Passing Strange’s Anthony Paolucci on Raising a Piano Prodigy, Songwriting, and His Band’s New Baby — ‘Afterthought’

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Connecticut indie-rock duo Passing Strange’s latest record is called Afterthought, but the 12-song collection is anything but. The album, which came out in October, encompasses an expansive sonic realm — impressively executed by just one vocalist/keyboardist (Kate Mirabella) and one drummer (Anthony Paolucci) — and feels wilder and more playful at times than The Water and The Woods, the band’s early pandemic full-length, though equally emotive.

On Afterthought (NeuroTronix Records), every song — from the low-key, intimate “Library Voice” and the punchy “Killing Spree” to the jazzy/upbeat “Ballroom Floor” — is thoughtfully crafted, the byproduct of two percussively minded songwriters who are as in tune with each other as a pair of longtime best friends.

Passing Strange ‘Afterthought’

It’s clear that in late 2021, Mirabella and Paolucci have become more comfortable as songwriters and performers, having played together since 2017. As a result, their ability to craft clever, imaginative lyrics that resonate with each song’s musical mood is evident in every verse, hook, and live show. 

The album’s cheeky first single, “Karen In The Daytime” — which I originally assumed was a nod to the phenomenon of Karens in our post-2020 society — is actually a clever ode to the show ‘Californication,’ with Mirabella’s breathy voice soaring atop a cool, breezy melody. And I love the way she belts out, ‘I Wish I could be your Karen in the daytime’ with equal parts angsty conviction and joy. 

And while I’ve enjoyed every track I’ve heard from Afterthought, my favorite is the stunning “Ivory & Blue.” When I heard this delightfully melancholy song for the first time, it totally captivated me. The chord changes and vocal turns are so beautifully unexpected, carrying a fantastical storyline, that I just had to keep listening. 

For hours, I wracked my brain trying to come up with the right analogy to describe the way the song impacted me, and the best I can offer is this: It’s like going to a party and expecting plain, but pleasant, vanilla-frosted cake, and then being presented with tiramisu encrusted in sparkling, 14-karat gold.

And the surprises keep on coming: Just when I thought the “Ivory & Blue” had mellowed into a comfortable cadence, Paolucci’s drums make their entrance, ecstatically driving the song to toward its final destination.

Anthony Paolucci’s daughter Eden with one of her first instruments.

Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when Paolucci told me that he was a dad to a gifted, 17-year-old piano-playing daughter! Clearly, the good music genes run in the family. We recently caught up with him to talk more about fatherhood, the record, and what’s next for 2022.

[SEE RELATED: Passing Strange Share Their Journey to ‘The Water and the Woods’ and What They Want Most in the Post-Pandemic World

Rockmommy: How is your latest record, Afterthought, different from 2020’s The Water and the Woods

Anthony Paolucci: It’s a little-known fact that The Water and the Woods is technically our FIRST album. The first version was hastily written and recorded in two months, back in 2017. We wrote the songs, believed they were ready, and recorded them when we were offered a chance to do so by a personal friend with a studio. How wrong we were. The songs were given no time to mature and develop over time from playing them live, and we were eventually disappointed in our decision to record them when we did.

Our next batch of songs became “Come Whatever Storms,” which we wrote and recorded a year after writing them and playing them live. After that, we began writing songs for what would be our third album. 

However, in 2019, we were signed to NeuroTronix Records, and we hadn’t finished writing the new album yet. So Rick [Demko] decided to re-record The Water and the Woods, an opportunity we leaped at. After its official re-release, the country went into lockdown and other than our album release show, we never had a chance to promote it live anywhere. So we went back to working on the third album. 

Half the album was already written, but the rest of it was written in quarantine — and, in our opinion, it shows. The nature and tone of these songs is deeply personal and very intimate. Whereas many of the songs on the other two albums are fictional stories, most of the ones on Afterthought are about us and a lot of our life experiences. So when all is said and done, this third album technically took three years to write before we recorded it. In the meantime, the songs that were finished we played live many times. So as far as we’re concerned, it’s our best and proudest effort so far.

Passing Strange’s Anthony Paolucci and daughter Eden at a KISS concert.

Rockmommy: How did you approach each track?

Anthony Paolucci: Each track was approached the same way we always write. Kate comes up with an idea or a series of parts and plays them for me. I “find the beat” in the song, and we ride out the groove, following the song wherever it takes us. Sometimes, in the end, it doesn’t sound anything like Kate originally intended, but it becomes a Passing Strange song, a creation that’s truly equal parts her and I. 

Since half the album was recorded in quarantine, however, many of these songs were quite finished when they finally came to me, and I didn’t want to deviate from their original arrangement or sound. My job was to add to their depth and give them a percussive layer, without taking anything away from the original idea: One example is “Coming Up Roses.” 

In the case of “Karen In The Daytime”, given the soft or subdued nature of many of our songs, I asked Kate to write a song, just for me, that I can rock out to on my drums. It took a while, but I couldn’t have been more pleased with the result, and I felt that I really got to flex my drumming arms on that one.

Rockmommy: What is the story behind the song ‘Karen In The Daytime’? 

Anthony Paolucci: This song was inspired by the show Californication and is written from the perspective of the character Mia — a young, unstable, extorting, mistress as she realizes she’ll never live up to the main character’s ex-wife Karen. Instead, she is stuck seeing him at night when he can get away, while Karen gets him in the daytime.

Rockmommy: What are your goals for 2022?

Anthony Paolucci: With three albums under our belt, our main goal at this point is to just play out. We’re finally crossing the border and playing a different state for the first time next year, but we’d like to play as many new places with as many new bands and artists as possible. So if you’re reading this, and you like what you hear, reach out to us! We want to share a stage with you.

Rockmommy: What are yours and Kate’s favorite tracks on the album (at the moment)? 

Anthony Paolucci: The first song completed for this album was “Library Voice,” and we both feel exactly the same way, in that this song best represents the essence of this album, and for that reason, is probably both our favorite song.

Rockmommy: How has your love of music rubbed off on your progeny? 

Anthony Paolucci: Before I had Eden, it was already decided that music would be a big part of her life. A part of her education, if you will, the importance of which would be as stressed as English or Math, whether she learned music at school or an outside teacher. When she was a toddler, we made certain she had musical toys, and there was always music playing somewhere in the apartment: classical, blues, music with substance. 

Eden never showed any interest in drums, but she liked the piano in the living room. When she was given an electric keyboard at five years old, she was already figuring out melodies from movies like “Spirited Away” and “Castle in the Sky.” At 6 years old, she took lessons from Pat Neznick, who used to play in the New Haven Symphony. Eden excelled quickly and she soon became a member of the piano guild — National level. 

What’s cool is she also has perfect pitch, so she can pretty much tell you the key of any sound — a duck’s quack, a leaf blower, it doesn’t matter. 

As far as where her and I connect musically, we had very similar taste in music for a while. We saw KISS together, H.I.M., Lindsay Sterling, and yes, the Wiggles. Her first concert was Yanni, and nowadays she mostly listens to the classic crooners, like Tony and Frank, and hip-hop. 

I ambush her playing sessions sometimes with a cajon and force her to play with me, but I know she hates it, so I’ve backed off for the most part. I told her you’ll never grow as a musician unless you play with other people, but she doesn’t want to hear it. Ah, well. I’m just happy that she still loves the piano and plays it every day. I even wrote a Young Adult novel about her and the piano called “Piano Lessons,” so she’s as much an inspiration to me artistically as I’d like to think I’ve been to her.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Turkey Vulture’s Metal Mom Jessie May on Making ‘Twist the Knife’ While Raising a Baby

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Few musical genres ares more potent and cathartic than hardcore, metal and old-school punk rock. Yet it is these genres that I felt internally pressured to abandon when I became a mom in suburbia (and it took me years to re-embrace them). 

That’s why it was so refreshing to immerse myself in the gutteral, sonic intensity of the band Turkey Vulture, comprising married duo Jessie May and Jim Clegg, who wrote some of the music for their forthcoming album Twist the Knife while cutting their teeth as parents of a baby boy born in late 2020.

Hailing from Milford, Connecticut, Turkey Vulture combines punk, metal, and Americana influences, including the Misfits, Descendents, Guns N’ Roses, and “old timey stuff,” as Jessie puts it. Twist the Knife, to be released in January, incorporates all of these elements, with Jessie’s unique vocals front and center, fluctuating between growls and a more punk, Cherrie Currie Runaways vibe. 

Turkey Vulture’s Jessie May and Jim Clegg

So how did they manage to put together a record while raising a tiny person? We recently caught up with Jessie to find out. 

Rockmommy: Love the first few tracks of your upcoming record. You made it with a little baby in tow. How did that go? 

Jessie Mays: Well, we thought ‘recording an EP this summer’ would be a great idea in January, when the baby was a newborn and slept all day. And in the coming months, he became a little boy who hates naps! Luckily he sleeps at night lol…

Jim is the kind of person who is creative at all times, no matter what — but I’m the kind of person who needs a specific task or deadline. If we hadn’t decided to record this EP, I probably wouldn’t have picked up an instrument since the little guy was born. For instance — I’m a bass player “officially,” but I’ve only played bass this year to write the bass lines for these songs and record them. Jim plays my bass more than I do!

One funny “band parent” experience was taking the little guy with us to do band photos. We set up a tripod at a local park and tried to look really cool on some broken down bleachers. Our kid was in the stroller, wearing a Turkey Vulture T-shirt our friend had made for him. He was not impressed with this weird grownup adventure, but he liked getting strolled in the woods after. And he was definitely the coolest-looking one in the family!

Turkey Vulture’s ‘Twist the Knife’

Rockmommy: What sets ‘Twist the Knife’ apart from your other music?

Jessie May: I’d say one of the biggest differences for this EP is that Jim wrote more of the music and lyrics than in our previous releases. He’s the brains behind the tracks “Fiji” and “Where the Truth Dwells,” going for a heavy punk vibe, a la Fear/Discharge/GBH/Misfits’ American Psycho. We also followed the Misfits trend by writing songs about movies; “Fiji” is based on The Truman Show and “Livestock On Our Way to Slaughter” is about the movie They Live.  

Another difference is that I focused more on writing the second guitar parts this time around than the bass lines; that wasn’t really on purpose, but more a factor of preparing for recording while balancing work and a new baby. There was only so much nitpicking I could do!

Most of the EP was written before the pandemic, but we put the finishing touches on the songs over the past year. However, we do have a couple Garage Band-recorded singles that are directly about it: “The Quarantine Song” (April 2020) and “Christmas Apart” (December 2020). I’m especially proud of “Christmas Apart” and hope to make a pro recording of it one of these years. My little brother who lives in California was supposed to come out for the holiday last year, but tested positive for COVID the day before Christmas Eve. He recovered well and of course it was a good thing he got the test results before getting on a plane, but… That’s what the song is about.

Rockmommy: There aren’t a lot of doom metal or thrash metal/hardcore female singers. It’s so refreshing to hear you growl.

Jessie May: Thank you! I have a lot of fun singing in this band, and being a vocalist/frontperson is a new endeavor for me. I’m glad I took the plunge! By day I’m an elementary school librarian and of course mom of an infant, so I spend most of the time in “cute and cuddly” or patient, “let’s all be our best selves” mode. So getting on the mic and having this aggressive alter ego is a welcome change — and now that every show is a balancing act of arranging babysitting and being a functional parent the next day, we have to really make every set count. This is it! Right now!

Rockmommy: How do you squeeze in recording and rehearsal time, given your new parenting responsibilities? 

Jessie May: It was definitely a balancing act and would not have been possible without loving grandparents. Our parents have been a huge help in many ways, including babysitting so we can rehearse — the thing about being in a band with your partner is that we can’t be like, “You babysit and I’ll go to band practice, then we’ll switch!” My mother, God bless her, also took the baby while we went to the recording studio.

As far as day-to-day practicing, I’ve had to look at it in different ways than pre-baby life. If I can grab the acoustic guitar off the wall and play four or five songs after the baby goes to bed, it helps. The other day I even played a few songs for the baby in the morning, and he liked it!  He laughed at the harsh vocals.

Speaking of vocals, I started doing Melissa Cross’s Zen of Screaming exercises in the car every day on the way to work after my maternity leave ended. I wondered if it would make a difference — and it did! Turkey Vulture is the first band I’ve ever sang in, and I think this EP has the strongest vocals of any of our recordings.

Rockmommy: My favorite is possibly the song “She’s Married (But Not to Me).” What inspired that one? 

Jessie May: Jim and I were close friends for many years before we started dating — our first band together was all the way back in 2008! So being friends and also active in the local music scene, we used to go to a lot of shows together. An acquaintance of Jim’s asked where his “wife” was one night, and he told the guy, “She’s married, but not to me.” A perfect topic for a folk song!

So it started as an acoustic ballad and ended up the punk song you hear on the EP; the verse chord changes and some of the lyrics are inspired by the classic country song “Long Black Veil.”

Rockmommy: What are you most looking forward to in late 2021, band-wise — besides the record — now that the warm outdoor summer gigging season is over?

We’re planning to play December 11th at Cherry Street Station in Wallingford. We bring our own mic and mask when we’re not performing, and we are vaccinated. So we try to keep it as safe as possible while still doing what we enjoy.

Jessie May

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Courtney Seely, on Motherhood, Shifting Soundscapes and Creating ‘Future Self’

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I already knew, having played a show with melodic Connecticut indie synth-rock trio Green Light, that their music is lyrically rich, sonically layered, and deeply cerebral. Yet I still made the amateur mistake of playing the song “Future Self” for the first time while running on a high school track.

Only a few seconds into the title track for the band’s current album, which came out in October, I felt compelled to slow down and listen. Green Light frontwoman Courtney Seely’s airy, emotive voice — which possesses a bit of a Stevie Nicks vibe — captured my attention and captivated me right from the start, as she launched into the song about the bittersweet process of moving forward.

Courtney Seely, playing with her band Green Light, at The Cellar in Hamden, Connecticut

But it wasn’t simply the poetic depth of the “formidable shift to a new destination” that drew me in. It was the way Courtney simultaneously expressed fear and self-assuredness in her vocal delivery, within a melodic, moody backdrop of keyboards and fuzzy, synthesized beats, which gathered momentum as the song moved toward the chorus: 

“Cause I can’t let go without control/

This rope just holds me down/

And I can’t break free

From this version of me

When this rope, it holds me down”

I’m a professional writer — yet it’s a struggle to find the right words that can encapsulate the emotional catharsis within the song’s 5 minutes and 19 seconds — so you’ll have to just trust me on this one. And while you’re on Spotify (or iTunes, Amazon Music, or whatever), be sure to listen to the band’s entire catalogue. That’s the only way you’ll be able to truly absorb the genius of Green Light, the only band I’ve ever met that’s formed by mental health professionals — Seely (vocals, piano), Bill Cox (keyboards, synthesizer), and drummer Dan Coca-Ducach.

The 11-track Future Self also offers an abundance of light, joyful, and even flirty songs, including my personal favorite, “Comin’ for Ya,” the perfect accompaniment for that jog I eventually resumed. Another track, “Fireflies,” is delicate and pretty and the kind of song I’d share with my hopeful 10-year-old self (or my future self, to be fair!). There are others, too, like the minimalist piano ballad “Unspoken” that highlight the trio’s versatility.

By the time I reached the end of the 11-track album, “Heavy Like the Sand,” I couldn’t help but wonder, how does Courtney balance real-world demands — the grueling hustle of indie-band life (for two bands!), marriage, motherhood, and a challenging career — yet come into every song sounding refreshed and poised to deliver?

We recently caught up with Courtney to ask about this and more.

Rockmommy: Hi Courtney! For those who are unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe your style? 

Courtney Seely: My musical style is primarily in the alternative, indie, pop, electro pop arenas. That is where my interests lie and my writing style is heavily influenced by that. As a bandmate I am really open to many genres, ideas, and styles. I love trying new things and hearing what others bring in based on their influences. 

I started playing piano at 5. I picked up the guitar — with the help of my dad — in high school and began writing songs almost immediately. I never did a ton of collaborating in high school so it was just me and a guitar or me and a piano but I began playing at the school talent show and things like that. I played some with a friend in college as well but after that put down music for a long time. Throughout that time my now husband, Tyler, was playing in a local band so I spent a fair amount of time at local shows with him. It wasn’t until around 2014, 2015 or so that I began to get back into it.

Green Light

Rockmommy: Who are your inspirations in the sound world? 

Courtney Seely: Aside from my friends and family in the music scene who probably inspire me most of all, I am inspired by Lorde, Chvrches, Death Cab for Cutie, Radiohead, Brandi Carlisle, Phoebe Bridgers, and recently got into the band Dizzy. 

Rockmommy: Let’s talk about that new Green Light record. The title track ‘Future Self’ is intense and unforgettable. Can you tell us about this song, and how it set the tone as the title track for the rest of the record? 

Courtney Seely: Yes — that’s the exact sentiment the song brings for us so I am glad that translates so well to the listener. This song is about the discomfort that comes from seeing things change in your life, and finding the courage to trust yourself. It set the tone for the record in that this album deals with a lot of change, ultimately resulting in this letting go of control and a need to trust yourself in the process. It was one of the earlier songs written for the record and we felt the meaning allows the listener to embark on a process of letting go and seeing where the ride takes you. 

Rockmommy: Do you come up with the lyrics, or collaborate with Bill and Dan? 

Courtney Seely: Bill and I primarily collaborate on the lyrics and music for our songs. We don’t have one consistent format. There have been songs he writes all of the lyrics for, and vice versa. With music it’s similar. I’d say one of the most unique things on this record was that many of the songs that I wrote lyrics for (“Comin’ For Ya”, “Heads”, “Move You”, “Unspoken”) started with a melody and lyrics that I shared with Bill (without music) and he took those and added what he felt fit nicely on piano and they grew from there!

Rockmommy: How is this album an extension of — or different than — some of your past recordings?

Courtney Seely: I think it is definitely both. It’s different from The Days in that Future Self took a lot longer as we really wanted to spend time crafting and shaping these songs. Some were older songs we reworked to include with this collection, and many new. The Days was written very quickly, comparatively — within a couple of months — and was all created within that timeframe, mostly remotely! I’d record my parts at home and send to Bill and he’d magically put it all together. With Future Self we were happy to be able to get back together and record in person — it’s a completely different experience.

Rockmommy: I recall you and your Green Light bandmates telling me about you are all mental health professionals. Is this how you met?  

Courtney Seely: Yes! Bill and I are both therapists and Dan works with folks who have neurodevelopmental disabilities. We all met along the path of our careers — Dan and Bill first at a previous job, and Bill and I later at our job at a mental health agency.

Rockmommy: What influence does your work in the mental health world have on the music you create with Green Light? 

Courtney Seely: I think it has a large influence. We are a reflective bunch, always thinking about how we impact our world, how things impact us, so all of that reflection in our personal lives and in our work lives lead to a lot of great content for songs! It’s also such a needed outlet for us all. We all work hard and play hard — so this band is a great way for us to move through the stuckness of whatever is happening around us.

Rockmommy: I noticed you and embarked on another musical endeavor, The Sparkle and Fade (with husband Tyler, sister Lindsey Callahan and brother-in-law is Jeff Callahan). How did that band blossom? Are you recording soon?

Courtney Seely: Yes! This group formed about a year ago during the pandemic. My husband started writing some of his own songs and asked me and my sister and brother-in-law to join him in the process. We actually completed our album during that time, called “Find A Way” and released it in June 2021. I primarily wrote lyrics on that album and played some keys and synth. 

What started as just an album project turned into a whole group! In November 2020 we brought on a bass player, TJ Chalfant, and drummer, Joe Onofrio and we’ve played 3 shows so far.

Courtney Seely and her son.

Rockmommy: How do you balance a full-time career with music and motherhood? What have you had to let go of, or adjust to, to make it work? 

Courtney Seely: My son is now 8 ½ which is wild to think about! The balance is…hard. As I said in other places, the music outlet is almost essential to me in terms of keeping my sanity, so I work hard to make that happen! I have a weekly practice with Green Light where we get to work on new material, rehearse for shows, or just jam. The beautiful thing about playing around here is there are a bunch of places that my son can join in the fun. He often comes to see us at local farmers’ markets, outdoor venues, and it’s pretty much infused in his being now! 

I don’t think he remembers a time when I wasn’t playing in a band, so it’s just a part of our lives now, which is really nice.

All of that said, it means giving up some time — like weekend nights when we have gigs. We are lucky to have our parents close by so Griffin loves spending time with them and they are a huge support without which I don’t know this would work.  

I’m also fortunate to have a flexible job which makes it possible for me to join in the mom things at school and to be home with him in the mornings and evenings. Our families are very supportive as well — and mine even all play in a cover band together, Almost the Whole Damn Family. So they all understand!  

Rockmommy: Is it frustrating or hard at all being a woman with responsibilities, fully adulting, trying to create a fanbase and make music? I think it is! Just wondering if you can relate?

Courtney Seely: Yes! I agree! As a career woman, a mother, and musician, I always carry guilt! It’s hard to let go of that and not want to be everywhere and doing everything all at once or to feel the pressure that I should be doing that. 

I think women have a ton of pressure to be everything for their families, at work, and in their social lives. I’m a huge proponent of rest and making things manageable. As a group, I think we do a great job of not overbooking ourselves and respecting our personal schedules so that there is never a feeling of the group being burdensome. I also have a very supportive family who are essential in helping me get it all done.

Rockmommy: When can people see you play out live? (Tell us about your ‘future self’ gigs!)

Courtney Seely: Our future selves in Green Light will be playing on 12/10/21 at the Cellar with Private Language and Audio Jane! We actually collaborated with Ryan Sindler from Private Language on “Face the Sun,” a track on our album “The Days” so there could be some special treats at this show. You won’t want to miss this one…if you haven’t seen these other amazing bands you should come out! 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Mama B, aka Jacq Becker, Talks Motherhood and Creating the Whimsical Record ‘Zoology’ with Musician Pal Travis Warner (Uncle T)

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Los Angeles-area musicians Jacq Becker and Travis Warner — the duo ‘Mama B and Uncle T’ — have released Zoology, a children’s record that possesses an enchanting quality, filled with cooing animal noises and waterfall sounds alongside gently plucked instruments and gorgeous vocal harmonies. The record and accompanying videos are incredibly addictive and fun to experience — and there’s no way your toddler (or 4-year-old) won’t want to sing along. My personal favorites are the upbeat “Pink Polka-Dot Flamingo,” a song about enjoying community while appreciating one’s uniqueness, the Beatles-esque “Toucan-a-Rama,” and the adorable “Giggling Gorillas.” 

Mama B & Uncle T

It’s the perfect soundtrack for a Zoo visit with the grandparents, Safari excursion, or rainy fall day — and a tranquil escape from the day-to-day stressors that every child experiences in the post-2020 world. 

We recently caught up with Jacq, who also happens to be a mom of a 3-year-old, to learn more about the record. 

Rockmommy: Hi Jacq! For those who don’t know you, can you give us a bit of your musical background? Who are your influences? 

Jacq Becker: I grew up going to both classical and musical theater camps as a kid and I loved studying and performing all sorts of styles of music. When I moved to Los Angeles after college I fell into performing jazz music and shortly thereafter discovered my love for writing pop/R&B music. I formed a band and started writing and performing my original music around LA before signing to Grammy award winning producer, Redone where I continued to write and perform for several years. My influences are Sade, Norah Jones, and H.E.R.! In the children’s genre, I’m loving everything Daniel Tashian is putting out and of course Raffi is still a staple in our house. 

Rockmommy: What inspired your debut children’s album Zoology, with your pal Travis Warner (“Uncle T”)? 

Jacq Becker: After becoming a mom I was inspired to create a fresh musical soundscape for my son as I felt I could make an impact in the genre. I enlisted the help of my long time friend and collaborator, Travis Warner (‘Uncle T”) who had just become an uncle. Both of his parents are educators — his mother started an art-centric preschool in his backyard when he was born, giving him a unique insight into children’s music and making him the perfect partner for this project!

Rockmommy: I love the video for “Hippopotamus.” Who is the brainchild behind the animation, and how did that come together? 

Jacq Becker: I was lucky enough to meet PJ (planetjanet.tv) through a friend. She is an extremely talented animator and artist who was so easy and fun to work with. I had never produced anything in the animation space before, so with her patience and guidance we were able to create something really special for every song on the album. 

Rockmommy: Why is music such a powerful therapy for children, especially in today’s high-stress world?

Jacq Becker: Now more than ever kids need a creative place to escape into music. We hope this album is one of many ‘Zoology’ editions that will have kids moving, singing and using their imaginations to transform these challenging times into memorable music experiences.

‘Zoology’ by Mama B & Uncle T

Jacq Becker: Balancing motherhood and creative life is always tough as you always feel like you are getting pulled in a million directions. I’ve definitely had to work on letting go of the guilt that comes with work being a working mom but I love that I get to show my son what it looks like to follow your passion and show him that there are many paths to achieving your dreams.

Rockmommy: Any words of advice for the new mamas who play and record music, perhaps those whose careers are on pause because life is hectic? 

Jacq Becker: I have learned to take it easy on myself and trust that things will fall into place in the timing they’re supposed to happen. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Lucy Kalantari’s Rockin’ Jazzy EP ‘What Kind of World?’ Features Cellist Son Darius + All-Star Collaborations 

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

If you’re in need of some seriously upbeat grooves, I highly recommend Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats’ What Kind of World?. Lucy’s 5-track EP, her fifth studio album for families, really boosted my spirits this week when I was feeling down. Plus, the record not only features her adorable prodigy cellist son Darius Kalantari (who is 8!) but also Jazzy Ash and Joelle Lurie (of JoJo & The Pinecones).

Lucy Kalantari

Each song is a gem, from the festive “Friendship Party” to “Juntos Somos Fuertes,” a bilingual song honoring Lucy’s own Dominican and Puerto Rican heritage that touches on working together and building great things. It is sung with her son and favorite frequent collaborator Darius Kalantari and features horn players Syreeta Thompson on trumpet and Ron Wilkins on trombone.

We recently caught up with the singer, songwriter, and Grammy-winning producer to learn more about the record. 

Rockmommy: ‘Friendship Party’ is such an upbeat fall jam — and September was kind of a mixed bag. Does music help you stay positive and hopeful?

Lucy Kalantari: Absolutely! Sometimes, life gets in the way of making music and I will totally feel the repercussions of that within a couple of days. Everything feels just a little heavier, emotionally. It goes back to normal once I get musicking again. It’s like the ”apple a day” saying, except with music!

[SEE RELATED: Lucy Kalantari: On Motherhood, Music and Feeling Thankful]

Rockmommy: The song features Jazzy Ash and Joelle Lurie (of JoJo & The Pinecones) — have you been friends for a long time? How did this collaboration come about? 

Lucy Kalantari: We knew of each other through the kindie music scene. Back in 2016, we all gathered for a children’s music industry event, where artists perform together doing whatever they want to show off. Jazzy Ash was paired to perform with Joelle and I was paired with Lard Dog. It was bundles of fun! After that performance, a few people said, “now wouldn’t it be neat if the THREE of you did something together? Maybe an album?” Seeds were planted that night and conversations sprinkled throughout the years. This year, the time felt ripe. Before I wrote the song, I checked in with everyone hoping that the pandemic didn’t change everyone’s enthusiasm over the idea. When I got the resounding “YES!!” the rest became history!

Rockmommy: How’s life with the best cellist on Earth (your son Darius)? Can you tell us what’s going on in his performance world? 

Lucy Kalantari: Haha Darius is a bundle of energy and I’m just trying to keep up with his shine! At 8 years old, he started working on Suzuki Cello Book 7 and he’s absolutely ecstatic. The pieces are more expressive and elaborate, so it’s been really exciting to watch him dive in. He’s also getting ready for a recital in November performing the exciting “Tarantella” by W.H. Squire. On our new EP, “What Kind of World?” not only does he play cello, but he also sings with me in Spanish for a song about community called “Juntos somos fuertes.” He also felt inspired to sing a 3rd part harmony for the track, “Round and Round”! It’s been so great to perform live together in front of an audience again! Slowly but surely, we will be doing it with more frequency, even more than pre-pandemic times. It’s going to be magnificent! 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Kids Imagine Nation’s New Concept Album Brings the Drama of a Broadway Musical to Kindie Rockers

I’ve spent too long away from the theater, because the moment I heard the first track off California kindie-rock band — and Disney favorite — Kids Imagine Nation’s new concept album, I felt compelled to listen to the entire thing. And I’m an adult mom — not a kid! 

Best Day Ever takes the listener on a journey through a series of songs about the adventures of three friends (played by KIN performers Rachel, Aaron and Beatz) pursuing their passions in science, theater, music. Is today really “the greatest day”? What are the trio going to do outside? What will they do when they take a wrong turn (and need to break out the compass)? You’ll have to listen to find out.

Fortunately all questions and more are answered in KIN’s Best Day Ever (available on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon), a super-fun album made for family road trips. And if you get a chance to catch them live, do it!

[SEE RELATED: Kids Imagine Nation Swaps High-Energy Live Shows for a Virtual Music Program That’s Fun, Engaging and Whimsical]

We recently caught up with KIN founding member Aaron Bertram to find out more. 

Rockmommy: It’s been a busy year. Can you tell us how KIN came up with the idea for a concept album, a musical of sorts, that takes the listener through the adventures of the three central KIN characters as students? 

Aaron Bertram: This year HAS been busy! We have already performed over 600 shows at Legoland California just in 2021!  When we were ready to put this album together, we wanted to do something different than our previous musical endeavors. Over the years, Kids Imagine Nation continues to evolve, and we wanted an album that is the representation of that evolution with music, interactive elements, and most important, storytelling. What better way to show it than with a musical radio play!? We started with the songs, then wrote a brand new adventure around them, bringing in characters from our web series, and having prominent voice over artists playing some new characters!

Rockmommy: Have you performed this album? What were performances like over the summer of 2021? 

Aaron Bertram: We haven’t performed this album live yet, although we definitely plan to! We have performed some of these songs here and there in other shows; however, we plan to perform them all together, along with the storyline from this album. We can’t wait to bring this entire musical to a live audience one day.  

Performing live again after a year was one of those things… for us and for the audience, where you weren’t quite sure how to navigate everything at first. We were masked, and that was an adjustment initially, but as soon as we got the hang of it, it was super easy!   And it was a freeing moment, because on stage is where we thrive! We did 4-5 shows a day at Legoland. We’ve basically performed 7 days a week for the past 6 months, after not performing an in-person show for almost exactly one year! Talk about going from 0-60!
We wrote a brand new summer show just for Legoland that took advantage of their big stage and huge video screen above us. That included 3 brand new songs (“Summer Of Fun,” “Future Dinosaur,” & “Tyrannosaurus Rocks,” some of our new favorites!)

Rockmommy: You do so many things, from virtual learning performances to live shows. How do you continue to generate content that resonates with young listeners that feels fresh and relevant? 

Aaron Bertram: Thank you so much for your kind words. We are very passionate, ourselves, about the idea that we, as human beings never stop learning and exploring. We love to travel and to explore the arts in all of its many forms. We personally thrive off change and creation… so we feel like: finding new outlets for our love for music and theatre and dance and visual arts and video production keeps our own lives fresh and interesting… as well as provides our friends who come to our shows and consume our content with something new that we hope they can resonate with, or just have fun with.  

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Alison Faith Levy’s Latest Record Raises Questions of Spirituality and Ethics for Young Listeners

Jazz-pop songwriter Alison Faith Levy— known for keyboard skills and smooth vocal chops — is a staple in San Francisco’s performing arts circuit, regularly releasing songs that fans of all ages enjoy.

Her latest release, You Are Magic, is perhaps the most meaningful yet, inspired by a turning point in her life, and a desire to rase awareness around the sometimes-difficult, but always important, topics of spirituality and ethics. The album still offers her signature blend of “sophisticated pop for little ears.” But underneath the upbeat tempo is a reflective intention, as listeners are called to contemplate community and purpose: Who are we, and why are we here? How do we connect with others?

Alison Faith Levy (Photo by Danny Plotnick)

For non-religious parents like me, who don’t ascribe to a particular faith, these are complex, and important questions.

We recently caught up with Alison to talk about the record and what’s next. 

Rockmommy: Hi Alison! For those of you not familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound?

Alison Faith Levy: My sound is sophisticated pop for little ears, steeped in the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s. I love that classic period of singer-songwriters like Elton John, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, and Carole King, and bands like the Beatles, The Kinks, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and The Zombies. That time period is my sweet spot and you can definitely hear it in my songs.  

Rockmommy: This album is really timely for parents like me. We’re not raising kids with any particular religion, and I’m struggling with how to teach my kids about some of the good stuff (values like compassion and empathy). Did you make this record with parents and kids like mine in mind? 

Alison Faith Levy: Absolutely! You are my target audience! One thing I have loved and been inspired by, throughout my recent experience as a Jewish educator, is that many of the preschool families I work with come from very diverse backgrounds but can still really connect with the values and ideas that are addressed in Jewish learning environments. My goal with this album was to take those core values and ideas and make them accessible to all, regardless of your faith background. There is no specific “Jewish-ness” about attributes like empathy, compassion, self-expression, caring for the earth, gratitude, and creativity — it’s all there to be shared! 

Rockmommy: What is the main message you hope to impart? What do you hope kids can glean from these songs? 

Alison Faith Levy: First of all, I want to honor that kids have a natural spirituality and ask really big questions. My goal is to help build and develop their heart muscle – the place where they ponder deep thoughts, create their own imaginary worlds, connect with other people, and learn how to engage with the wider world in an authentic way. Everyone is special, but what makes us special is the way our own uniqueness connects with, and reflects in, others. 

Rockmommy: Is there a particular age group you’re hoping your message resonates with?

Alison Faith Levy: I would say the preschool to early elementary ages would be the most receptive, and also their parents! This album is designed for the whole family — the musical references will be fun and recognizable to the adults, and the lyrics will (hopefully) be inspiring for the children. 

Rockmommy: Who are your musical inspirations? 

Alison Faith Levy: See question #1! I’m also currently inspired by so many of my Kindie and Jewish music peers. There are folks out there doing amazing work, especially strong women like Joanie Leeds, Ellen Allard, Lucy Kalantari, Nefesh Mountain, and Chava Mirel. 

[SEE RELATED: Joanie Leeds’ New Record and Message of Empowerment Celebrates All the Ladies]

Rockmommy: What’s your hope for the near future, amid all of the craziness in our world? 

Alison Faith Levy: Wow. Well, I would just hope that reason, truth, science, and empathy win the day. That the focus of our country’s leaders begins to move into a place where we look out for the safety of our fellow citizens, protect our earth from the ravages of climate change, protect women’s rights, and place a higher value on education and healthcare. What is happening now is just not sustainable, and it’s pretty scary. And get vaccinated, people! C’mon now. 

Rockmommy: What’s the best advice you’ve received for balancing creative life with all of the other demands?

Alison Faith Levy: I’m still working on that one! Knowing that each day has a set of tasks to be completed, and not to get too anxious about the future. Take a deep breath, show up, and do your best. Also, let go of perfection, it is not your friend. I remind myself every day to be grateful for the gift of being able to do all the work that I do in the community. It can be overwhelming sometimes, but it’s all good and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy