The Ramoms Take on The Ramones, Mixing Motherhood and Punk Rock in Philly

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Musician mama Jodi Jeffers spent decades as a lead singer in various bands, her love of the punk scene so deep rooted that it led her to her husband, Jonathan Jeffers, of the band Duffy’s Cut. But once the 11-year Philadelphia resident became a mom — raising her three young sons, ages 10, 8 and 5, while working nights as a bartender — finding time for band life got a little more challenging. 

“The idea for an all-mom punkrock band, where we could switch up the songs, parody style, came to me in my car,” recalls Jodi. “Then, at dinner, I was talking to my husband, it hit me like, ‘oh, The Ramoms.’”

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The Ramoms, from left: Cori (bass), Jodi (lead vocals), Sharon (guitar), Ginger (drums)

After recruiting music scene kid-and-furry-animal moms Cori (bass), Ginger (drums) and Sharon (guitar), the Ramones-inspired pop-punk/punk-parody band — which plays all the Ramones covers, sometimes swapping lyrics for silly, family-friendly alternatives — was born. 

Two years later, the band is on a roll, booking gigs and winning over fans of all ages. But making time for music is even more challenging, when you have five kids and eight pets to consider (the band’s collective total!). Here, Jodi tells Rockmommy about making it all work and whether the Ramoms will be playing a PTA function anytime soon. 

Rockmommy: How did you recruit your band? 

Jodi Jeffers: Once I decided this would happen it came together easily. Cori the bass player and I have know each other since we were teenagers and we figured it would be the two of us and then two other guys. But then I talked to Ginger, who I knew through another friend, and soon after, at a party, we met Sharon, the guitar player. And it was not hard to convince her to join — we just clicked! Nothing could be easier than being with these three women. 

Rockmommy: So Jodi, let’s talk about what kind of music the Ramoms makes. Straight up Ramones covers, except with moms? Or something more? 

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The Ramoms — Cori Ramom, Jodi Ramom, Sharon Ramom & Ginger Ramom — are playing several shows in Philly, Brooklyn & Staten Island this Fall.

Jodi Jeffers: We play a mix of songs for different types of gigs. For the night shows, we do all real covers, but with the family crowd sometimes we’ll do a kid play on the Ramones song, like ‘I want to be play dated’ instead of ‘I want to be sedated.’ We’re writing a lot too, and we’re working on a split 7-inch with a band called the Dad Brains, you know, like Bad Brains but with dads. They’re fun — they sing all originals about being old and hoping to sit down. 

Rockmommy: Is everyone in the band a diehard Ramones fan? 

Jodi Jeffers: Not everyone is a diehard fan, but everyone is a fan. They wrote great pop-punk songs. 

Rockmommy: Do you do any originals? 

Jodi Jeffers: That’s the next step after the children’s album … to write some originals. 

Rockmommy: So who comes to your shows? What kind of crowd is it? 

Jodi Jeffers: It’s pretty much anyone but we get a lot of people like ourselves — we’re all over 40 and we have jobs and kids and responsibilities. We get a lot of punk fans, and Ramones fans too, who love to come out and hear songs that they know.

Rockmommy: How do you make practice happen every week with your hectic schedules? 

Jodi Jeffers: Sharon drives an hour and a half to practice with us. My husband is really flexible and he gets it — he’s in his own band, and practices and goes on tour, so he is happy to watch the boys so I can practice too. Ginger’s son is a lot older, so childcare isn’t as much of an issue. Cori has a young son, but he comes over to play with my sons and we hang out. Most weeks we can make it work. 

Rockmommy: Have you played a PTA function yet? 

Jodi Jeffers: Not yet, but that would be lovely. 

Rockmommy: What’s your advice on work-life balance? 

Jodi Jeffers: My advice is, don’t lose yourself in being a parent. If you want to be in a band, go for it. Because you need to have some sort of outlet for yourself. If you can have time for yourself, that makes you a better parent.  

The Ramoms are playing in Staton Island on Saturday, September 22; in Philadelphia on Monday, September 24th with The Vibrators in Philadelphia (at Underground Arts), and Brooklyn (at Saint Vitus) on Sunday, October 7. For more information, visit the band’s Facebook Page. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Family-friendly Pirate Band Reminds us it’s ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’ on September 19

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

There’s a day for everything these days — from ‘Donut Day’ to ‘Polar Bear Plunge Day’ to (I kid you not) ‘Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.’ And apparently, on Wednesday, it’s ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day.’

I can think of a few days I’d like to experience, like ‘Have Your Spouse Wash the Kids Day’ or ‘Play Guitar as Loudly as You Want While Your Kids Sleep Day’ but alas, that’s not in the cards for 2018. But talking like a pirate on Wednesday? That could be pretty fun … at least for your kids.

And now, courtesy of Tom Mason & The Blue Buccaneers, who recently released their fifth family-friendly pirate album, is this handy little cheat sheet/guide for pirate speaking.

 

Tom Mason TLAP Poem

P.S.: Digital editions of If You Want To Be a Pirate: Songs for Young Buccaneers are available now for a few doubloons, from Amazon, iTunes, and direct from the captain’s quarters. Physical CDs are available on September 7th, in time for the band’s fall performances.

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Tom Mason and The Blue Buccaneers

Your Toddler Would Ditch the Rattle for an Hour with This Musical Toy

by Francesca Farruggio

Rock babies deserve to benefit from most innovative music technology out there in order to help them improve sensual skills and increase brain development, which is why we want to show you to this weird-looking, but apparently super-powerful new toy in development.

Introducing… The Magical Musical Thingy-Majigger!musical thing

Yep, Dr. Seuss Fans. Feast your eyes on this beauty. Unfortunately, it’s not available yet (but you can see prototypes here), but we’re hoping it gets the crowdfunding it needs soon.

Invented by Australian entrepreneur and rockdaddy Stuart McArthur, with the help of his four-year-old son Kai, this new toy reintroduces traditional, hands-on sensory activities and creates an opportunity for children to be more imaginative and inventive.

The backstory: Stuart watched his son day after day have the time of his life forming all sorts of shapes out of the most simple household items. Kai referred to his experimental creations as “Magical Musical Thingy-Majiggers,” and Stuart instantly fell in love with the idea. He saw the amount of potential the concept could have in the toy industry and decided to turn Kai’s thingy-majiggers into a reality.

For budding engineers, scientists, musicians, actors, dancers and entrepreneurs, ages 3 and up, there are no rules for building and playing with The Magical Musical Thingy-Majigger.

Its magical, vibrant, tactile, stimulates curiosity, which leads to the fun of exploring, the excitement of discovery and the marvel of creation.

Your rockin’ toddler can select how many pieces and color combinations she’d like to use and connect them together. Then, twist and turn the creations into all sorts of Magical Musical Thingy-Majiggers.

Best of all, this toy is designed to ensure it clips together and separates easily and is still robust enough to stay together when changing shapes, adding pieces and playing.

We’re hoping it comes out of the crowdfunding phase and into boutique kiddie stores soon.

Francesca Farruggio is a contributing writer for Rockmommy.

5 Reasons Why I’m Swooning Over Guitarist Nita Strauss’ Signature Ibanez JIVA

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

I didn’t have Nita Strauss to guide my guitar-purchasing decisions when I started playing. I just settled for what I could afford, forking over $100 in cash for a vintage Airline model, which I played through a pretty battered, 100-watt Laney amp, for most of my 20s. Most players I knew were dudes, and their advice on what to seek in a guitar — “gnarly pickups,” “a hefty sound” — went over my head. 

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Nita Strauss at the Guitar Center Clinic on 9/5/18 in Union Square (NYC)

So on Wednesday night, more than 15 years since I acquired the Airline, I felt a bit awestruck when Nita Strauss took the “stage” at the Guitar Center in Union Square for her nerd-worthy clinic and performance, wielding the most beautiful instrument I had ever seen. 

“I didn’t just fall out of the sky and land in Alice Cooper’s band,” she told the mostly male crowd of about 50 after showcasing a fraction of her skills. And while she came with an enviable rig that included a BOSS pedalboard and a Marshall CODE amp head, it was the Ibanez JIVA that caught my eye. Why didn’t I have a guitar like that when I stared playing, with my tiny, tiny girl hands? Had I been handed a JIVA instead of my male ex’s super-heavy Les Paul, I wouldn’t have had so many inferiority complexes in my early 20s. 

[RELATED: 5 Great Signature Guitars Designed for — and Inspired by — Female Rock Guitarists] 

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Nita Strauss’ signature guitar — the Ibanez JIVA10

The beautiful Ibanez JIVA, unveiled in summer 2018 as Nita embarked on another U.S. tour with Alice Cooper and his band, is awe-inspiring.

I want to buy one immediately — and if I didn’t have to pay for childcare, I would, literally, buy one online right this second. 

Here, in less-technical speak, I’ll dive into why this is the ideal instrument for rock mommies like me and aspiring Nita Strauss-like shredders (regardless of gender) who want to slay onstage: 

  1. It’s gorgeous. Nita describes the color of the JIVA, a name which means into one’s “soul” and has personal connections to the artist, as “Deep Space Blonde,” which is a gray burst on a natural quilted maple top. But the gorgeousness isn’t simply skin deep: The guitar’s wood combination of mahogany and bound ebony is the foundation of an equally beautiful tone. 
  2. It’s practical. At the Guitar Center clinic, Nita demonstrated the JIVA’s durability and balance. As such, the guitar’s Edge Zero II bridge features “a lower profile design for comfort, and stud lock function for superior tuning stability,” according to Ibanez. 
  3. It’s ideal for smaller-framed players. I love my Gibson SG, but it can feel like a couple of tons onstage — and since I’m about 5’2, every pound counts. I haven’t tried out the Ibanez JIVA, and Nita’s a few inches taller than me, but I can tell it’s easy to maneuver like a rockstar. I can’t wait to see how it stand up against my Strat! 
  4. It’s lightweight. Just look at this skinny beauty with the sleek neck. Nita had no trouble wielding it as she pranced the stage.
  5. It’s designed by a woman. Of course, any guitar can be played by a woman, but the fact that Nita sat down with the team at Ibanez to fine tune everything from the signature DiMarzio pickups to the lighting-bolt design on the fretboard means something to players like me.

It’s amazing how every year, more and more female rock guitar players are going mainstream, running clinics and working with guitar companies to launch their own signature models. While companies like Daisy Rock used to offer the only guitars tailored to a woman’s preferences, today we’re seeing everyone from Fender to Gibson and Ibanez considering our needs. 

I’ve always believed a woman’s place is on the stage, not in the home. And with guitars like the JIVA, a woman will feel right at home on stage. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy. 

Why Singing to Your Babies — Even Black Sabbath Tunes — is Good For Them

By Francesca Farruggio

New moms tend to strive for the most idyllic, natural experience possible, whether they’re eating organic veggies or singing lovely lullabies to their babies. And when it comes to the latter, they know that singing to their infant is crucial bonding time, and can ease their baby into a calm or sleepy state of mind.

However, most of us don’t actually know why lullabies have such magical powers, and are dying to know why after all, music is our forte… am I right ladies?!

So, we did some research and came across an interesting study by cognitive neuroscientists, led by Laura Cirelli of the University of Toronto Mississauga.

As the March 2018 study concluded, lullabies soothe both moms and babies simultaneously, while playsongs increase babies’ attention and displays of positive emotion toward their mothers. To figure out exactly how singing affected both the mother and child, researchers asked participating mothers repeatedly sang “Twinkle Twinkle” to their babies who were sitting in a high chair facing them. The mothers alternated between singing in a playful way or a soothing manner. At the same time, researchers were tracking the mothers’ and babies’ arousal responses, measured through skin conductance and behavior.

[RELATED: Playing a Rock Gig While Pregnant: Advice From Mamas Who’ve Done It]

“When we are excited or stressed, arousal levels increase,” Cirelli explains. “When we are calm, they decrease.”

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Does this baby look sleepy?

The researchers found that the moms’ arousal levels were higher during the playful song, compared with the soothing song. And they found coordinated decreases in arousal for both the moms and babies as the soothing songs progressed.

Cirelli points to past studies showing that when people move together in synchrony, they feel socially connected and are later more likely to help and cooperate with one another.

With that in mind, we can better understand how the brain responds positively to the feeling of being connected to another person through the rhythms in music.

Now, does this mean you have to belt out “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?” Not necessarily. If you prefer to sing Ozzy Osbourne lyrics or croon Frank Sinatra tunes, that’s fine too!

 

According to my very own rockmommy, I was never satisfied when listening to the basics, both before and after I was born. She believes this is large in part to my dad being a diehard blues instrumental fan and musician. From the moment they first saw my heartbeat, my parents couldn’t help but get into a routine of playing their favorites to me, including many songs by Eric Clapton. They viewed this as a way to feel close to each other, but what they didn’t know at the time was how much it was affecting me, even though I wasn’t out in the world yet.

I arrived just like any other baby, screaming and crying. My parents did what any other parents would do: They cradled me and spoke softly in my ears to help me feel comfortable and safe. But guess what? It wasn’t until my dad pulled out his guitar and started strumming some familiar cords that finally calmed me and I gave them my first big smile… And to this day, I find peace of mind by hearing similar blues-like rhythms.

Nonetheless, the point of this study (and this blog post) is to show you that no matter if you’re singing the Bruno Mars song you’ve got stuck in your head, a lullaby classic like “Hush Little Baby,” or strumming some chords on your guitar, science has proven that it’s music, as a whole, that will bring you and your baby closer together.

And with that… ROCK ON mamas!

Francesca Farruggio is a contributing writer for Rockmommy.

The Green Orbs’ Heather Hirshfield on Music, Videos and Raising Teenage Girls

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

The Green Orbs’ music is infectious and silly, as in laugh-out-loud silly — and that’s exactly what the band, made up of brother-sister duo Heather Hirshfield and Eddie Rosenberg III, want you to do. Don’t believe me? Just watch the carnival-worthy “Mr. Mustache,” and you’ll agree. We sat down with Hirshfield, a piano teacher and mom of three, to get the scoop on the band’s upcoming release, Thumb Wrestling Champions (out September 7). 

Green Orbs_ukes_photo credit Nicole Michaelis

The Green Orbs

Rockmommy: You have an amazing musical background! What did you listen to growing up?

Heather Hirshfield: I listened to a wide variety of music growing up. My parents had a really cool domed-top deco record player and a huge collection of records and 45s that we listened to on a daily basis. The Beatles were very popular in the house, but we also listened to Billy Joel, Paul Simon, The Beach Boys, Beethoven, Mozart…..gosh, really so many great artists and composers to list! When I received my own record player as a present, I listened to a lot of musical soundtracks like Grease and Annie, and also Disney storybook records. My sister and I loved to put on The Monkees and dance around our room. We really were constantly listening to music. Music was, and continues to be, a huge part of my life.

Rockmommy: Before the Green Orbs, did you play other music? What was that like?

Heather Hirshfield: As a kid, I played piano, and played marching trombone in the marching band. I enjoyed both immensely, but I gave both up when I went to college which in hindsight was a huge mistake. After having my children, I started playing piano again and remembered how much I loved it. I did not really perform anything, though, until my brother and I started The Green Orbs.

Rockmommy: I read a bit about how you and your brother got started — can you tell me about how your latest collection of songs came about? Was there an inspiring idea/theme?

Heather Hirshfield: Our new album “Thumb Wrestling Champions” is the end result after many, many years of work. We were just writing different fun songs over the years, until we realized we had enough for an album! There is no overarching theme, but many of the songs were inspired by my girls, either through stories that I told them when they were little, or by something that they may have said.

Rockmommy: Let’s talk about video for a second. In the era of YouTube, having a video that connects to your audience is super important. How do you come up with the concepts for the video? Do you and Eddie sit around and brainstorm? Do you seek feedback from little ones on what connects?

Heather Hirshfield: We have been talking about videos a lot for this album! We haven’t had a brainstorm session specifically for videos … we just share ideas as they come to us. Personally, OK Go’s videos have been a huge inspiration for what is possible in a music video and I hope one day to be able to create a video as epic as theirs! As far as feedback, our niece and nephews are our sounding board right now.

Rockmommy: What are your most popular songs? is there a particular age group that connects with your music?

Heather Hirshfield: We have played some of our songs from the album for school children and “Doug the Bug” is always a huge hit. “The Suction Cup Shuffle” is also well-liked because it gets everyone up and dancing. We also have a group of songs in the YouTube Audio Library, and an instrumental song called “Splashing Around” that my brother wrote is hugely popular!

I think that kids 3-12 will really enjoy “Thumb Wrestling Champions,” but, of course, we hope that anyone who listens to it will enjoy it!

Rockmommy: You have three daughters! How old are they? What are some of the challenges you have with balancing motherhood and making music and everything else?

Heather Hirshfield: My girls are now 18, 16, and 13, and it is still a struggle finding time to do anything! I am so fortunate to be able to work out of my home as a piano teacher and musician for the last few years so I am here when they need me. On the other side of that, though, I really had to work on setting boundaries with them and letting them know that I can’t drop everything to get them a snack when I am working on something on the computer. It was also hard for me to realize that what I was working on was important and that I didn’t have to be at my kids’ beck and call constantly.

Rockmommy: What advice do you have for other rock n roll playing mommies (and daddies)?

Heather Hirshfield: My advice would be to always do what you love and remember that it is important that your kids see that you are passionate about whatever it is that you are doing, whether it be work or a hobby, so that they will have the desire to go out and find their own passions.

For more, check out the band’s social media feeds: Facebook, Instagram & Twitter

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Respecting – and Reflecting on – Soul Queen Aretha Franklin’s Legacy

By G.T.

It is hard to think of someone more ubiquitous in providing influence and inspiration than singer, songwriter, and musician Aretha Franklin.

An icon in music, it would be easy to characterize her legacy simply by listing the recognition she received across more than five decades of recording history — 17 Grammy awards and 31 Grammy nominations. Her first win came with her first nomination in 1968 (a win in the best R&B vocal performance category for her cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect”) and the last in 2008 (a win in the best gospel/contemporary Christian music category for her duet with Mary J. Blige on “Never Gonna Break My Faith”). Her influence was further recognized when she became the first female musician inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul

But what cements her legacy is not encapsulated in a trophy or enshrinement, but rather in how far reaching her voice influenced and changed music, empowering women to find their voice and command respect without compromise.

And a career without compromise remains a tough road for any musician to travel on. With forces trying to pigeonhole musicians into genres and identities that can be marketed and sold, Aretha Franklin is evidence that paving your own road has its rewards. Her earliest musical roots lie squarely in the gospel space and as she expanded and explored into more secular spaces of soul, R&B, and pop, it became more about completing a picture rather than settling on an identity, fusing different aspects to create a sound that is uniquely Aretha. Even more impressive is that she was able to accomplish all this while remaining relevant in a 50+ year career regardless of the trend of the day in an ever-changing musical landscape.

Her songs encapsulated that notion of empowerment, starting with that first Grammy-winning song, which accomplishes the rare feat of a cover recording becoming the definitive version of that song. Other songs in her repertoire speak to that, including “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Chain of Fools”, and “Think”, the latter of which makes an appearance in the 1980s film The Blues Brothers, and features Aretha performing it with all the spirit the song entails. In just her short six-minute appearance in that movie, you can see just how powerful she is as a performer and how she can draw upon all her secular musical and gospel roots to create an everlasting moment in just one scene.

And that musical legacy will survive well beyond her days as evidenced by the multitude of artists across all genres that draw upon her body of work to cover from their own perspective (remember the hard rock version of “Chain of Fools” from the band Little Caesar, released in 1989?) and to pay tribute to the Queen of Soul.

What makes Aretha’s history and story even more inspiring is that she was able to stay true to her musical vision in a time when African-Americans were fighting for basic rights. And not only that, she was able to use her music to be not only a soundtrack for the civil rights movement, but she also put her money where her soulful voice was and helped financially support Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The Rev. Jesse Jackson recently told the Detroit Free Press how she quietly funded payroll and would work with Harry Belefonte to help keep the civil rights movement moving, using her voice in concert to raise money without keeping any for herself.

And she stepped up to support women of color in their time of need, even if she was not necessarily in support of their beliefs. She was famously quoted in a 1971 interview in Jet Magazine as offering to post bail for then jailed Angie Davis.

“Angela Davis must go free,” Franklin said in that interview. “Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up… and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a black woman and she wants freedom for black people. I have the money; I got it from black people.”

Of course, Franklin had other odds stacked against her. The queen of soul had four children — she was only 14 years old when she had her first, and had to balance motherhood with schooling and later, stardom.

Aretha Franklin’s star will continue to shine as a beacon of hope — immortalized in songs that inspire and empower and backed with deeds that reflect that the songs she gave the world were not simply songs but a glimpse into the kind of life that she lived. She is a true representation of the power that music has to change the world.

GT is a contributing writer for Rockmommy.