About rockmommyct

I am a mother, writer, rock and roll musician, and guitar teacher.

Rock Dad Zach Parkman on Juggling 2 Bands, Finding Inspiration and Becoming a New Dad

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

It’s not often that I’m surprisingly blown away by acoustic-guitar duos. I’ve seen so many bands, time and time again, and always enjoy live music. But it takes something special to get my attention. 

39674622_10214006349765677_5649877058088599552_o

Singer-guitarist Zach Parkland with his baby daughter.

Zach Parkman is something, or rather someone, special, I discovered a couple of Saturdays ago, when my band Grandma’s Mini played an intimate set with his band The Darkest Timeline at the Silver Spring, Md.-based Record Exchange. The band, which he started with the equally brilliant D.C.-area local Juels Bland, brings him into the Nation’s Capital every so often, to play melodic, passionate sets at little clubs. 

Shortly after The Darkest Timeline’s 9/22 set at the Record Exchange, I learned that the talented Zach is also a new dad, and plays for second band, Bad Robot Jones, in Brooklyn, where he lives with his wife and baby. 

Here, Zach reflects on his musical projects and discusses how fatherhood’s changed his life. 

Rockmommy: Can you tell us about your musical evolution — how long have you been performing and playing? 

Zach Parkman: I started playing guitar in high school, around age 13 or 14. It was the early 1990s, so grunge was king and I was a skateboarder and was really into bands like Operation Ivy, Fugazi and NOFX. At the same time I was listening to my parents LPs from the 60s and 70s, so really being influenced by The Beatles, James Taylor, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, etc. These to competing dichotomies have followed me throughout the my musical evolution right up to today.

Rockmommy: We recently met when your band The Darkest Timeline played in Silver Spring. How did you and Juels meet? How did that band come to be? 

Zach Parkman: So, I’m in a couple of projects. The Darkest Timeline is an acoustic duo (sometimes electrified foursome) with DC area songwriter Juels Bland. While living in Takoma Park, Md., a suburb of Washington D.C., I found myself at one of Rob Hinkal’s many open mics and saw this dapper and dour songwriter get up and just blow everybody away. We briefly introduced ourselves to one another and nothing else was said, but we both kept running into each other at songwriter showcases and open mics and bonded over our shared taste in music and geeky pop culture. Fast forward a year, Juels was starting a band and I asked if he needed a guitar player and the rest is history. Needless to say our sound has evolved over the years from more of a blues-based electric band to a more brooding, melancholy acoustic sound with harmonies and themes about space and murder. My other project is a band called Bad Robot Jones, which is a sci-fi rock/indie-prog trio with bassist Doogie Whittaker and drummer Joey Jenkins (who was the original drummer for The Darkest Timeline and also drummer for ilyAIMY). This is a much heavier band, drawing influences from punk, prog and metal. 

Rockmommy: Is it hard to play when you both live in different cities in different states? 

Zach Parkman: Juels and I have been playing together so long that we can jump into a set without much practice. It is difficult adding new material to the set and of course traveling to gigs can be time consuming (and an added crunch to an already full schedule with a new baby). We usually try to book an equal number of shows in the NYC and DC areas to keep things egalitarian and fair. With Bad Robot Jones things are a little more complex. First off, it is an electric band, so equipment comes into play. Secondly, Doogie and I are both fathers so schedules can be tough to sink up. Third, Joey is a full-time musician in several bands, so that can be a challenging hurdle. I usually schedule as much into my weekend travels down to DC as I can (i.e., if I have a gig with The Darkest Timeline on Saturday, I will try to schedule a rehearsal with Bad Robot Jones for Sunday). All in all we make it work. I love making different kinds of music with different kinds of people.

Rockmommy: You recently became a dad. What’s that been like? 

Zach Parkman: I can’t even begin to describe the amount of joy or daughter has brought into our lives. The dividing line between life without children and life with is pretty drastic and severe. I think I was frightened for the longest time of having children (lack of sleep, no more “me” time, causing them irreparable harm), but at some point the desire to share in the upbringing of another human being with my wife outweighed that fear. I’m so glad that it did. When I saw my daughter for the first time I felt molecularly changed. Everything about my perspective shifted. I’m still the same jack-ass that I was before, but I’m an elevated jack-ass. I’ve leveled up. 

Rockmommy: How do you find time to practice? Any tips? 

Zach Parkman: Every other year, starting in 2013, I write a song a week (so 2013, 2015, 2017 and next year 2019). This has really helped me to break out of the “only writing when I felt inspired” habit. It’s forced me to sit down and focus on being creative, which was alien to me. Now, regardless of how I am feeling, I can sit down and start the writing process and get myself into that creative space without having to wait for it to appear magically. It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised. That has really helped with my musical and creative discipline. I find it very easy to write or practice in the small increments of time that a busy life in NYC allows or the small increments of time that a baby allows. I highly recommend finding some kind or ritual or regimen like that. It may seem daunting at first, but stick with it and after time it becomes second nature.

For more information on Zach’s upcoming gigs, visit The Darkest Timeline’s web page (or go here for info about Bad Robot Jones if prog-rock with sci-fi themes is your thing). To hear more of Zach’s solo stuff, visit his personal bandcamp page. 

Dana Fuchs Talks Love, Loss, and Bringing a Baby on Tour

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Singer-songwriter Dana Fuchs is many things. 

Most visibly, she’s a powerful vocalist, famous for her gritty and raspy voice that belies her humble upbringings in the tiny, rural town of Wildwood, Florida. 

She’s also tough: When Fuchs got her break playing Janis Joplin in an Off-Broadway production, Love, Janis, which ran from 2001–2003, her work ethic and stamina gave her a staying power other singers couldn’t touch. Since then, she’s experienced so much love and loss that comparisons to Joplin feel eerily familiar. 

DanaFuchs-0171

Dana Fuchs

And today, a new identity has emerged for the New York City transplant: Mother. 

Fuchs, who recently released Love Lives On, the seventh record since her 2003 debut, now balances music and family with a little son, whom she regularly brings on tour.

We recently sat down with Fuchs as she prepared for her 2018 international tour, which kicks off in Europe this week, to talk about how the little man in her life, toddler son Aidan, is making music and life all the more magical. 

Rockmommy: For those of us who don’t know your story, could you give us the short version of your music career? 

Dana Fuchs: I came up here at 19 years old, and started doing these blues clubs, and had several fits and starts. Then I was asked to play Janis Joplin in the Off-Broadway production of “Love, Janis.” The other singers were dropping like flies! But I wasn’t really interested in that, I had just gotten on this fall tour. But I did it anyway. Fast forward a few years, and by 2008, 2009, I was touring nonstop, literally I was on the road three-quarters of the year, most of it in Europe. In the interim I’ve had some personal issues … there was the loss of siblings, and I lost my mom as I found out I was pregnant. I had just found out my son was a boy four days before she died, and never got to meet him. It was a bittersweet story.

Rockmommy: How have things changed since Aidan, who is now almost 2, was born? 

Dana Fuchs: The minute he was born, I was terrified. But I remember my friend giving me a book called ‘I can’t wait to meet you,’ but I was like, ‘no — stay in there as long as you want!’ But the night I met him, everything changed. And I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to be a stay-at-home mom somehow.’ But then my music partner who lives four blocks away in Harlem said, ‘why don’t we just do a few songs, and start a crowdfunding campaign’ for my next album. And then that turned into, ‘let’s go to Memphis and make a record,’ and I thought, ‘OK … I guess I can take the baby.’ 

Rockmommy: Did you pump [breastmilk] on tour? 

Dana Fuchs: [laughs] Yes, I pumped a lot! I pumped around five months. I would leave to [write the album] when he was five months old, and have these writing sessions that were four or five hours a couple of times a week, and that went well! It was really easy. So when he was about 7 months, he went on tour. We had a little travel pump. And when I would play, my bass player’s daughter would watch him, it was great. 

Rockmommy: Is there really a big market for American blues in Europe? 

Dana Fuchs: Yeah, it’s huge! That’s really how I’ve made my living. 

Rockmommy: What challenges did you have with your son on tour? 

Dana Fuchs: The long drives and planes between shows used to be my time for to sit and listen to music and read and write. But now with Aidan next to me, the last year and a half, it’s different because he wants my attention! And that’s where it’s really been challenging. I don’t get a lot of that quiet downtime … and that’s so important. And I’ll sometimes be walking on the stage to do a show and he’ll be crying, ‘no mama, no!’ Another time, I had this one show in Copenhagen, and I thought, ‘oh cool — I’ll bring Aidan and my husband.’ But it was a disaster — we didn’t leave until 3 in the morning … so I said to the people around me, ‘OK guys, I don’t know how he’s going to be’ and he woke up and had a fit for hours. It was a terrible situation but we got through it. 

Rockmommy: Any advice for all the rocker moms out there? 

Dana Fuchs: If music is really your passion, find a way to do it. I say, ‘happy mommy happy child.’ It’s really all about keeping your core.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

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.’”

Ramoms1

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? 

Ramoms2

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.

Kentucky_Pirate_Festival_2018_by_David_Vail_10

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. 

IMG_2111

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] 

Unknown-1

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.”

Nathan_GNR

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.