Our annual Rockmommy gift guide is for the mom who sees strumming the guitar as “self care” or wants to channel her inner Janis in 2021 — or at least through an emotionally turbulent winter. Here’s our list of top picks on Black Friday.
Ibanez Nita Strauss JIVAJR Signature Electric Guitar, $799: Alice Cooper’s leading guitar lady’s new JIVA is blonde and blue, and perfect for players who like a lightweight instrument to wield onstage. The JIVAJR has many of the appointments of the original JIVA10, including the Ibanez S body shape, H-S-H pickup configuration, double-locking Edge Zero-II tremolo, and of course, the ‘Beaten Path’ fretboard inlay.
Music playing cards; $10:For a fun game of solitaire or spoons, this one-of-a-kind card deck, available through Uncommon Goods, is sure to delight the pop/rock/country/blues lover in your life.
Oasis Soul Scent Marley Treat Box; $62: We love Oasis Soul’s coconut-soy wax candles, which are inspired by mama Lola Pyne’s love of music. Bring a little sunshine into a dreary winter with her Marley collection — full of goodies infused with a warm earthy blend of Caribbean teakwood and clove. For Black Friday, everything is 20% off, so snatch yours quickly.
Nobody Ever Asked Me about the Girls: Women, Music and Fame; $24.14: Book by acclaimed journalist Lisa Robinson dives into the obstacles and triumphs of women in the music industry. As one reviewer puts it, “This book doesn’t simply rehash old interviews, it explores and comments on the distinct obstacles and issues women in the industry faced in addition to the ones both men and women had to overcome.”
Strung guitar string bracelet; $25 and up: Moms who loved charm bracelets as kids will adore these charmed bangles. Each one is inspired by a song (like “Hurts So Good,” “Yesterday,” “Paradise City”) and they look great together. Rockmommy readers: Use code DUSTIN20 at checkout for 20% off.
Ridged Glass Guitar Picks; $20: Inspired by the beauty of molten lava, these handmade guitar — which are highly rated — picks fuse glasswork and music.
Spiritual Gangster Rip Amor Crop Top; $88. Our favorite yoga brand’s Grateful Dead x Spiritual Gangster collaboration is loaded with ‘60s vibes and perfect for indoor winter workouts. And unlike mom’s first rock band T-shirt, this fun tie-dye tank top is flattering — not super loose and boxy.
Lucy Kalantari — a smoky-voiced New York singer who writes adorable, jazzy cabaret tunes for kids and grown-ups — has been busy cooking up new music. The #rockmommy of musical son Darius, 7, is also the subject of this month’s interview with our correspondent Rew Starr.
See what she’s been up to, and take a minute to check out her musical videos, one of which features her little man on cello.
Rew Starr: How’s it going? What have you been doing these days?
Lucy Kalantari: Hi ReW! I’ve been alright, all things considered – hanging in and cherishing all the good and beautiful things. Besides helping my son with remote learning, wiping groceries down (I still do that!), I’ve been teaching, mentoring and writing.
Rew Starr: So when did you know your amazing son was a musical protégé?
Lucy Kalantari: HAHA I try to avoid the “p” word. 😉 He’s been so very musical since he was in my belly. The first time I felt him move was during a live show in NYC. It was the most beautiful flutter I had ever felt! As a baby he’d hum and sing, musicking his way through his days. When he chose the cello as his instrument at 2.5 years old was when I realized how immensely connected he is to music, and I also realized how much trouble I was in!
Rew Starr: What was it like GOING TO THE GRAMMYS???
Lucy Kalantari: I woke up and did yoga that morning before the makeup and hair artist came to prim me up. I loved watching my husband and son getting ready too. Walking the red carpet and doing interviews was really sweet to do with my son. One of my favorite parts was running into Linda Perry on the elevator!!!!
Rew Starr: What was it like WINNING????
Lucy Kalantari: UNREAL! It’s still hard to believe, even when I look at the statuette! I gave a good heartfelt scream when the presenter, my good friend Kalani Pe’a, announced my band. Then my focus was making sure I said the things I wanted to say in my speech, and the rest … is a total blur.
Rew Starr: Are you making any new music?
Lucy Kalantari: Yes! In early October, I released a song for the Halloween season, called “Haunting Days of Halloween”. It was so much fun to do! It really fed my Halloween spirit during these strange times. I wrote and arranged the song, recorded my parts in my home studio, then my musicians recorded their parts remotely and sent them to me. I edited everything together and my mixing engineer did her stuff. I’m super happy with how it came out!
Rew Starr: What about playing out? Have there been opportunities?
Lucy Kalantari: I’ve been performing live-stream shows from home here and there. It’s been really great to stay connected this way. The most exciting show was for Kennedy Center!! THE Kennedy Center! We had been scheduled to do a live show in person, and due to COVID-19, everything was canceled. Until they contacted me again at the beginning of the fall saying it’s back on––as a pre-recorded remote show! I really wanted to bring the same performance to viewers that we would’ve brought in person. I had a set designer create the stage, my jazz cats in costume, as well as a string section with my son and a 17-year-old exceptional violinist, and we recorded a fun, socially distant, backyard Halloween concert!
Rew Starr: Are there any other projects you’d like to share?
Lucy Kalantari: Just before the pandemic hit in the US, I had finished producing an album for artist Joanie Leeds. It’s her 9th children’s album and the first time I produced someone else! It’s been a gift that keeps giving, even during these times. Joanie is a great songwriter, and she wanted to create an album that empowers young girls and ladies, singing about breaking glass ceilings and about gender equality. I arranged, engineered and played a few things on it. The whole project is performed by and (mostly) made by women, and has been getting really wonderful attention in all the best ways.
Rew Starr: What’s something we don’t know about you?
Lucy Kalantari: Random, I learned how to swim as an adult! Before I became pregnant with my son, I was determined to learn to swim and joined a gym. I’d spend time watching close-up videos of Michael Phelps to see his breast stroke technique. My husband says I’m a “slow-motion Michael Phelps.” I still need to master treading water though…
Rew Starr: What’s the greatest part about being a rockmommy?
Lucy Kalantari: Thank you Rew! I love being a mom and I love music – I absolutely adore that I get to make music with my son.
Rew Starr is a musician, actor and mom who lives in New York City.
November is all about gratitude, with Thanksgiving, and #WorldKindnessDay and all of the other little days in between. It’s also the birth month of some of my favorite Scorpios, like my childhood bestie Karina, my Dad, my niece Luciana, my mother in law Lynne, and my dear friends Emily, Steph and Linda.
But this year I’m feeling especially grateful, not just for my health and my children’s health, and for medical doctors and the recent election. I’m also grateful that my parent band — in spite of all of the parenting/life/moving/health/family struggles, and the loss of our beloved rehearsal space — has stuck together.
Not just stuck together, but managed to home-record our first single (“Eggs”), learn a new cover (Concrete Blonde, “The Vampire Song”), and play an awesome, intimate show in my drummer’s cul-de-sac during the Halloween season. We’re also practicing EVERY WEEK in his bucolic backyard, underneath a canopy of trees and stars, fog or no fog. It’s so inspiring to look up into the sky and feel like I’m being held by the universe.
Yes, it’s getting colder. I don’t know how much longer we can continue to play music outdoors, in the dark, especially when it gets super chilly. With the coronavirus spreading faster than it’s ever spread, we may soon have to shutter indoors again, in a depressing flashback to the days of March and quarantine.
The fact that it’s holiday season makes this potential reality pretty sad (I get teary just thinking about staying home in December, because I have spent every Christmas since my birth in Maryland, my home state).
So it’s essential to take a moment, today, to say THANK YOU to my higher power for the ability to practice and play, sing and strum, even in the world’s darkest hours.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.
It’s been quite a week, to say the least. I’m in desperate need of sleep, like many of my friends who have been anxiously awaiting the results of the 2020 elections in a year that’s already reaching new levels in universal anxiety.
So, let’s pause for a moment, and take a deep breath.
Heck, let’s dance!
The video for New Wave duo Camp Crush — real-life Portland, Ore., #rockmommy Jennifer Deale & her hubby Chris Spicer — is here, in perfect timing. And it’s so much fun!
Of course, to be fair to CC, there’s more to this song than meets the eye: Read American Songwriter’s review for more context.
Nevertheless, the infectious beat is all I want to hear.
If you feel like celebrating, this is the absolute best DIY video you’ll see all day. And by the way, how appropriate is the band name Camp Crush right now? I’m feeling like me and my brothers and sisters of the Blue Wave are crushing it, right this moment.
It’s a struggle to think of a single word that captures the essence of Washington, D.C.-based musician and activist Erin Frisby.
She’s brave, and refuses to let her life be defined by heteronormative standards. She’s passionate, as evidenced by her round-the-clock efforts in promoting equal opportunities for female musicians through her grassroots non-profit This Could Go Boom! (TCGB!). And she’s curious. Every new guitar pedal is an opportunity for exploration, a path to a new riff.
Yet while it is seemingly impossible for me to think of the perfect word to describe a musician I’ve known half my life, Erin already has one.
The term, which rolls beautifully off the tongue, refers to the process of shedding old skin, like a reptile. It’s also, metaphorically speaking, the most fitting description of Erin’s current state of existence.
To that end, it is the most fitting title for her debut full-length solo record —an intimate collection of eight songs, which highlight the artist’s poignant songwriting, storytelling, and stunning, sunny vocals.
“With ecdysis, you’re retaining your shape, but at some point the space you’re living in has become cramped and unrecognizable,” says Erin, recalling the moment she discovered the term. “Over the course of creating this album over the last couple of years, I discovered that I was gay. But I was married to a man.”
Striking a Chord
The first time I met Erin Frisby, many moons ago at a party in College Park, Maryland, I was told I’d dig her. “She’s a singer, and she’s into punk and stuff,” my friend Greg told me beforehand.
Of course, he was right. The moment I met Erin I dug her, though admittedly I was a little intimidated by her angelic beauty and perky demeanor. We chatted like two old pals for at least an hour, beers in hand, as songs from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication record played in the background.
We ended up becoming roommates for a brief snap of time in a punk-rock group house at the tail end of our University of Maryland days. The house was a messy haven of artists and musicians nestled in the heart of Hyattsville, Maryland. But it was also a little clique-ish. I wasn’t turned away from the thriving vegan-tattooed-hardcore-hipster scene that bubbled up in our basement for house shows. But I wasn’t welcomed into it, either.
The silver lining of that brief experience was my growing friendship with Erin. She was the only one of my four roommates who took the time to get to know me, and ask me questions about my family and musical experiences. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t tattooed, or that I hadn’t heard of so-and-so’s band from Philly. I didn’t need to be part of some underground scene to impress her. Instead, we spent hours jamming — singing and playing guitar — when I wasn’t busy with my other bands.
Of course, it was a huge treat to have her sing harmonies with me on anything.
To this day, the only time I’ve ever won any kind of musical competition was at the Sunday open mic night in Adam’s Morgan (at Madam’s Organ), when Erin joined me onstage to belt out backing vocals for my song “I Left my Heart in New Orleans.”
After a standing ovation, the $50 bar tab prize was ours. We drank it in about 20 minutes.
Musical Road Trip
Born in Arkansas, and but mostly raised on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., Erin Frisby is a gypsy among artists, a journey woman whose music ebbs and flows as freely as her travels, from folksy to aggressive, East to West and back again. She’s as influenced by opera and classic Appalachian hymns as she is by hard rock n’ roll.
I’ve always known this about Erin, yet I could never have predicted the profound metamorphosis that would transpire not too long after the last time we played together, almost four years ago to this day.
In early November, 2016, I invited Erin to travel to Connecticut, and perform a paid gig with me at the now-defunct Georgetown Saloon, just outside of Redding. She brought her four-piece, garage-rock band Fuzzqueen, which she’d formed with her former spouse, after the two of them relocated to D.C. Before that, they’d spent nearly a decade in California, frequently hitting the road, and racking up hundreds of gigs under the musical moniker Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray.
“My former partner and I had been touring together and writing together for many, many years … and we actually kind of ended up moving back to D.C. because of that project,” she recalls. “We loved the music scene there and, with what was going on politically, wanted to have an impact.”
Fuzzqueen’s eclectic brand of folksy indie-rock was filled with trippy, melodic riffs and searing guitar solos, and an enticing balance of masculine and feminine energies.
After the show, I fell out of touch with Erin for a while, and was surprised when I learned, sometime in 2018, that Fuzzqueen had fizzled out.
Yet the painful and cathartic process of letting go of that project was essential for Erin make space for her new one: her “all-womxn” band The OSYX.
Shortly after the “election” of the 45th president of the United States, Erin was craving something new — a new musical endeavor, and a community that would elevate women and under-represented artists. During an anti-inauguration gathering in January 2017, Erin felt inspired as she watched the Baltimore hard-core feminist punk band War On Women play an acoustic set. At some point she struck up a conversation with a couple of musicians she’d kind of knew, who also played guitar: Ara Casey and Selena Benally. They decided to get together to jam.
“Sometimes you meet people, and you play with them but nothing more than that comes of it… but every once in a while it just clicks and it falls into place,” Erin recalls. “We ended up getting a bass player (Maya Renfro) and a drummer (Robzie Trulove) … and we started playing a lot and from there it grew into a sisterhood.”
The OSYX have been described as “raucous … with melodic tensions and chemistries,” which is fitting in more ways than one: Erin shares lead vocals with Ara and Selena, who is now her girlfriend. All three women play guitar, and Erin also plays keys, organ and other instruments. While each member’s sonic stylings are as distinct as their pedal preferences, the fusion of sound culminates in a high-energy, rock n’ roll experience.
Songs like the buoyant “Dog Fight,” make me want to jump and dance, while the darker, harder tunes like “Carry it With Me” make me want to crank of the volume and drown myself in the heavy intensity.
Forming The OSYX dovetailed nicely into Erin’s other endeavor: the creation of This Could Go Boom!, a nonprofit organization focused on helping women/womxn artists thrive in the competitive indie music scene, which — even in D.C. — is heavily male-dominated.
But while the two years pre-COVID were a time of joyful self-discovery and collaboration, what the promo photos don’t show is the pain Erin endured as she let go of the marriage that was no longer working.
“Creating this project helped me to navigate that and discover who I am,” says Erin. “I had to confront a lot of internal biases inside myself. All my life, when I’ve heard of people who had committed relationships and came out [as gay], I wasn’t particularly sympathetic to that. I had some resistance to that narrative. But as the truth unfolded and became clear to me, I realized I had choices to make.”
Since putting band life on hold, Erin’s channeled her creative energy into recording and mastering Ecdysis with help from a generous grant from the Prince George’s County Arts and Humanities Council (PGCAHC).
The result is a sonic slideshow of Erin’s life — an eight-track record that seems to leverage instrumentation — keys, guitars, bass, drums, and dulcimer — gently, so not to overpower the outpouring of confessional lyrics and coloratura-soprano vocals.
Ecdysis offers a glimpse into Erin’s earliest musical memories (“You are my Sunshine”), experiences in longing (“Waiting for my Love to Wake”) and the process of self-actualization (“Theia and Gaia”). As an added bonus, Erin simultaneously released a sister album, Second Skin, featuring covers of Ecdysis tracks performed by friends, as well as originals inspired the record (like Selena Benally’s “Punk-dysis”).
“Selena is a shredder,” says Erin of jamming with her girlfriend. “I’ve been learning a lot from her during quarantine as far as guitar technique. She’s pretty amazing — and she’s invested in a lot of different styles beyond rock like flat picking and blues. Selena also programmed the drums and played the bass on Ecdysis.”
For Selena Benally, the admiration is mutual.
“Erin’s performances and songwriting are heartfelt and genuine — sacred not saccharine,” Selena tells Rockmommy. “She employs a lifetime of dedication and hard work to her craft as she explores the seemingly boundless depths of who she is and it shows in every song and live set.”
As fall continues, Erin’s trying to play out play out whenever she can, albeit in limited and modified capacity due to safety concerns. So far, she’s played one drive-in performance and a few outdoor music jams. When she’s not doing that, she’s busy teaching virtual piano, guitar and vocal lessons, and planning other ways to help her community.
“I’ve been reflecting a lot on the power of art in the way that exposure to different views and immersion in different disciplines and voices really helps people to explore their own voice as well as empathy,” says Erin tells me over email, when I ask her what’s next for 2021. “Learning to think through what someone else’s vision was and think about their approach to creatively addressing a problem leads to a flexible and curious and intelligent approach to the world in general. With that in mind, I’m thinking more and more about how important it is that representation in the arts is diverse.
“It’s important for people to see themselves or hear themselves in a piece and it’s important for them to see or hear what it’s like to be a real human with deep emotions and beliefs who is different from them,” she continues. “That’s brought me back to the mission of This Could Go Boom!, which is that lesser heard narratives and underrepresented voices are potent. We are going to be putting out new music by the end of the year and I couldn’t be more excited!”
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.