I met Michele Stork sometime in 2007, right after I began teaching guitar at New York City Guitar School. I don’t remember our first conversation, exactly, as we sat sprawled across the living room floor of our friend Gail’s Manhattan studio. But I remembered the sparkle in her eyes when she spoke about her band, Loki the Grump, and her musical influences — Rollins Band, Murphy’s Law, and other hardcore-music mainstays in DC and NYC.
As a bonafide DC girl with a love of Henry Rollins and Murphy’s Law, I felt a special connection with Michele, which continued onto our tours. Every hardcore, punk and/or gravelly-vocalled band led us to rush the stage together. She’s still the only friend of mine who knows the words to my super-fast punk song “Strawberry Shortcake” (and has written alternate versions).
Michele, who works in the music business by day, brings the same love of hardcore and punk — and righteous, unforgettable lyrics — into all of her musical projects, from her former band Loki the Grump to her latest project (A)llerdings!, with her friend Joe De Sapio and husband Dietmar.
We caught up with her earlier this week to discuss her plans for getting creative in the near future.
ROCKMOMMY: How would you describe your music style?
MICHELE STORK: I’m all over the place when I write songs, but I definitely love to play punk of some sort. My very first band was avant-Garde punk, my second was goth punk, then ones all over the spectrum. The band I‘m most known for in the GRGR world was a bit on the pop punk side. The current trio for this show – (A)llerdings! – is really raw. Our friend Joe is an awesome guitarist, but my husband and I have not picked up our instruments in quite a few years so we are not so awesome… but we do have a load of fun so the fact that we are less than spectacular doesn’t really concern me!
Michele Stork (drums) with Joe & Dietmar of (A)llerdings!
ROCKMOMMY: What kinds of songs will you be playing at your next show? What instruments will you be playing, and who will be with you onstage?
MICHELE STORK: We’re playing a short fast set — some originals, some covers. I’m attempting drums and vox, Dietmar, my husband, is attempting bass, iPad and vox, Joe is killing it on guitar and vox.
ROCKMOMMY: Who is the most inspirational live performer you’ve seen lately?
MICHELE STORK: If I have to pick only one of my recent concerts, I’d have to go with Bob Mould! He’s as phenomenal solo as he is with a full band. Brilliant songwriter and guitarist!
ROCKMOMMY: The GRGR reunion show celebrates women in music — has a lot changed in the past 15 years, since Girls Rock & Girls Rule was founded, and female rockers became more visible?
MICHELE: Women are definitely more prominent as leaders in rock, and in many other genres, now more than ever. It’s pretty awesome to see the transition. However, we still have a LONG way to go. I’m hopeful it will truly get to the place where it’s just a PERSON who rocks as opposed to having to distinguish between genders.
Michele and Dietmar — lovers, spouses and players.
ROCKMOMMY: Being an independent artist isn’t always easy. You’ve gotta balance lots of stuff. What’s your best advice for making time to rock?
MICHELE: “Making time” is exactly what you have to do. You can’t wait until you have time, it’ll never happen. You have to make that appointment with yourself and/or with others — put it on your calendar as a priority meeting — and stick to it as best you can. Even if it’s just one hour per week.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
It’s no longer revolutionary to see a woman slaying a guitar solo on stage, or a female-fronted band headlining a major tour or music festival. But when Gail Silverman founded Girls Rock & Girls Rule more than 15 years ago, women in hard rock genres tended to stay in the fringes, finding their home on alternative radio or within Lilith-type fairs.
But Gail, a rock singer and guitarist, wanted to flourish within the mecca of musicians and inspiration in her Manhattan home. But even there, so few women in bands could get the mainstream attention their male counterparts enjoyed: Even artists like Courtney Love and Alanis Morrisette — who so loudly and angrily dominated the 1990s — got sidelined for pop princesses.
So in a moment of glorious inspiration in 2001, Gail put together a rock show featuring only bands with one or more women in them. In the days that followed, Girls Rock & Girls Rule — better known as GRGR — was born. But after several good years — hundreds of shows featuring female rockers, two sponsored tours, and partnerships with leading vendors like Daisy Rock and organizations focused on women — the relentless challenge of city life took its toll, and GRGR went into hibernation.
Finding it harder and harder to put together lucrative shows with women and music as the core focal points, Gail turned inward and decided to take a break — and moved Florida in 2012 to channel the bulk of her energy on her career as a freelance marketer.
But the urge to give back to the women and her musical desires never ceased.
As rock enjoys a steady revival in nightclubs and airwaves, Gail started feeling the urge to rock again — and dusted off her trusty electric.
On February 15, Gail returns to the stage with her band G-Spot for the Girls Rock & Girls Rule Reunion show (2/15, at LP n Harmony, 683 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211), with new tunes and a fresh outlook.
Here, she tells us about what makes her motivated, and why nurturing the next generation of women in music is so critical.
ROCKMOMMY: How would you describe your music style?
GAIL SILVERMAN: My musical style has evolved a bit over the years, and with my band G-spot, it was rock, punk, pop. For the past several years, it’s shifted to I would call ‘alternative folk rock’ and the themes of my songs have shifted from ‘angry girl’ tunes and relationship-driven songs to more conscious musical scores, with introspective lyrics and messages. Though every now and then I still fall back to my roots. And I do like to include some humor whenever I can.
ROCKMOMMY: What kinds of songs will you be playing at your next show?
GAIL SILVERMAN: We will be playing a mix of classic G-spot songs with a very special guest on guitar who I am very excited about. That will be mixed with some of my solo material that I have written and released over the past several years. I will be on lead vocals and rhythm guitar and sharing the stage with my one of my best friends, band partner and bass player Donald Dixon, as well as Andrea Auerbach on drums and special guest Marisa Torrieri on lead guitar for a song or two. And of course I look forward to my other GRGR girls joining me on stage for some back-up vocals!
Gail Silverman, founder of Girls Rock & Girls Rule
ROCKMOMMY: Who is the most inspirational live performer you’ve seen lately?
GAIL SILVERMAN: I have not had the opportunity to see a ton of live music lately, but I was impressed with the all the representation of women at the Grammys this year, even though some of the music was not my go to listening style, including Alicia Keyes and Bonnie Raitt who never cease to blow by mind with their talents.
ROCKMOMMY: The GRGR reunion show celebrates women in music. Has a lot changed in the past 15 years, since GRGR took off, and female rockers became more visible?
GAIL SILVERMAN: I think women are starting to be more in the spotlight not only in music, but in the world in general, which I think is critical to changing the precarious state of the planet. However, I do still see a gap for women in the harder-rock genres and not a lot of representation there, and I know this is true in the country genre as well. It still seems the bulk of exposure for women in music is still in the pop genre. Of course, with Internet streaming changing the way we listen and discover music as well as social media, this continues to bring more opportunities to women and indie artists if you can find a way to break through the noise.
ROCKMOMMY: Being an independent artist isn’t always easy. What’s your best advice for making time to rock?
GAIL SILVERMAN: I can definitely relate to this statement, work-life balance and nurturing your creativity especially if you have other responsibilities. Since leaving NYC several years ago one of my biggest challenges is lack of inspiration from a creative community and I am looking to make a move this year. I tend to go in and out of concentrating on making music. I think the trick is to do your best make time and push yourself to pursue your creative endeavors even when you don’t really feel motivated. I always feel better when I sit down with my guitar whether I write something new or just rock out a bit. Another thing that has helped me is being part of a virtual community of songwriters called Songtown (modern technology has some upsides) and participating in workshops and co-writes as a way to keep me going. I don’t play out much these days (so am really excited about the upcoming GRGR show!) but I have learned some great techniques for songwriting even when you don’t feel inspired. I also participate in other creative activities, including sculpting, cooking and gardening, which help me keep in a creative flow.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
Do you remember the last rock-and-roll show where you were completely gripped by the intensity — the noise, the energy, and the catharsis — of the moment? The best bands deliver that experience consistently — but few deliver it with the same intimacy as NYC’s Thrilldriver.
Escape the Holiday Doldrums: Thrilldriver delivers your metal fix this Sunday (12/15/19) at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall, 8 p.m.
I’ll never forget my first Thrilldriver show at a packed dive bar in the Lower East Side, shortly after the band formed in 2015. The moment the five-piece launched into “Vicious” — a roaring arena-rock-style anthem loaded with Motley-Crue guitar riffs, thunderous rhythms, and Zoe “Pypes” Friedman’s soaring vocals — I was transported.
It was all grit and goodness, hair metal and reckless fury anchored down by a powerful rhythm section. And as I watched Zoe wield her goddess power like a pro, one thing became absolutely clear: I wanted more.
This weekend, Thrilldriver (whose members also include guitarists Tony Calabro and Michelangelo “Moxxxie” Quirinale, plus bassist Jamie “Fingerz” Garamella) returns to the spotlight for an intimate show in NYC at the second stage of the red-velvet-draped Rockwood Music Hall (Sunday, 8 p.m.). We caught up with Zoe and Michelangelo earlier this week to find out what’s in store.
Rockmommy: You’re based in New York. A city where musicians are disciplined but prone to distraction. How did you guys come together?
Michelangelo Moxxxie: Our guitarist/songwriter/producer Tony approached me about starting a hair metal band. We had known each other from teaching at New York City Guitar School. We both love all things rock and metal, so it seemed like a fun idea! While the initial concept was more tongue in cheek, once we got Zoe on board, it turned into a full-fledged band!
While each of us has our own influences, I think we all see Thrilldriver as a band that represents what we all love about great rock acts: Searing guitar playing, powerhouse vocals, and most importantly, great songs!
Zoe Pypes: I’d only ever performed in cover bands and (mostly) rock musicals, and while I fantasized about being a part of an original project, I had never written a song in my life and didn’t think it was something I could do. My initial audition was just for [guitarist] Tony, who had already written “Madeline.” I sang it for him in a tiny room at the Queens Guitar School. For the second stage I was asked to write lyrics and a vocal line over a demo and come sing it w/the full band. I was absolutely petrified, but my first stab at songwriting/co-writing, “Vicious,” has been a staple ever since! This band completely hijacked and rerouted my life away from theatre, but I always bring that world’s high stakes, drama and urgency to our songwriting and performance.
Rockmommy: Who are your favorite live performers and why?
MM: Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Ozzy (with any of his great guitar players), Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses. All these classic bands bring a certain “swagger” and larger than life persona to the stage. I also love super expressive guitar players such as Hendrix, Dave Gilmour, and Steve Lukather (Toto). Any type of sweet solo or riff will always pull me in haha.
ZP: This may mortify my bandmates, but I have three photographs of Steven Tyler on the wall at my piano where I warm up every day. He’s got this wild, frenetic energy I adore, and he doesn’t give a fuck. Not only is he still running around like a maniac, but he DELIVERS vocally to this day. If I could be Ursula the Sea Witch and steal anyone’s voice it would be Steven Tyler, Jack Black, or Dio’s.
There are also a few local artists that consistently inspire me with their live performances. Haley Bowery of The Manimals fills out her shows with drama, ritual, and community, which I really appreciate — each of her shows feels like a completely unique, cathartic experience. And the ladies of Mother Feather. They commit 100 percent to every second of every show, with so much attention to detail — using every inch of their bodies to communicate with their audiences, and using their platform to elevate and inspire their audiences.
Rockmommy: Can you describe the experience of playing music together — and/or the experience you hope to impart onto those who go to your live shows?
MM: I feel like we have such a great chemistry in this band, that our live performances sometimes feel nearly effortless (despite having to play some hard riffs and solos). Everyone goes out there and gives it 110% every show, so it’s easy to get pumped up every single time.
I hope that any of our audience members walk away feeling like they saw a true, raw, and powerful Rock n Roll show, played and sung by dedicated musicians who love to rock!
ZP: Currently a lot of my experience is wielding and harnessing energy. These songs and riffs amp me up so much and I love using my body in performance, but a lot of the vocal lines are challenging — sometimes I have to surrender to stillness and technique and focus in.
Something I think what separates us from a lot of bands and that I love is how much fun we’re having up there. When I’m busting my ass and one of the guys bangs out some insane solo it feels like a party i can’t believe I’ve been invited to.
My goal for the future is to focus more on the audience experience and what I want them to feel. I’ve been incredibly selfish so far and have just been hoping something sticks. Something for the next decade!
Rockmommy: The Sacha EP is brilliant — and features several of my favorite live Thrilldriver songs. What is the songwriting process like with you guys?
MM: Tony (Calabro) seems to the one the brings full-fleshed songs to the group (this was especially the case with the EP). I like to bring riffs and ideas that we can work on arranging into a full song. Zoe and Tony will work on the lyrics, and a few songs on our upcoming album are Zoe originals!
ZP: To this day, every time I introduce something to the group I’m nervous. Especially those on this upcoming record that I wrote from scratch. Tony came over to my apartment and I literally had to take a shot of whiskey at, like, noon to show even just him what I was working on. But Tony has this incredible ability to sift through all of our ideas and bring them together into a banger. A bridge for me here, a verse for Moxxxie there. But it is really a mix. Lyrically, most of the songs about love and rock n roll come from Tony. The songs about sex, drugs, fantasy, and people that suck come from me. Tony’s lyrics are always sincere and poetic and I tend to be more sarcastic and challenging.
Rockmommy: What kind of gear do you like and why?
MM: I like to use hot-rodded Fender Strats and Marshalls amps. No matter how polished and smooth the tone, the Fender Strat has a certain gritty sound that I love for all styles of playing, but especially rock n roll! I’ll usually throw in some kind of hot humbucker(s). In the case of my main Thrilldriver Strat, it’s a Suhr Aldrich. Also some of my favorite players (Hendrix, Gilmour, Clapton) used Strats.
The same goes for Marshalls. As a kid, I always lusted after the giant Marshalls stacks I saw in guitar magazines! So many of my favorite players used Marshalls, that I just always associated them with the sound of rock guitar! While I’m constantly trying other amps, there’s just this certain “Marshall roar” that I can’t seem to get away from. Plug into a cranked 100-watt head, strum a big fat open chord, and you’ll see what I mean haha.
For effects I use a Line 6 HX Effects. For years I was anti-digital and multifx, but they’ve come so far that I’d A/B’d the Line 6 unit with my favorite pedals, and couldn’t tell the difference! I also like the ability to save different settings and change around effects whenever I want.
Picks are Dunlop Ultex Sharps 1.14mm, and strings are D’Addario EXL110.
ZP: I couldn’t live without my JH Audio custom iems. They let the rest of the guys crank it up to 11 and I can still hear myself and do what I gotta do.
Rockmommy: You’ve been together for a few years. Has your music evolved or changed a bit with the second record?
MM: I feel like the EP is very “hair metal” in the best of ways haha. Now we’re more confident in our sound and identity, so I think that leads to branching out in terms of songwriting and guitar parts. Our second album exhibited a wider range of sounds, and I think our upcoming album is our biggest, most creative one yet!
ZP: I second that. God, I can’t wait to get this album out there. One, I feel like I’ve finally found my lyric “voice,” and the vocals in general have more style and point-of-view. And two, we’re starting to incorporate synth and more layers of production. To me, this album has more of an opinion and feels more specific and authentic to who we are as contemporary artists.
Rockmommy: Some of you are balancing a lot — bands, parenting, etc. — in addition to this band. What is your best advice on making it work? Please be specific, especially about the parenting stuff, which many of us are juggling!
MM: Coffee. Lots of coffee.
But seriously, I think that any discipline or passion in life it takes commitment and certain sacrifices. I watch my kids in the mornings and teach all afternoon into the evening. Sometimes this can be followed by a gig or rehearsal! That doesn’t leave a ton of time for practicing or writing, so I’ll try and pick up the guitar on any small breaks I have in between lessons. Or I just sacrifice a couple hours of sleep and practice with headphones after everyone in my apartment is in bed. Even though it can feel much harder these days, I think it’s really important that my kids see me doing something that I love and enjoy!
ZP: I don’t know how Jaime and Moxxxie do it. One second I think I’m busy as hell, thinking that there’s no way I’ll get it all done, and then I remember my two bandmates that have not one, but two children AND successful marriages. And then they show up to practice completely focused and seemingly serene. “Relationship goals” right there.
It is admittedly hard to get all 5 of us in a room at the same time with everyone’s schedules, which can be frustrating, but we tried something new last night which I loved — we came to practice with a super specific game plan and were able to really milk a lot out of just 2 hours. And surprisingly, having a super structured practice led to some creative developments and changes. I think that’s part of what makes it work for everyone who’s so busy. We don’t amble in late and dick around for 4 hours. We’re all respectful of each other’s precious time, do our homework, and work efficiently.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
As the editrix of a mommy blog, I hear a lot of peppy indie rock. And so much of it is (lyrically, at least) inspired by remarkable, fun ideas — say, songs about flying a rocket ship to Mars or songs about breakdancing with dinosaurs. Yet it’s the mundane stuff — the everyday activities — which parents and music partners Andrew & Polly believe are worthy of their own anthems.
Andrew & Polly
Thus, the musical duo’s latest record “Go for the Moon” is filled with songs about the silliness of normal life — from falling off chairs(“Chair School”) to watching scuba divers swim (“Aquarium”). Each track is interlaced with a special surprise, be that tinkling keys, booming choruses or slide guitars and trombone jokes.
Recently, Rockmommy caught up with Andrew & Polly, to talk about the Los Angeles kindie-rock scene, and the constant juggle of parenthood, music and everything else (like their Ear Snacks podcast).
Rockmommy:The world is full of so many would-be musical partners. How did you guys meet?
Andrew & Polly: Polly was making a record in college and rehearsing in a dorm room with one of Andrew’s friends. Andrew asked him to ask her, “Does she need any keys?” Seventeen years later, we’re still making music together!
Rockmommy: What was the inspiration behind ‘Go for the Moon?’
Andrew & Polly: Family life is magical, difficult, and ridiculous all at the same time — this collection of epic anthems is inspired directly from the absurdity and delight we find in our everyday lives. Childhood and parenthood alike take a good dose of aspiration and a whopping spoonful of humor, and we hope this record can be a soundtrack for many different kinds of little adventures.
Rockmommy: You’re proud parents of Izzy and Gertie — what’s it like balancing parenthood with a career in the arts?
Andrew & Polly: Balance? Ha! We try and keep a little space between work and family, but for us there’s obviously a lot of cross-pollination between the two. “Chair School” is now a catch phrase in our home (where people fall out of chairs on the regular), and “Mom’s Name” (co-written by the incomparably hilarious Mike Phirman) was based on a real life preschool drop-off. Gertie, Izzy, and even Polly’s dad volunteered to be on this record, but they’re not part of our social media, and that’s probably the best way we keep a balance between work and family — by trying to keep our phones away when it’s time to play.
Rockmommy: Tell us about the Los Angeles music scene. How would you say your live show compares with that of others?
Andrew & Polly: LA has a rad kids music scene, and we’re honored to fill a little Westside niche of it. Two incredibly wonderful LA-based kids musicians are featured on “Go for the Moon” — our new music pal Mike Phirman and our longtime collaborator Mista Cookie Jar. Our shows range from intimate duo shows to large stage-rocking ensemble events, but we always make sure our concerts are interactive and tailored to the vibe of the space and the audience. We love taking a big stage with bass, drums and trombone, but more often than not we get to singalong right up close and personal with an acoustic set for curious young ears interested trying out Polly’s ukulele or Andrew’s glockenspiel.
Life in LA is a bit odd though — it’s a complicated and beautiful city, not just a place for fun celebrity-sightings. We even included a song about it on this record, “Circus by the Sea.”
Rockmommy: What is your favorite song on the new album and why?
Andrew & Polly: That’s like choosing your favorite child! No fair, we can’t do that! We’re super proud of this record and the “Go for it!” feelings each song elicits in a different way. But a couple songs worth mentioning… “Mom’s Name” a collaboration with Mike Phirman is about a real parenting milestone and based on a true story (like so many of our songs). Once you start toting your toddler all over town, you end up meeting a lot of great people — but you just don’t know their names. Instead it’s like this: “Oh, do you know what Ollie’s dad told me yesterday at the park?” And “When you see Frankie’s mom tomorrow, could you give her these pants back?” This song is a humorous deep-dive into that oof-ful truthful parenting rite of passage in which you find yourself asking, “But who is that lady? And who even am I?”
Another favorite on the record has to be “Chair School,” featuring Mista Cookie Jar. Actually, both of these songs were long-fought logical battles that required incredible teamwork to bring them into existence! Maybe that’s why they are faves. If you’ve ever seen a kid just… BAH! Fall out of a chair! You’ll understand this quirky tangent of a song about a fictitious place where everyone can learn to “Chair!”
Dressed in nice pants and a button-down shirt as he walks his kids to school, Mark Pires looks like your average working parent. But strip away the business frocks and hand him an acoustic guitar, and you realize Mark’s not so basic: In fact, he’s part of a rare breed of dads who can strum an axe like Dave Matthews. Listen a little longer, and he may start finger-picking a tune that will induce a state of musical bliss.
Mark Pires, creator of The GigBox, with his family in Fairfield, Conn.
But while learning to play guitar was easy for Mark, now a dad of 3, there was one glaring challenge that used to stymie him when he tried to start his solo gigging career: a drummer, or rather, a lack thereof.
While he’s a whiz with looper pedals and can make his guitar sound like practically any recognizable instrument, Mark spent much of his adult life dependent on drummers and percussionists to round out his rock n’ roll tunes, which tend to capture the mood of Matthews’ music, with clear Grateful Dead influences. And while anyone can play a song with just a guitar, having drums changes the entire vibe of a set, filling it out or making it more rock n’ roll. And a fuller sound can often make the difference when transitioning from the open mic scene to bigger stages and crowds.
But as Mark would tell you himself, everything happens for a reason. And one day in 2011, when his percussionist cancelled on Mark last minute to play a higher-profile gig, the idea of building a cajón tailored to the needs of a solo guitarist came to him in a vision.
Fast forward to 2019, and Mark’s patented invention for solo artists has gained an impressive following. The GigBox has received media attention that would make a public relations pro swoon — like broadcast segments on Fox News and News 12, plus lots of clips in community magazines and newspapers — and is a popular diversion at conferences like NAMM. It’s available at a handful of retail locations too, although the bulk of GigBoxes are ordered online (and made to order).
As expected, Mark can easily bang out tunes on The GigBox, using his heels to tap the sides of the hollow box in timed intervals to create high hat, snare, and bass drum beats.
Of course, for the rest of us who aren’t used to playing our own percussion during solo gigs, it’s a little trickier to get a rhythm going. I also had a size issue. I’m 5’2, and in sneakers my heels didn’t touch the ground when I started kicking the box and playing a basic chord progression. But fortunately for me — and others 5’4 and under — Mark has created a smaller, more petite version of his signature model — the GigBox Junior (as well as even smaller GigBoxes for mommy-and-me or daddy-and-me jams).
It’s a minor issue, because playing The GigBox is awesome. The first time I clicked the side of the box with my heel, I immediately wanted to start singing something new, rather than create a beat for an existing track. But if you want to play a classic tune, Mark offers tons of tutorials on The GigBox website.
In July, we caught up with Mark to chat about his journey to The GigBox, and how he balances his business with family and other responsibilities.
Rockmommy: So, how did you get your start as a musician?
Mark Pires: I didn’t even know I had a talent for music until I heard my friend playing ‘Warehouse’ [by Dave Matthews] and that’s the first time I realized it was possible to play someone else’s music. One of my best friends introduced me to Jethro Tull, the Grateful Dead, and then I and started listening to Pearl Jam, the Counting Crows, and other bands.
Six months into playing guitar, I got sick of playing Dave Matthews songs and started writing my own material. In college, I did a lot of theater — my first love was acting — and then when I started writing music, something clicked. Writing Songs that no one’s ever heard in the history of time, that’s unique!
I had a band in 2001 called The Reservoir— and in July 2001 won a big battle of the bands at Calf Pasture beach [in Norwalk, Connecticut] called IndieBob. We were promised two things. A college tour and distribution deal, and a recording session at Carriage House, a studio in Stamford.
So in July 2001 we recorded 11 songs in one day — 9 out of 11 songs were first takes — and then September 11th happened. So then, the record company that was giving us the distribution deal and tour went out of business. But they told us, ‘We just started a little company called CD Baby.’ We’ll give you a one-year membership for free [laughs]. We were supposed to get a college tour and a distribution deal — but instead we got a $35 membership to CD Baby.
Rockmommy: So what happened next?
Mark Pires: So in 2004, The Reservoir broke up. We got to a point where we just weren’t going. For a year and a half, we were just a power trio — me, a drummer and a bassist. We weren’t gathering steam, so after that I started my solo tour, which I’ve done until now. I was one of the first guys in the area to use a loop sampler, aBoomerang. It’s like a looper pedal. But the one I was using, compared to the ones today, was a million times harder. If I didn’t have my timing exact, the whole song was off. So I started the process where I went on the Mark Pires Solo Tour, and to fill out my sound, I had all these pedals in front of me… and I also had a guitar synthesizer, a Roland GR-33 to play trumpets, steel drums, whatever I wanted, on the guitar. I ran everything through a PA at whatever venue I’d play. So that was the way it went. The one piece I was missing was percussion.
Rockmommy: When did it first occur to you to create The GigBox ?
Mark Pires: My first son, Oliver was 2, it was 2011… and I was playing Georgetown Saloon [in Georgetown, Conn.] and another musician was backing me up — José Feliciano’sdrummer — with a cajón. I never would have thought of The GigBox if he didn’t call me up and said, ‘hey I can’t make it to the show, call someone else,’ and I thought, ‘hey, I need to build a cajón.’ But then I realized the cajón it isn’t built for [guitarists]. It sits underneath us, and I was confused. How do I kick it and play? And as soon as I realized how ridiculous that look, I saw the GigBox in my mind. I thought, ‘what about something that comes through your legs? What if it was wider in the back and more narrow in the front?’ The GigBox lets you sit and completely comfortable.
Rockmommy: So how did you have the skills to build this?
Mark Pires: In life, we don’t know why we’re good at some things and bad at others. Some of the things I’ve had a knack for include songwriting. I just feel things. I’d say the same thing with The GigBox. I could say I have some experience because my dad is a builder so I’m used to tools. When I’d come back from the road, I’d be working for my dad, and be around carpenters and construction workers. The first GigBoxes were built in my father’s garage.
Rockmommy: How would someone get started playing The GigBox?
Mark Pires: We have four different models you can choose from — the regular GigBox, the Mini, which is 12 inches tall, the Junior, which is 16 inches tall, and the percussion version is 10 inches wide instead of seven-and-a-half.
Rockmommy: What’s the Learning curve for The GigBox?
Mark Pires: It’s like playing the guitar. Learning the guitar is a learning curve — when I first started playing guitar, I was having a hard time, and my fingers were killing me. It took me a lot of time to get past that. The GigBox was just the same. The best way to explain learning The GigBox is say you have to try to do it slowly. You get a bass going with your heel [taps heel on left side of GigBox], and then you get going.
Rockmommy: You’re a busy guy. How do you balance being a dad, husband, and entrepreneur?
Mark Pires: My wife, Lara, is the greatest mom — she runs the GigBox business and its PR while taking care of the kids 24/7. This allows me to focus on both Real Estate — I’m a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway — and allows me to build GigBox orders and broadcast live for my Real Talk show every night. Having Lara’s support allows me to have a successful work/life balance. This is important because my work schedule is not normal. I work 358 days a year — I know this because I did the math, and calculated the number of hours I spend working. And I work every single day of the year, except for vacation. Now there are some busier days than others. I tend to work long hours every day, and at night, I eat, hang out with the kids, quickly shower… and do Real Talk, my talk show, where I talk and play some songs with The GigBox. The balance can be hard. It’s about discipline, it’s about consistency. It’s very difficult, because there are times when I get home and I just want to put my feet up. And you know, The GigBox can give you better life-work balance — because our focus is too much on work, not on the positivity of life. The GigBox is an energy builder, an energy soother. My kid can have a rough day and start kicking and playing and then he has a smile on his face.
Rockmommy: What lessons have you learned over the years?
Mark Pires: Twelve years ago, I had a record deal on the table with a subsidiary of Jive Records. And my wife and I were going to get married six months later. I brought it to the lawyer in Darien and he laughed, and said, ‘there’s nothing here for you — it’s like the deal Billy Joel signed, when he signed away ‘Piano Man’ and didn’t get a penny for it’ and we went back and forth and I said, ‘you know what? I’m going to get married. I’ll just hang up the guitar and get a real estate license.’ And thank God I did that. Because the first thing a record label will do is put a band around you. And if that happened, I never would have invented The GigBox. It’s nice to be 41 and know you made the right move at 30.
Use “Rockmommy” in the coupon code at checkout and get 10 percent off your next GigBox.
— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
To say that miracles happen is almost an understatement for producer, musician and dad Don Cherel. When Cherel found out his wife was expecting twins in October 2017, he was over the moon that they’d be expanding their family. But then his world came crashing down when he was told that one or both of the girls would not survive due to Fetal Hydrops. Between December and February 2018, he struggled to keep the faith as he feared the worst.
But then, something different happened. In February 2018, the Cherel family received the news that the hydrops had “miraculously” disappeared.
The emotional roller coaster and Cherel’s gratitude led him back to his guitar, and in March, the song “Miracles Happen” came to life. Three months later, in June 2018, his twin daughters were born.
Of course, it isn’t lost on Cherel that he’s incredibly lucky because devastating things happen to real families every day. But he hopes that his song is a testament to the power of music and writing — not only as an outlet to get through a difficult time, but as a way to channel emotions and celebrate all that is good.
Cherel recently caught up with Rockmommy to share his heartwarming story.
[You can download the single “Miracles Happen” here].
Don Cherel: I wrote the song “Miracles Happen” during an extremely difficult time for myself, my wife, and two sons. It was March of 2018 when I sat down at the piano to write a song about what our family was going through: We found out we were having twins the previous October, and told one or both would not survive that December due to Fetal Hydrops — and then, in February, we were told that miraculously the hydrops disappeared! Our twin girls were born in June of 2018. We’re planning their first birthday now.
The song was an emotional journey that I had to express musically. Music has always been my fundamental communicative art form. There’s something about an emotional and poetic expression wrapped in a rhythmic mathematical construct that has always felt naturally expressive to me.
I’ve worked on hundreds of tunes professionally working at a production company but this one had far more personal gravitas. This song contains so much personal pain, fear and triumph culminating into a story of hope, I had to express those emotions musically. I’ve always dealt with tragedy and devastation even joy through songwriting. I suppose, for me, songwriting is a way to internalize, realize then materialize all the human emotions I’m processing with a tangible keep sake at the end. Praying got us through the stresses of the experience, the song is sort of the documentary that describes it.
Don Cherel with his twin daughters, who inspired the single ‘Miracles Happen’
Rockmommy: Have you always been a believer in miracles or more of a skeptic?
Don Cherel: To say I’ve always believed in miracles would be inaccurate. The older I get the more I realize there are certain instances I can’t explain logically. I would consider myself a logical person approaching most instances with ration and logical thought, however this time was very different. Ration and logic did little to help face the paralyzing fear of a grim prognosis. My wife and I were devastated because the doctors told us one child (Baby B) wouldn’t survive and there’s a good chance Baby A would meet the same fate. We have two boys and our family was huddled together crying in the living room. They looked up at me and asked “Daddy, will it be ok?” No ration or logic is going to suffice in that instance. We started praying for a miracle and a few months later we got one. I am now 100 percent a believer in miracles.
Rockmommy: So many devastating things happen to people — why is music, songwriting specifically, such a helpful channel?
Don Cherel: It is an unfortunate truth that as human beings we witness and experience devastation. I can’t logically, rationally or accurately explain all the reasons behind human devastation but I know what it feels like. I also know what hope feels like, and not just empty hope but hope that comes to fruition. To live through that experience formed in me a story I had to tell through song. Why a song? I think songs have the ability to describe and communicate emotions we couldn’t otherwise articulate, at least that’s what happens to me. For some reason those 12 pitches when arranged correctly can evoke in us the deep, deep feelings.
Don Cherel: How do you make time to write?
Rockmommy: I’m not sure I make time to write as often as I should. I primarily compose on guitar and have a recording studio in our barn. Guitars are always hanging on the wall or leaning on a piece of furniture so whenever I have something to say I pick one up to see what will come out. I try and play everyday, sometimes 20 minutes sometimes a few hours but I’m always writing.
Rockmommy: What message do you hope to pass on to other parents?
Don Cherel: The message I hope to pass on to other parents is the same message that was passed on to me: hope. My wife and I have a friend who knew of a family in a very similar situation and their child was diagnosed with Fetal Hydrops, told the baby wouldn’t survive yet was born and had just turned 12 months old. We don’t know why certain things happen to certain people but the more people I talk to the more we agree, miracles are happening everyday. This just happens to be our miracle story.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
If kindie rock musicians were planets, Jessa Campbell would be Mother Earth. The Portland, Ore.-based singer loves hiking through the tranquil forest, pondering life, and basking in the warmth of a summer day. In fact, her latest single with band The Saplings, “How I Love You Sun,” which debuts this month on Rockmommy, is all about her hot friend.
But these days there’s another kind of sunshine that’s capturing her heart: Her real-life, three-year-old son.
Here, Campbell talks about carving out the“me time” she needed to make her latest album, the Pacific Northwest music scene, and finding work-life balance. [Watch the video here, and download the single on Spotify]
Rockmommy: Your voice is amazing! When did you start singing?
Jessa Campbell: Music was a part of my life right from the start. My father loved bluegrass and would often play his guitar and sing around the home. My younger sisters and I could often be found harmonizing from our respective rooms! The first time I remember actually learning a song and singing it for my family was in 1st grade. Mrs. Williams introduced Raffi’s song, “Evergreen Everblue” to the class. That song instilled in me a desire to protect the planet, while also showing my parents that I could carry a tune! I remember singing it for them at a little family picnic we had in our backyard and seeing the surprised looks on their faces.
Rockmommy: Can you tell us how your music has changed since you became a mom (or has it?)
Jessa Campbell: Oh yeah, it’s changed quite a bit! Long gone are the glorious days of hiking through the tranquil forest, pausing now and then to ponder the journey through life! Let’s just say that I wrote a lot of music before having my son. But now, I think I write better music. As you know, moms have very little “me” time. I have to fiercely protect the limited time I’ve carved out for myself. It’s within those incredibly small spaces that the plug is pulled and the songs burst through. With going sometimes weeks or months without having that space, there is a lot of pent-up creativity! The space slowly refines the songs within. Once a moment arises for them to emerge, they can’t get out quickly enough! And there’s no time for crap ideas at that point. I know when a song just isn’t right. In the old days, I would give it space and coax it into being. Now, there’s another song right behind her!
“How I Love You Sun” single available now (Photo courtesy: Jessa Campbell and the Saplings)
Rockmommy: What inspired your new song and video?
Jessa Campbell: I was thinking about some of my friends in Indonesia! It was actually quite early in the morning, like, 4 a.m. early. I had been woken up, by my 3-year-old of course, and was unable to fall back asleep due to the laundry list of things that needed to be accomplished the next day. I starting thinking of friends who were already well into their day. I used to sing on a cruise ship and have a lot of Indonesian friends from that experience. The melody was originally written for a song I was crafting called “Indonesian Sun”. I started thinking about how incredible this jewel in the sky was and began researching facts about the sun! The song practically wrote itself!
Rockmommy: What inspires you about the Pacific Northwest’s music scene?
Jessa Campbell: I appreciate the collaborations and support I’ve received through the community. It’s the kind of place where artists really are there for one another. My bandmates both with the Saplings and in other projects I play with have been my support system! Folks of LDW, the Talking Heads Tribute Project I’m in, were cool with me bringing my toddler to rehearsals. He’d rock out with his little headphones on while mama sang. One incredible organization that I first received some help from and now have the pleasure to work with is Local Roots Music. Local Roots Music NW was founded in 2013 by local musician and entrepreneur Robert Richter. Whatbegan as a weekly Sunday night radio program showcasing NW Music on KMUZ-FM in Salem now includes a number of programs promoting local music with most events held in the Portland area.
Rockmommy: When you see little ones respond to your music, how do you feel?
Jessa Campbell: It’s the best feeling in the world! From the wide-eyed wobblers to the “twirl-around- the-room-like-a-fairy” 8-year-olds, I cannot get enough of it. Each show is so different, and I play to the ages and energies in the room. There was a recent show with a little boy who was quite shy, hiding under the table. I decided to turn that into a game and play our song about the moles in the ground, pointing out that he must have known what song was next! He lit right up once he realized he was doing something pretty awesome!
Rockmommy: What are some of the challenges of being a musician and a mom?
Jessa Campbell: Carrying gear and a kiddo. I have to make multiple trips back and forth of course. Oh, and then there are the moments when your kid is coming up on the stage to tug on your costume while you try to keep singing and also try to communicate that he needs to stop. Fun times. Thankfully Grandma and Grandpa are here now!
Rockmommy: What advice do you have for rockmommies?
Jessa Campbell: Keep doing it. I thought that as a single mama, my music days were over. Nah. You just have to be creative, super resourceful, and carry extra snacks in the diaper bag for the band members at rehearsal!
Earth Day isn’t just about recycling a few plastic bottles, yet many young kids might think of it that way. But good pals Julie Beth (a music therapist) and Anya Rose (a science teacher) believe kids can be inspired to do so much more to make our planet a cleaner, brighter place.
The album and engaging live performance are based on real science and math concepts, filled with pretty harmonies, riddles and fun characters. (Spoiler alert: One of the characters is gender neutral, which is naturally woven into the story line.)
Among the album guests are WXPN Kids Corner host Kathy O’Connell playing “Mom,” John McCutcheon as the “Senator,” and Philadelphia hip-hop artist Sterling Duns as “Businessman.”
We recently caught up with Anya Rose of Ants on a Log to talk about this record and upcoming shows in the spring and summer.
Rockmommy: How did you get into writing this style of music?
Anya Rose: We like to write clever and catchy songs and we can’t help it if they sometimes get in people’s heads. We wanted to experiment with creating a show that had a story arc and characters, as opposed to an album of unconnected songs. We also know that kids respond really well to both storytelling and music, so it’s the best of both worlds if there is a message you want to convey. We also like the idea of an album that is meant to be listened to all in one sitting, as opposed to piecemeal.
Rockmommy: “Curious” delivers a powerful message: What is missing from today’s “kids” music?
Ants on a Log, performing live.
Anya Rose: Well, first I will say that there is a lot of great kids’ music out there today. It is a friendly community of professionals helping each other out. We really love Alastair Moock and Billy Jonas to name a couple. Also, Trout Fishing in America is always a classic.
One thing missing are more female performers. There also aren’t a lot of female duos for some reason. A lot of kids music’ is written for ages 0 to 5, but we write for slightly older audiences. We want our listeners to be able to understand a joke here and there and some of our songs require more listening then songs for the 0 to 5 range, which involve more repetition. Content-wise, we don’t want to be afraid of delivering true messages.
For some reason, the idea of being kind has now been politicized. Pollution, climate change, and fighting for the Earth have also been politicized. This is silly to us, and I think it seems silly to children as well. Yes, there are some complexities and nuances in stories when it comes to business and development, but when it gets right down to it, you just should not pollute the Earth. That’s pretty simple. And we aren’t afraid to say so with our music.
Rockmommy: What do you try to do during live shows to connect with your audience?
Anya Rose: We are constantly developing and modifying our live shows. There are a few things we do in person that we don’t do on a recording simply because the experience is very different. On a live show, we have been developing a drumming and jump rope routine for example. We also want to explore physical comedy more. It’s fun to see how live audiences react and then to modify our future shows accordingly. Julie once led what they named “The Vegetable Game” which would make no sense to anyone unless you were there, and it was absolutely hilarious. I won’t say anymore. You’ll just have to come to one of our shows!
Rockmommy: It’s been noted that one of the characters is gender neutral. Why is that important to highlight for younger listeners?
Anya Rose: We support the idea that kids should be able to be who they want to be. Julie goes by “they” and Anya goes by “she”, but our respective genders are just a small part of who we are. That’s the same for other character, “Taylor” in the musical. We want to normalize it for kids.
Rockmommy: How can kids can be more mindful and conscious of their physical environment?
Anya Rose: One very concrete thing that I see both kids and adults doing is leaving the water running when you aren’t using it. Stop doing that! Just today, I watched one of my 1stgrade students get a drink of water at the water fountain. He turned around to talk to me and he left his hand on the fountain button, running. And he had a very long story to tell me! The fact that water comes out of the tap is essentially as crazy as the idea of money growing on trees. We take it for granted. Clean water — water that will not make us sick, water that is good to drink — comes out of our tap and all we have to do is turn it on! Well it’s just as easy to turn it off. So adults, when you do the dishes, and you step away from the sink for a second, just turn that water off.
Another major one is simply consuming less. You know all that stuff you like to buy? Stop buying new stuff! Thrift stores are incredible places. Clothing swaps are super fun. Also, rocks and sticks are a joy to play with! Many kids are surprised to learn that plastic is made of oil. And oil production contributes greatly to climate change.
Letters from kids can be very powerful. If you are a kid and there is an issue that is bothering you, ask an adult to help you figure out whom to write to. As long as you do your research and your letter comes from your own head and your own concerns, this is a great way to have an impact. Make it personal. Tell a story. Share your feelings. and then send it to the right person who can actually do something about it.
Rockmommy: Who are your musical/artistic inspirations?
Anya Rose: Billy Jonas, Alastair Moock, Lucy Kalentari, Tom Lehrer, Jim Copp, Flight of the Conchords, City Love, John McCutcheon. Three of the people on that list, by the way, are on this album! We also love anything with good harmonies. The very first time the two of us ever got together to play music, we sang a Be Good Tanyas song. That was how we knew we would work well together musically!
Provider. Breadwinner. Jack-of-all-trades. These days, dads are so much more than these singular identities suggest. But the definition of “father figure” truly hits another level in the film “Daddy Issues,” available for download on April 19.
Daddy Issues movie — ready to download, just in time for Easter.
A quick synopsis: When queer pixie Maya (Madison Lawlor) falls for social media starlet Jasmine (Montana Manning), her life is about to change in profound, unexpected ways. But little does Maya, who would do anything to escape her miserable, suburban upbringing, know that her Insta-crush has a secret: an illicit, ongoing love affair with a guy she calls Daddy (Andrew Pifko) who pays her bills but keeps her tied down (in more ways than one).
“Daddy Issues” isn’t the kind of Netflix flick you’d watch with your 6-year-old. It’s full of adults-only sexual explorations and powerful, jarring intersections that’ll stick with you long after the credits roll. But it is the kind of movie that makes you want to tuck in the kiddos and then race to the living room to snuggle up with your sweetie (or a bottle of Prosecco) for some intimate, grown-up screen time (just make sure they’re sleeping first, OK?).
Here we talk to award-winning director Amara Cash on parenting, love and inspiration – and why “Daddy Issues” is the best way to experience your next date night in.
Rockmommy: ‘Daddy Issues’ is a coming-of-age story. What was the inspiration for Maya’s character?
Amara Cash: Well, from the onset, screenwriter Alex Bloom and I knew we wanted to do a movie with a queer protagonist. For the details of Maya, specifically, I was inspired by the beautiful artistry, makeup, and fashion of the subcultures Pastel emo, Lolita goth, and pixie that I found on Instagram, Pinterest, and BLOGS.
Rockmommy: Why is a film like ‘Daddy Issues’ resonating so well with filmgoers (especially millennials)?
Amara Cash: My approach often resonates with millennials because of the style and aesthetic. It’s fast-paced and explores sexuality and alternative lifestyle in an objective, non-judgmental way. Although love triangles are classic, I’ve never seen one from this angle!
‘Daddy Issues’ Director Amara Cash on set.
Rockmommy: Our readers are often parents struggling with the pressure to be amazing parents. How do the parents in the movie struggle to do the same?
Amara Cash: This movie isn’t exactly stacked with model parents, but I think most parents, most of the time, are doing their best. In ‘Daddy Issues’ we spend a lot of time exploring why people are the way they are; how their past informs their present. This is especially true with the parents in the movie.
Rockmommy: Is ‘Daddy Issues’ more of a “let’s snuggle on the couch and watch this” movie or a “let’s have our friends over and get smashed” movie?
Amara Cash: I think it can be both. The film is equally romantic, exciting and disturbing and it’s quite a ride. So if you’re snuggling, hold on tight, and if you’re partying, just let go.
Rockmommy: If Daddy were to give parenting advice, what would it be?
Amara Cash: Encourage your children to be who they are and be there for them wherever they go.
Anyone who’s spent more than a day in Nashville knows that a musician’s struggle to keep up with the scene is real. Nashville-based pop-rock singer, songwriter and dad Zach Vinson can relate. Finding new inspiration is tough, and his latest record And Yet doesn’t fit neatly into any of the more popular album themes (e.g., love, breakup, politics).
What it does cover, however, is far grittier and more interesting. Songs like “Better Man” address the challenge of stability, staying steady, embracing the mundane of day-to-day life and not throwing in the towel when life gets tough. It’s also a record influenced by parenting and life with his toddler son.
Zach Vinson, Nashville pop-rocker, papa and husband
Rockmommy recently caught up with Vinson to talk about all of this (his album drops in April).
Rockmommy: I love the concept of your album — the idea of adjusting to life and staying in love. How did the idea to make this kind of record come about?
Zach Vinson: It wasn’t me sitting down and thinking, ‘Oh, I should write an album about this.’ It was just a matter of writing what I was living. My wife and I have been married almost 10 years now, and the last few have been a journey of realizing a lot of hard things — the baggage we’ve accumulated over our lifetime, the ways we don’t fit together well, the unhealthy rhythms we’ve fallen into over the years, etc. — and having to decide if we were up for the pain and mess and crazy hard work of moving forward together rather than throwing in the towel.
Rockmommy: Your son is adorable in the Instagram pics. When did you become a parent (not sure if you have other kids)? How did that change your outlook?
Zach Vinson: We just have one son, and he’s about two and a half. He’s something else. In terms of our marriage, it definitely provided great motivation for us to work things out. But it’s also easy to fall into a trap of ‘oh, we have a kid, so we need to stay together for their sake.’ I don’t think that’s a helpful mindset. You have to actually do the work to make your home a healthy environment, which I think we’re very much still in the process of doing.
Rockmommy: How did that influence your music?
Zach Vinson: Hmm, that’s a good question. I think having a kid gives some urgency and accountability to my efforts as a musician. In other words, if I’m going to take time away from my family to pursue music, I better be as excellent as I can be. Full-ass, not half-ass (mom, if you’re reading this, sorry for the cussing!). This record is as “all-in” as I’ve been, and I’m really proud of how it turned out, so maybe I have him to thank for that in a roundabout way.
Rockmommy: Is it challenging to balance a creative profession with the rigors of parenthood?
Zach Vinson: Yes and no. The hard parts are traveling, having a less-steady paycheck, and never feeling like I’m “done” with work. And those things add some extra weight to my wife’s shoulders, too, which I don’t take lightly. But on the other hand, my flexible schedule has allowed me to be present for my family in ways that other people with more traditional jobs aren’t able to be, and I love that. As with all of life, there are trade-offs, and I just try to be intentional with the trade-offs I’m choosing.
Rockmommy: What are your favorite kinds of songs to play?
Zach Vinson: It’s so dependent on the audience and the venue. There are songs I love playing in certain contexts that are completely lousy in other situations. But I don’t think you can beat playing a good slow song for a pin-drop-quiet room.
Rockmommy: What advice do you have to other rocker dads/piano dads like yourself who may be struggling with the business of their personal lives in an ever-changing, ever challenging world?
Zach Vinson: It’s a lot to juggle, for sure. You can’t get so focused on music that you take the stability of your family for granted. But I also think it’s important for my son to see me taking my passions seriously and making time/space for things that are life-giving to me.
Rockmommy: I see just three tour dates — any shows this summer in the books?
Zach Vinson: There are a few things in the work. Some festival dates I can’t announce yet, a week in Germany where I’ll be playing keys for another artist, a month-long residency at a camp, and probably a few more solo and full band dates as well. But I realized a few years ago that I didn’t want to be on a trajectory of playing 150 to 200 dates a year with having a family, so I pick and choose my spots to tour a little more carefully.