The Ramoms Take on The Ramones, Mixing Motherhood and Punk Rock in Philly

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Musician mama Jodi Jeffers spent decades as a lead singer in various bands, her love of the punk scene so deep rooted that it led her to her husband, Jonathan Jeffers, of the band Duffy’s Cut. But once the 11-year Philadelphia resident became a mom — raising her three young sons, ages 10, 8 and 5, while working nights as a bartender — finding time for band life got a little more challenging. 

“The idea for an all-mom punkrock band, where we could switch up the songs, parody style, came to me in my car,” recalls Jodi. “Then, at dinner, I was talking to my husband, it hit me like, ‘oh, The Ramoms.’”

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The Ramoms, from left: Cori (bass), Jodi (lead vocals), Sharon (guitar), Ginger (drums)

After recruiting music scene kid-and-furry-animal moms Cori (bass), Ginger (drums) and Sharon (guitar), the Ramones-inspired pop-punk/punk-parody band — which plays all the Ramones covers, sometimes swapping lyrics for silly, family-friendly alternatives — was born. 

Two years later, the band is on a roll, booking gigs and winning over fans of all ages. But making time for music is even more challenging, when you have five kids and eight pets to consider (the band’s collective total!). Here, Jodi tells Rockmommy about making it all work and whether the Ramoms will be playing a PTA function anytime soon. 

Rockmommy: How did you recruit your band? 

Jodi Jeffers: Once I decided this would happen it came together easily. Cori the bass player and I have know each other since we were teenagers and we figured it would be the two of us and then two other guys. But then I talked to Ginger, who I knew through another friend, and soon after, at a party, we met Sharon, the guitar player. And it was not hard to convince her to join — we just clicked! Nothing could be easier than being with these three women. 

Rockmommy: So Jodi, let’s talk about what kind of music the Ramoms makes. Straight up Ramones covers, except with moms? Or something more? 

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The Ramoms — Cori Ramom, Jodi Ramom, Sharon Ramom & Ginger Ramom — are playing several shows in Philly, Brooklyn & Staten Island this Fall.

Jodi Jeffers: We play a mix of songs for different types of gigs. For the night shows, we do all real covers, but with the family crowd sometimes we’ll do a kid play on the Ramones song, like ‘I want to be play dated’ instead of ‘I want to be sedated.’ We’re writing a lot too, and we’re working on a split 7-inch with a band called the Dad Brains, you know, like Bad Brains but with dads. They’re fun — they sing all originals about being old and hoping to sit down. 

Rockmommy: Is everyone in the band a diehard Ramones fan? 

Jodi Jeffers: Not everyone is a diehard fan, but everyone is a fan. They wrote great pop-punk songs. 

Rockmommy: Do you do any originals? 

Jodi Jeffers: That’s the next step after the children’s album … to write some originals. 

Rockmommy: So who comes to your shows? What kind of crowd is it? 

Jodi Jeffers: It’s pretty much anyone but we get a lot of people like ourselves — we’re all over 40 and we have jobs and kids and responsibilities. We get a lot of punk fans, and Ramones fans too, who love to come out and hear songs that they know.

Rockmommy: How do you make practice happen every week with your hectic schedules? 

Jodi Jeffers: Sharon drives an hour and a half to practice with us. My husband is really flexible and he gets it — he’s in his own band, and practices and goes on tour, so he is happy to watch the boys so I can practice too. Ginger’s son is a lot older, so childcare isn’t as much of an issue. Cori has a young son, but he comes over to play with my sons and we hang out. Most weeks we can make it work. 

Rockmommy: Have you played a PTA function yet? 

Jodi Jeffers: Not yet, but that would be lovely. 

Rockmommy: What’s your advice on work-life balance? 

Jodi Jeffers: My advice is, don’t lose yourself in being a parent. If you want to be in a band, go for it. Because you need to have some sort of outlet for yourself. If you can have time for yourself, that makes you a better parent.  

The Ramoms are playing in Staton Island on Saturday, September 22; in Philadelphia on Monday, September 24th with The Vibrators in Philadelphia (at Underground Arts), and Brooklyn (at Saint Vitus) on Sunday, October 7. For more information, visit the band’s Facebook Page. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

5 Reasons Why I’m Swooning Over Guitarist Nita Strauss’ Signature Ibanez JIVA

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

I didn’t have Nita Strauss to guide my guitar-purchasing decisions when I started playing. I just settled for what I could afford, forking over $100 in cash for a vintage Airline model, which I played through a pretty battered, 100-watt Laney amp, for most of my 20s. Most players I knew were dudes, and their advice on what to seek in a guitar — “gnarly pickups,” “a hefty sound” — went over my head. 

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Nita Strauss at the Guitar Center Clinic on 9/5/18 in Union Square (NYC)

So on Wednesday night, more than 15 years since I acquired the Airline, I felt a bit awestruck when Nita Strauss took the “stage” at the Guitar Center in Union Square for her nerd-worthy clinic and performance, wielding the most beautiful instrument I had ever seen. 

“I didn’t just fall out of the sky and land in Alice Cooper’s band,” she told the mostly male crowd of about 50 after showcasing a fraction of her skills. And while she came with an enviable rig that included a BOSS pedalboard and a Marshall CODE amp head, it was the Ibanez JIVA that caught my eye. Why didn’t I have a guitar like that when I stared playing, with my tiny, tiny girl hands? Had I been handed a JIVA instead of my male ex’s super-heavy Les Paul, I wouldn’t have had so many inferiority complexes in my early 20s. 

[RELATED: 5 Great Signature Guitars Designed for — and Inspired by — Female Rock Guitarists] 

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Nita Strauss’ signature guitar — the Ibanez JIVA10

The beautiful Ibanez JIVA, unveiled in summer 2018 as Nita embarked on another U.S. tour with Alice Cooper and his band, is awe-inspiring.

I want to buy one immediately — and if I didn’t have to pay for childcare, I would, literally, buy one online right this second. 

Here, in less-technical speak, I’ll dive into why this is the ideal instrument for rock mommies like me and aspiring Nita Strauss-like shredders (regardless of gender) who want to slay onstage: 

  1. It’s gorgeous. Nita describes the color of the JIVA, a name which means into one’s “soul” and has personal connections to the artist, as “Deep Space Blonde,” which is a gray burst on a natural quilted maple top. But the gorgeousness isn’t simply skin deep: The guitar’s wood combination of mahogany and bound ebony is the foundation of an equally beautiful tone. 
  2. It’s practical. At the Guitar Center clinic, Nita demonstrated the JIVA’s durability and balance. As such, the guitar’s Edge Zero II bridge features “a lower profile design for comfort, and stud lock function for superior tuning stability,” according to Ibanez. 
  3. It’s ideal for smaller-framed players. I love my Gibson SG, but it can feel like a couple of tons onstage — and since I’m about 5’2, every pound counts. I haven’t tried out the Ibanez JIVA, and Nita’s a few inches taller than me, but I can tell it’s easy to maneuver like a rockstar. I can’t wait to see how it stand up against my Strat! 
  4. It’s lightweight. Just look at this skinny beauty with the sleek neck. Nita had no trouble wielding it as she pranced the stage.
  5. It’s designed by a woman. Of course, any guitar can be played by a woman, but the fact that Nita sat down with the team at Ibanez to fine tune everything from the signature DiMarzio pickups to the lighting-bolt design on the fretboard means something to players like me.

It’s amazing how every year, more and more female rock guitar players are going mainstream, running clinics and working with guitar companies to launch their own signature models. While companies like Daisy Rock used to offer the only guitars tailored to a woman’s preferences, today we’re seeing everyone from Fender to Gibson and Ibanez considering our needs. 

I’ve always believed a woman’s place is on the stage, not in the home. And with guitars like the JIVA, a woman will feel right at home on stage. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy. 

Why Singing to Your Babies — Even Black Sabbath Tunes — is Good For Them

By Francesca Farruggio

New moms tend to strive for the most idyllic, natural experience possible, whether they’re eating organic veggies or singing lovely lullabies to their babies. And when it comes to the latter, they know that singing to their infant is crucial bonding time, and can ease their baby into a calm or sleepy state of mind.

However, most of us don’t actually know why lullabies have such magical powers, and are dying to know why after all, music is our forte… am I right ladies?!

So, we did some research and came across an interesting study by cognitive neuroscientists, led by Laura Cirelli of the University of Toronto Mississauga.

As the March 2018 study concluded, lullabies soothe both moms and babies simultaneously, while playsongs increase babies’ attention and displays of positive emotion toward their mothers. To figure out exactly how singing affected both the mother and child, researchers asked participating mothers repeatedly sang “Twinkle Twinkle” to their babies who were sitting in a high chair facing them. The mothers alternated between singing in a playful way or a soothing manner. At the same time, researchers were tracking the mothers’ and babies’ arousal responses, measured through skin conductance and behavior.

[RELATED: Playing a Rock Gig While Pregnant: Advice From Mamas Who’ve Done It]

“When we are excited or stressed, arousal levels increase,” Cirelli explains. “When we are calm, they decrease.”

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Does this baby look sleepy?

The researchers found that the moms’ arousal levels were higher during the playful song, compared with the soothing song. And they found coordinated decreases in arousal for both the moms and babies as the soothing songs progressed.

Cirelli points to past studies showing that when people move together in synchrony, they feel socially connected and are later more likely to help and cooperate with one another.

With that in mind, we can better understand how the brain responds positively to the feeling of being connected to another person through the rhythms in music.

Now, does this mean you have to belt out “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?” Not necessarily. If you prefer to sing Ozzy Osbourne lyrics or croon Frank Sinatra tunes, that’s fine too!

 

According to my very own rockmommy, I was never satisfied when listening to the basics, both before and after I was born. She believes this is large in part to my dad being a diehard blues instrumental fan and musician. From the moment they first saw my heartbeat, my parents couldn’t help but get into a routine of playing their favorites to me, including many songs by Eric Clapton. They viewed this as a way to feel close to each other, but what they didn’t know at the time was how much it was affecting me, even though I wasn’t out in the world yet.

I arrived just like any other baby, screaming and crying. My parents did what any other parents would do: They cradled me and spoke softly in my ears to help me feel comfortable and safe. But guess what? It wasn’t until my dad pulled out his guitar and started strumming some familiar cords that finally calmed me and I gave them my first big smile… And to this day, I find peace of mind by hearing similar blues-like rhythms.

Nonetheless, the point of this study (and this blog post) is to show you that no matter if you’re singing the Bruno Mars song you’ve got stuck in your head, a lullaby classic like “Hush Little Baby,” or strumming some chords on your guitar, science has proven that it’s music, as a whole, that will bring you and your baby closer together.

And with that… ROCK ON mamas!

Francesca Farruggio is a contributing writer for Rockmommy.

Respecting – and Reflecting on – Soul Queen Aretha Franklin’s Legacy

By G.T.

It is hard to think of someone more ubiquitous in providing influence and inspiration than singer, songwriter, and musician Aretha Franklin.

An icon in music, it would be easy to characterize her legacy simply by listing the recognition she received across more than five decades of recording history — 17 Grammy awards and 31 Grammy nominations. Her first win came with her first nomination in 1968 (a win in the best R&B vocal performance category for her cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect”) and the last in 2008 (a win in the best gospel/contemporary Christian music category for her duet with Mary J. Blige on “Never Gonna Break My Faith”). Her influence was further recognized when she became the first female musician inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul

But what cements her legacy is not encapsulated in a trophy or enshrinement, but rather in how far reaching her voice influenced and changed music, empowering women to find their voice and command respect without compromise.

And a career without compromise remains a tough road for any musician to travel on. With forces trying to pigeonhole musicians into genres and identities that can be marketed and sold, Aretha Franklin is evidence that paving your own road has its rewards. Her earliest musical roots lie squarely in the gospel space and as she expanded and explored into more secular spaces of soul, R&B, and pop, it became more about completing a picture rather than settling on an identity, fusing different aspects to create a sound that is uniquely Aretha. Even more impressive is that she was able to accomplish all this while remaining relevant in a 50+ year career regardless of the trend of the day in an ever-changing musical landscape.

Her songs encapsulated that notion of empowerment, starting with that first Grammy-winning song, which accomplishes the rare feat of a cover recording becoming the definitive version of that song. Other songs in her repertoire speak to that, including “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Chain of Fools”, and “Think”, the latter of which makes an appearance in the 1980s film The Blues Brothers, and features Aretha performing it with all the spirit the song entails. In just her short six-minute appearance in that movie, you can see just how powerful she is as a performer and how she can draw upon all her secular musical and gospel roots to create an everlasting moment in just one scene.

And that musical legacy will survive well beyond her days as evidenced by the multitude of artists across all genres that draw upon her body of work to cover from their own perspective (remember the hard rock version of “Chain of Fools” from the band Little Caesar, released in 1989?) and to pay tribute to the Queen of Soul.

What makes Aretha’s history and story even more inspiring is that she was able to stay true to her musical vision in a time when African-Americans were fighting for basic rights. And not only that, she was able to use her music to be not only a soundtrack for the civil rights movement, but she also put her money where her soulful voice was and helped financially support Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The Rev. Jesse Jackson recently told the Detroit Free Press how she quietly funded payroll and would work with Harry Belefonte to help keep the civil rights movement moving, using her voice in concert to raise money without keeping any for herself.

And she stepped up to support women of color in their time of need, even if she was not necessarily in support of their beliefs. She was famously quoted in a 1971 interview in Jet Magazine as offering to post bail for then jailed Angie Davis.

“Angela Davis must go free,” Franklin said in that interview. “Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up… and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a black woman and she wants freedom for black people. I have the money; I got it from black people.”

Of course, Franklin had other odds stacked against her. The queen of soul had four children — she was only 14 years old when she had her first, and had to balance motherhood with schooling and later, stardom.

Aretha Franklin’s star will continue to shine as a beacon of hope — immortalized in songs that inspire and empower and backed with deeds that reflect that the songs she gave the world were not simply songs but a glimpse into the kind of life that she lived. She is a true representation of the power that music has to change the world.

GT is a contributing writer for Rockmommy.

 

My Kid Doesn’t Want to Be a Rockstar

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

He’s only 6, but my oldest child, Nathan, has made it quite clear he doesn’t want to play guitar, piano or drums. He doesn’t want to sing either, or be in any kind of musical group or glee club. 

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My little rockstar Nathan (who doesn’t want to be a rockstar) 

Part of me is a kind of bummed about this. Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of making music, and when I finally joined my first band in my early 20s, couldn’t wait till my first gig. I loved singing and writing songs. Even poetry, my truest love and most intimate artistic expression, was a gateway to songwriting and music. 

So of course I assumed I’d pass on this love. I keep my collection of guitars and amps in the play room, with instruments of all sizes scattered about. There’s a drum kit and a piano in the basement. I’m not unlike other musician parents — like Julie Rustad, Trish and Chris of The Natch!, or rockdaddy Philip Dickey — who have played instruments or formed bands with their kids. I envisioned days spent making tracks on Garage Band with my special guy. 

[RELATED: ‘I Started a Band with My Toddler’: The Nap Skippers’ Julie Rustad on Life and Gigging with a Wee One]

But aside from singing a few little lyrics here and there, Nathan shows no urge to play along with me. Like most little dudes, he identifies with my his dada — a baseball lover. He wants to play all sports all the time. I love sports too, but still: I can’t help but envy other parents whose minis want to be in their bands. 

As I navigate his instrument-free, singing-free life, I hope to remember that the most important thing I can do is encourage my child to try new things. Maybe my little guy’s destined to be a painter, computer programmer or an engineer. Maybe he needs another mentor who isn’t his mother, to guide him into a life of gigging or playing. 

Maybe I shouldn’t spend so much time thinking about these things. 

There’s still time for him to come around, to pick up a microphone or a guitar and fall in love.

He’s only six, after all. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

The Most Danceable Kiddie Record for Ska- and Punk-Loving Parents is Coming in September

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Kids Imagine Nation — an Orange County-based, three-piece kids’ music group with members from ska band Suburban Legends — is releasing its second album, a cheerful party record that should be played while your 6-year-old frolics about in a bouncy house (or in the kitchen). The record, simply titled Kids Imagine Nation Two,  comes out in September. I’ve already listened and can attest that it’s loaded with lots of super high-energy tunes — my favorites are “Rock Party” and the hilarious kiddie workout accompaniment “Exercise.” 

TWO album artwork

The album is the perfect anthem for Southern California parents who skate or listen to lots of ska, surf rock or West Coast punk fans. Preschoolers will vibe on the good energy. Think of it this way: If Gwen Stefani launched a kiddie music side project, this is what it would sound like. 

Speaking of which, if you’re in Los Angeles, check out the group’s early morning performance at The Grove on October 4, filled with more original songs and stories that entertain and inspire kids. 

Jessie Baylin Talks Music, Making New Record ‘Strawberry Wind’ and Baby No. 2

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Jessie Baylin’s smoky voice, whimsical spirit and adorable songs have made Strawberry Wind — an Amazon Original album available for digital download through Prime Music — one of my family’s favorite summertime jams. 

Rockmommy recently caught up with Nashville-based Baylin, who in April welcomed son Oliver Francis Followill with husband Nathan Followill (of Kings of Leon), and big sister Violet. 

Here, Jessie shares her inspiration for the new album, dishes on her love of great food and tells us why the struggle for balance is real. 

Rockmommy: Tell me about Strawberry Wind (loved “Supermoon” video). What inspired this record? Is it true you were pregnant during the recording?

Jessie Baylin: This record was something I wanted to explore for a long time. Amazon gave me the opportunity to make it and it was inspired by my daughter and also the dreamer and the child within all of us. I was pregnant when we recorded Strawberry Wind! I didn’t know I was until about a week after we finished the album that there was indeed a strawberry boy in my belly. haha.

Rockmommy: How is motherhood influencing your creative process?

Jessie Baylin: It’s taken over my creative process a bit, ha! Though I have found that being a parent can be incredibly inspiring and filled with moments that are worth more than anything in this life, I still try and carve out time for when I can be creative. I am still in the newborn phase with my son so I am not quite there yet.

Strawberry-Wind-Cover-web-largeRockmommy: How’s the work-life balancing thing going? I hear you had a second child recently!

Jessie Baylin: Life at home is my priority, trying to figure out how to do this with two children. It is a lot but I’m rolling with it, and now that my son is sleep trained and on a schedule I think ill be able to see the light now.

[RELATED: Cheri Magill’s Tour Guide Chronicles Day-to-Day Adventures in Motherhood]

Rockmommy: In your spare time, what else do you like to do?

Jessie Baylin: I love to cook at home and connect with my friends. We have a lot of big dinners at the house on the weekends, and that brings me a lot of joy.

Rockmommy: Do you and your husband [Nathan Followill] try to carve out time to make music together? Or are you mainly doing your own creative things these days?

Jessie Baylin: Typically we don’t make music together though we love listening to albums together and discovering new records to listen to at the house. There’s always music playing around here.

Violet and Oliver courtesy of Jessie Baylin

Jessie Baylin’s little baby and his big sis.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.