It’s been a busy few days without the added stress of life under our current administration/COVID and I’ve had precious little time with my beloved guitars — my FenderStrat, Gibson SG, and Yamaha acoustic (of course, I have 7 others, but these are my three favorites).
As my eyes glazed over news headlines this morning, I caught a glimpse of a video from the artist H.E.R., playing guitar like a bandit.
In September, H.E.R. became the first black female artist with a signature guitar, a gorgeous Fender Stratocaster that’s as jaw dropping as an Oscars gown.
I’d never heard of H.E.R. before the announcement, but her music — rock meets soul meets R&B meets reggae — is pretty awesome. She’s so badass — I wish I had that kind of presence and confidence at 23.
The guitar, Fender, and H.E.R. give me hope during these dark days. No one loves seeing young women play instruments more than me. I just wish I had the space for all of them, but my basement, where most instruments reside, is currently a sea of Legos. Anyway, Happy Wednesday! Enjoy the video.
I am an MOB — a mother of two boys, 8 and 6 years old. They know mama is a singer and a songwriter, and that she gets dressed “fancy” from time to time to go out and make music in the world.
Before that, I was a supple, younger woman who sang in a coffee shop for tips on Larchmont Blvd. with a three-piece jazz band and then later, workshopped my own songs in that same coffee shop. I was a woman who traveled the world singing in the finest of music lounges in far off, distant places including New Delhi and Beijing.
And before any of that, I was a mixed-race girl (African American/ Irish American) growing up in the city of angels, who rollerskated in her backyard to her favorite albums — and her dad’s record collection — Donna Summer, the O’Jay’s, the ET soundtrack and OMD.
She dreamed as she skated, that she would one day be famous.Known. Seen. Important.
I have been insecure about my place in the world for a long time. As a parent, that is a quality I’m hoping skips my kid’s generation. But I know that outcome requires conscious effort on my part and even then, there are no guarantees.
I write music that uplifts, inspires and encourages me. It is my safe place. I write music that speaks a truth I am desperate to put into the world as my default tendency is to keep it locked inside so that I don’t make other people uncomfortable.
In writing my song “Rally Call,” I consciously chose to do the opposite.
I wrote it because I was at a point where I no longer wanted to compartmentalize myself due to the color of my skin. I was done with erasing myself for someone else’s comfort and I was done with buying into the false belief that I needed to wait for someone else’s permission to live my life.
When I think about parenting my kids, I want to get it “right.” That means making sure they never feel rejected, hurt or disempowered, that they’re always invited to every birthday party (pre-covid) and that they feel like anything is possible at all times. I know, I know — a parent’s perfect formula for disappointment and self-judgment.
I want my boys to be compassionate people. I want them to be proud of all their heritage — being black, being mixed, being part Irish, being part English, being part Jewish. I want my boys to be confident enough to stand up when someone is working from a closed heart and to know the truth of who they are.
Rally Call is a small part of the recipe for making all this possible. Watching their mom put out a song about ‘getting rid of those papers’ — a reference to a time when Black Americans had to actually carry papers to show they had a right to be out without a white person — and no longer waiting for permission from someone outside herself to fully be herself is inspiring.
It normalizes doing challenging things. It normalizes loving oneself. It normalizes speaking out when injustice is present.
We as parents have an opportunity to instill self-love, growth mindset, compassion and courage in the souls we’ve been asked to shepherd. We get to do that in a plethora of creative ways.
My goal in sharing this music is for us all to keep getting into ‘good trouble’ when we feel like slinking back onto our couch and scrolling our phone or watching shows to distract ourselves.
My boys love the song. They love the guitar riffs, the drums. They know some of the lyrics. And truth be told, there are some days when I’m grateful they don’t fully know what the song is about: I’m still trying to get right with god, the universe, or whatever it is that pulls the strings of life, about my needing to have a conversation about black lives matter at all.
It’s a delicate, complex melody to be a conscious parent, to be an advocate for kids loving and accepting themselves in a world that doesn’t support ALL kids in this endeavor. It is a delicate, complex rhythm change to move out of stereotypical thinking into radical love.
And I can only imagine the nuance and tension of being a parent of non kids of color — there is the temptation to overlook or turn away from the truth of people of color’s experiences.
Rally Call is my love letter to America — reminding us all that until we’re willing to own all the parts of ourselves, our country’s entire history, only then will we truly have a chance at being free…and isn’t that what we want for our kids?
The greatest rock songs have the coolest riffs — like AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and Joan Jett’s “I love Rock n’ Roll.” But without lyrical substance, many these tunes would fade from memory.
New Haven indie punk band Shame Penguin’s ‘Fall of the Mountain King’ gives us both.
The song opens with a catchy bass riff, which eases itself into the auditory cortex of one’s brain— almost seducing the listener to sway to the mellow beat. But if you just stick to the surface, bopping along as the music segues from clean and distorted and back again, you could miss the song’s true cathartic beauty.
Pay attention as singer Dustin Sclafani’s vocals escalate from nostalgic and whispery to the brink of anger, and you’ll learn that the idealized childhood he rhapsodized about in the first verse never actually happened.
We recently caught up with Sclafani to tell us more about this piece, and what Shame Penguin’s been up to lately.
Rockmommy: ‘Fall of the Mountain King’ is so many things — it’s easy to listen to, yet it’s catchy and it’s complicated, lyrically. What was the story you wanted to tell?
Dustin Sclafani: The story behind Mountain King’s lyrics is an interesting one for sure. I wanted to give the sense of confusion to the listener make them lean in and go back and listen again and again. See, I grew up in a single parent household before it was considered a normal family structure. So throughout school I was consistently living in a state of confusion, forced to make Father’s Day cards for no one and really told by society I could never be a real man because I never had those critical father-son moments that drenched pop culture like ‘Field of Dreams’ — nope I never played catch or learned how to throw a spiral.
So these lyrics are more of a statement against the nuclear family, the first verse is everything pop culture tells us is important for a father and son, the first states that, ”That was not my life….” the second chorus brings the listener into the reality of what was my life and the second verse is the imagery conversation I have had with my father that has brought me peace. I wrote these lyrics for every son that grew up fatherless to let them all know they are not alone and they are going to be OK.
RM: Can you tell us about the songwriting process with Shame Penguin?
DS: I actually love this question because it had so many answers … usually Tristan Powell would send me riffs that he comes up with and if one jumps out I either bring lyrics that I have already written, because I have notebooks and notebooks of lyrics, or I will find a phrase that fits perfectly too it. Then we will meet up and go over the song a couple of times before we bring it to practice and we as a band jam on it. Sometimes Jon Ozaksut will be noodling around on the bass and come up with these ridiculous bass phrases that are just too good to ignore and we write from there — btw that is how Mountain King was written. But honestly I don’t consider any songs written till we have jammed on them a couple of times and we begin to widdle at it and the song tells us what it is going to be.
RM: We’re in COVID life. Did that impact recording or writing and producing?
DS: Covid 19 impacted everything… early March we were set to launch our EP and start playing out ridiculously… then the industry shut down and all four of us didn’t even really play together for 4 months. See, people have to understand I have a son that is the youngest survivor of open heart surgery so I have to be careful.
In that time Vic Steffens, the most amazing producer and person ever, pulled me aside and said that the rest of our material was really good and he wanted us to do a full-length instead of our original EP. So I mean when someone of that caliber believes in you enough to invest further as the rest of the world is burning around you, you gotta feel pretty lucky. So after our lockdown hiatus we went to Sage Sound Studios, because to save local businesses you have to support local business, and the four of us had to relearn what it was like to be a band. Covid hit us so hard I have 2 grand worth of merch shirts in my closet (available on our bandcamp) lol.
RM: Can you talk about how you’re trying to be the best dad you can be, even though you didn’t have the traditional ‘model’ in your own youth?
Well, you see it is a blessing and a curse. Traditionally, we are raised to be better then the generation before us. So me being in my kid’s lives at all is an upgrade. But in all honesty because I helped raise my little brother and sister when I was 9 on I kind of had a cheat code.
RM: Have your sons heard the song? What do they think?
DS: My oldest Cash was in the studio when I recorded the vocals and to be transparent I was not in his life from when he was 2 till he was about 8 years old — his mother and I were young and I was in a very destructive relationship with my twin son’s mother at the time. So the song kind of hits him as well. But all three of my guys love the track and honestly all the stuff Shame Penguin does because they get to see me happy and they see how hard I work for them and they want me to be happy just like them.
RM: What’s next for Shame Penguin this fall?
DS: In October we are shooting an interesting concept video for ‘Mountain King’ and we are finishing up some final touches on the album and preparing it for release. We started a weekly livestream concert series every Wed night on our Facebook page called Maraczi Midnight Radio and we are hoping to do some outdoor, safe shows and of course we wait for our world to open back up again. Oh and the most important thing myself and R&B artist and dope dad Manny James have acquired a bus that will be taking people to the voting polls Nov 3rd because we are all about being the change we are looking for.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
Mimsey Mack is one mysterious, guitar-wielding lady. Between the thousands of likes on her “Facebook” page, inspiring 80s-rocker fashion getups and bluesy tunes, you’d think she started playing music in her tween years. But not so. As it turns out, the self-described “indie-funk-punk rock” artist only picked up her first electric guitar in 2012, well after her kids passed middle school.
Today, the mom of six — yes, six! — adult children is brimming with ideas and songs, proving once again that age is just a number (and sometimes an excuse).
We asked the one-and-only NYC songstress (and fellow rockmommy) Rew Starr to sit down and chat with Mimsey about life post-COVID and navigating new opportunities in these challenging time.
Rew Starr: How’s it going? What have you been doing these days?
Mimsey Mack: Thanks so much for the interview, Rew! It’s been a challenging time for us musicians, but I’ve been keeping busy. I started massage therapy School right when Covid happened and will graduate in August. I’m excited about integrating that into my career. I also took an online music therapy course to better equip me to perform at psychiatric centers, domestic violence centers and other locations, specifically for individuals who have been struggling and need hope and a new direction in life. Other than that, I have been playing lots of drums, guitar and even a little bass guitar.
Rew: You making any new music?
Mimsey: Yes! After a long hiatus, I am thrilled to be producing music again. I started writing songs again during the first week of the pandemic. I write songs about my life so sometimes it’s a little weird to sing new songs to others, especially the first time. But I am quickly reminded that we are all songbirds with a special song to sing.
Rew: What about playing out? Have there been opportunities?
Mimsey: I have been performing livestream shows and also performing as a guest on your amazing Renegade Show as often as possible. I am currently living in Virginia, a state that has been a hotspot recently, so I have not been performing live yet.
Mimsey: I like to tattoo myself. I use a single needle. I have given myself over about 10 tattoos. I’m working on two new ones now.
Rew: What’s the greatest part about being a rockmommy?
Mimsey: The greatest part of being a rock mommy is sharing the love of the music and performing with my kids. All of my kids picked up music in their teen years. When they were younger, I was very conservative socially, homeschooled my kids and loved traditions. We listened to Classical and Christian music. After my divorce, things changed drastically. When I decided on a whim to take electric guitar lessons in 2012, and discovered I learned fast and could play, sing and perform, music brought a fresh new meaning to life. It’s funny when kids introduce me as their Rockstar Mom, because I think they are the rockstars.
Rew: Have you written anything new during the last six months?
Mimsey: One very exciting accomplishment during COVID was finishing the filming for my upcoming music video, “Redemption.” Thank you, Rew, for performing in it! It’s gonna be great! It’s a song I wrote a few years ago that expressed my transition from domestic violence survivor to overcomer. I am looking forward to writing songs about my new chapter in life, filled with hope and love.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
Rew Starr is an actor, musician and performer who lives in New York City.
As summer 2020 comes to a close, I’m feeling all kinds of emotions. I’m sad, mostly, but not just because I love this season, but because COVID-19 and other events of the world have created a dystopian-like existence I thought was years away from materializing.
There were definitely many bright moments. But above all else, I’m grateful for the time I had with my kids.
When my sons’ day camp was cancelled, my mama friend Steph and I created “Camp OB” on a lark — named after Oyster Bay(the wine, not the town). Together, we envisioned a summer of activities like playing tennis, doing obstacle courses, crafting, going to the beach, and taking field trips. We planned s’mores by the fire pit and paddle boarding by the Long Island Sound.
I’m incredibly grateful to say that WE DID IT! ALL OF IT (aside from camping outside — I didn’t feel like shelling out for a tent).
But still. With a little creativity and ingenuity, we managed to pack a summer full of activities. Our kids somehow forgot that they were supposed to be in fun camps for 9 weeks, six hours a day (although they did half-day camps for three weeks). And we somehow managed to (almost) forget we’re living in the era of COVID (and racial injustice).
Our final big event of the summer, the Camp OB Talent Show, was appropriately fitting. While I could post a review of my own, my father in law wrote an amazing one already, which I’ll post below:
The Camp OB Fairstock Summer Music Festival kicked off Friday morning on the Bloom Tuller Farm grounds. After a riffin’ guitar intro by Marisa, Logan opened the show with a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony piped in from the enigmatic and reclusive artist’s home studio.
Once the crowd settled in, the roadies, Alex and Zack – who doubled as bongo backups on many of the concert numbers — took over the stage to set up for an amazing display on the drums by Declan, who pounded the skins with the raucous enthusiasm of the great rock drummers.
Nathan brought the crowd to its feet with a down and dirty gravel voiced cover of the Scorpions’ Rock Me Like a Hurricane, accompanied by the slashing Marisa on guitar.
Then it was time to change it up, from metal to hip hop as Kellan took the stage and burst through the fog showing all kinds of ink to shout out NF’s The Search that had the crowd dancing in the aisles.
Stephanie brought the festivities to a close with a haunting rendition of A. Corelli’s Allegro.
This was a concert for the ages, and we may never again see the likes of such talent gathered together on one stage. Here’s hoping the live album isn’t too far behind.