHAT FATHERHOOD MEANS-
“Fatherhood – noun – The act of pretending you have any idea what you’re doing while a more-capable spouse accomplishes the same tasks in half the time and double the accuracy.”Jack Forman
JAMES: How have you gone about introducing music to your children?
KORUM: I think in just about every way possible. We listen together, we jam, we record, we perform, we appreciate. One thing I’ve been wanting to try with my older boy is putting on some headphones and really deeply listen to something and dissect it. It doesn’t matter to me if it is MACKLEMORE, SHOSTAKOVICH or RADIOHEAD, but to just teach him to block out everything else out and listen intently sounds like a great father/son activity to me.
JACK: At first it was really unplanned- coming to Recess Monkey shows was a given, but we just spun music aimlessly in the car and the living room. Lately, Oscar’s old enough to make a lot of requests. He’s currently the world’s biggest fan of PAUL McCARTNEY’s “Monkberry Moon Delight,” which he screams in this sort of TOM WAITS/HARVEY FIERSTEIN voice. It’s hysterical.
DREW: Sing-alongs are always in the forecast. Music plays as we cook dinner and later load the dishwasher. It’s there as we drive to school and brush teeth at night. There are instruments around the house and we’re never far from the premiere of a new stuffed animal musical. Music is kind of like air for us.
-WHAT FATHERHOOD MEANS-
“Supporting their dreams, accepting them for who they are and teaching them to do the same, and exposing them to as much as possible so they know that there is no prescribed path to life.”Korum Bischoff
JAMES: What are some favorite artists that you like to enjoy with your kids?
JACK: I’ll never forget the first time that Oscar heard the first words of a JOHN VANDERSLICE and said “This is John Vanderslice.” We were so impressed! Since then, there’s not a lot that we don’t like- he always asks “who is singing?” so we get to talk about the songs in a little more detail. I’m pretty sure he knows the names of all of the Beatles at this point, so we must be doing something right.
DREW: It’s always changing but my oldest has a definite fondness for DAFT PUNK’s DISCOVERY. Unfortunately I get a lot of groans when I put WILCO or DAWES in but I’m sure they’ll come around. Right now we’re really digging BRADY RYMER’s new cd and the OKEE DOKEE’s THROUGH THE WOODS. And there was a recent Furby shadow puppet play featuring the songs of JUSTIN ROBERTS.
KORUM: My 10 year old discovered the Beatles on his own and became completely obsessed for a year or two. Dreamy! Now he’s on to Macklemore, WEEZER and the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, all bands he’s discovered for himself but that we can enjoy together. They love The Not-Its, the Board of Education, CASPAR BABYPANTS, (Recess Monkey… luckily), Johnny Bregar, SECRET AGENT 23 SKIDOO, Okee Dokee Brothers and we definitely approve.
JAMES: What’s the most “rock and roll” thing you’ve ever done with your kids?
DREW: My oldest is a hardened roadie. She’s logged a number of gigs and carried some heavy gear. She’s also been privy to lots of extra desserts and fun and games that come with many of our gigs 🙂 My youngest is a roadie in training. Loading and setting up gear is really what being in a band is all about. It’s important that they learn that one early on.
JACK: We’ve started letting Oscar push the big rolling cases around at our gigs, so that’s actually probably the most rock and roll thing anyone can do (anyone in a band knows that this is the real “magic” behind the scenes). But otherwise, we just have a lot of loud dance parties to WEEN songs.
KORUM: I’d say it’s a tie, both times with my older boy. The first was working the sound booth for Weezer’s set at Bumbershoot in Seattle. He was about 6 years old and had backstage passes, got to hang with the crew, and rock locked with Rivers Cuomo. The other was taking him out to Manhattan to actually play in a concert with my brother (Jherek) and a slew of notable musicians including Craig Wedren and David Byrne. He played one note on one song, but he can now say he played Lincoln Center at 8. The funniest part was watching him work the after party at the Empire Hotel and collect autographs and lipstick kisses in his journal until about 2am (we were still on west coast time).
JAMES: Final Question – and perhaps the most important… favorite toys?
DREW: I have a collection of vintage Chewbacca figures yet my favorite toys are my ukuleles! The girls would probably cite their furbys as their favorites.
KORUM: We have SO MANY TOYS. But really, it all comes down to LEGO and my new Nissan Leaf.
JACK: Moog Source keyboard is my favorite, hands-down, and I’ll follow that with the paint sprayer that I just bought a couple of weeks ago. Oscar’s into the drum set that his sister bought for him when she was a day old (what a thoughtful sister!) and is currently in a pretty epic train phase. We’d get him more Thomas trains but would have to get a second mortgage on the house.
RECESS MONKEY’s WIRED is out June 17, 2014 – a collection of super-eclectic “gadget rock” songs about inventions, machines, and electricity, also highlights the richness of life beyond batteries: Grandpa’s wisdom, board games, singing with others, storytelling, and the fine art of duct tape. Get it on iTunes or Amazon!