Dustin Sclafani on Fatherhood, Freedom and the Making of Shame Penguin’s New Single ‘Live In Technicolor’

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Everyone’s talking about what they can’t wait to do once the great quarantine is over. I have my own list, and one thing is certain: I need to see Shame Penguin play live!

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Shame Penguin, “Live In Technicolor”

I live in Connecticut, in a part of the state that’s dominated by rock n’ roll cover bands. So when Dustin Sclafani, lead singer of the New Haven, Conn., indie-punk quartet, reached out to send me the band’s single “Live In Technicolor” I was absolutely blown away. I listened once, then again, letting the funky, jam-rock vibe fill my head, while Sclafani’s soulful, bellowing vocals commanded my attention. But it was the lyrics I loved the most:  

So I throw my hands up 

And I’ll put my hood up 

And I’ll resist till I can’t breathe 

So we’ll stand up 

And we’ll rise up 

Till we’re truly free

Having grown up in DC, with bands like Black Flag and Bikini Kill setting the tone for my love of activist and resistance rock, I felt at home listening to Shame Penguin’s single. “Live In Technicolor” filled me with nostalgia for my ’90s favorites, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers — music interspersed with prominent baselines and twinkling guitar riffs and beautiful vocals. But while Shame Penguin’s music flows like old-school RHCP — mixed with a pinch of Misfits-era Glenn Danzig, and a dash of Dispatch’s folksiness (minus the bro harmonies) — the lyrics call out to more urgent, pre- and post-2016 social issues, like racism, homophobia, and nationalism.

“This song started while walking thru the streets of New Haven as the tensions over Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner continued to grow and I started seeing the rifts that have now almost cemented them back into American culture,” Sclafani tells Rockmommy. 

As it turns out, Sclafani, who writes the band’s music with guitarist Tristan Powell (and bassist Jon Ozaksut and drummer Kenny Maraczi), has a lot more in common with me than a love for inspiring punk lyrics and cool melodies.

When he’s not making music, he’s a busy dad raising three sons — 10-year-old twins Milez and Joey, and 13-year-old Cash. What’s more, he’s a single parent, a job that’s become even more challenging in early 2020’s homeschool-quarantine period. Yet he still manages to pop onto my social media feed, belting out soulful, heartfelt originals and covers, armed with only an acoustic guitar and a desire to break through the noise. 

We recently caught up with Dustin Sclafani about Shame Penguin’s forthcoming album, (produced by Vic Stevens of Horizon Studios), songwriting, recording ‘Live In Technicolor’ and more.

Rockmommy: So how did you get into music?

Dustin Sclafani: I was born to a single mother in suburban Long Island. Because she had me at a young age, I grew up more [alongside] my mom, which made our relationship more then just a child-parent relationship. 

I started singing with my mom at a young age. I remember as far back as kindergarten doing harmony lines with my mom to House Of Pooh Corner and Teach Your Children before I knew the ABC song. 

The only constant in my extremely colorful and chaotic life has been and will always be music. I started writing and playing shows acoustically when I was 16 even did an original song at my senior variety show. Performing music on stage is the most I ever truly free and truly myself. I tell people all the time “you never really knew me till you see me live.

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New Haven indie-punk quartet Shame Penguin (photo courtesy of Dustin Sclafani)

Rockmommy: What inspired you to write “Live In Technicolor?”

Dustin Sclafani: This song started while walking thru the streets of New Haven as the tensions over Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner continued to grow and I started seeing the rifts that have now almost cemented them back into American culture. We have lost all of our cultural heroes — The Marvins, The Malcoms, The Lennon-Onos … our music wasn’t saying anything in a time where I felt we needed it the most, so change comes from within and I penned the verses and never feel on a hook I liked. Until Shame Penguin started in my living room last March (2019). Tristan, my guitarist, has this amazing way to understand my meaning without ever hearing my words. The driving chorus brought the anthem out of me.

Rockmommy: What’s it like balancing kids and music — especially now?

Dustin Sclafani: I don’t balance kids and music, but I am a different case — I am raising my three sons in this lifestyle. It makes for late nights and early mornings. But the weirdest things are giving my sons the freedom to develop their own likes, even if it is generic pop music. It’s a constant, “really you literally call people ‘uncle’ who are better artists than that crap.’” But I try and let them discover themselves. It’s also interesting because my sons think our life is like other people’s. When the younger guys were in 3rd grade they would be surprised that their friends’ dads didn’t take them to the studio or do Instagram music clips.

Rockmommy: Do any of them love a certain kind of music because of your influence, you know, taking them to the studio and stuff like that?

Dustin Sclafani: It’s interesting because, especially with Milez and Joey, since I got custody of them, music has been part of their everyday life. Ray Charles “Shake your tail feather” from the Blues Brothers movie helped teach Milez how to talk — he was born with two congenital heart defects, and during surgery at 2 weeks old one of his vocal chords got nicked and it now moves slower than the others. So at 3 and a half his speech was only 33% recognizable to the average ear. So I started playing Ray Charles and Tom Waits and showed him sounding different is OK. But Milez’s favorite band is New Haven’s own Phat A$tronaut — he sat in on Djembe with them when he was 7. Joey loves musicals and is big ‘Greatest Showman’ fan. Cash is 13 so he actually is really into Shame Penguin and loves showing it off to his friends. But Cash really respects Tristan, our guitar player, who is an aspiring visual artist with anime influence — just like him. Tristan is also a big Red Hot Chili Peppers fan and Cash made sure his mom got him a RHCPs T-shirt in this year’s new school clothes shopping trip.

Rockmommy: Why is music so important now?

Dustin Sclafani: I love music and culture, thru out history when the arts thrived civilization thrived. But besides now we are at the most polarizing time in my life, echoes of our hate filled history ripple thru us daily. It is our job as the Troubadours and Heralds to deliver substance and feeling. To take all the darkness in the world and put all thru our individual kaleidoscope and project it back into the hearts and minds of the masses. We are the voices of the voiceless whether the bitterness of reality or the spoonful of sugar needed to swallow it.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Ellen Starski, Nashville Rockmommy, on the Importance of Positivity in Uncertain Times

by Ellen Starski

While working on the creation of the album and back story for Sara’s Half Finished Love Affair, I revisited a lot of inner struggles, and also revisited places in the world I’ve traveled and specific people I encountered along the way that make up the character that is ‘Sara.’ 

From characters in Nova Scotia, to Bozeman, MT, to Key West I’ve broadened my life and creativity through travel, and look forward to the adventures that await after these times have past. The first place within reason I’d like to travel is Hot Springs, Ark. I’ve always wanted to take advantage of those healing waters.EllenStarski8ByAnnaHaas

The release of Sara’s Half Finished Love Affair is still plowing full force ahead, but the tour I was getting ready to plan is officially on the back burner. I’ve also gotten word that the vinyl companies will most likely be closing up shop for a bit, so that will delay the production of my vinyl release. 

There’s an all-around feeling of uncertainty these days, but I’m fortunate to have my family and friends to help me through this. Personally I’m finding comfort in good thoughts and positive events where I can find them. I can, for example, smile when I think of the honey bee population recovering. I also try to see the possibility of a bright side to the quarantine by taking the time to reflect on where I am and where I’m headed. In our hectic lifestyles this may be the perfect opportunity to slow down and appreciate everyone around me, those I have worked with, those who helped me to grow, and how I can return the gifts I’ve been given. And, the music community has rallied to support each other through organized social media and sponsored performances.

There are a couple of songs off the upcoming record with lyrics that have become poignant to me during this epidemic. I never could have imagined while writing them how impactful they would be during these strange times. There’s a song I wrote called ‘All my Fears’ that was initially about the devastation that comes along with a broken heart. Now every time I think of the line ‘All my Fears have come to life’ in regard to our world’s current situation I can’t help to think this virus is my worst fear coming to life. And the song ‘Have we Forgotten’ is reminding me that at times like these we can be reminded of what’s important in this life, and how we can help others and take care of our own bodies, minds and spirits.

I’ve found it hard to sit down to write about the way Covid-19 is affecting my life right now, but I am finding strength with my family and the fact the humanity is coming together and supporting each other’s health. We are alive… we need to enjoy that miracle every chance we get.

Ellen Starski is a mother, singer and songwriter who lives in Nashville with her family. Her upcoming record, Sara’s Half Finished Love Affair, is out May 8. 

Castle Black, on Making Surreal ‘Dream’ Music and Hunkering Down During the Traditional Season of Rebirth

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Brooklyn trio Castle Black’s music is hard to define, often evoking multiple genres, from math-rock to melodic post-punk, as Vents magazine recently noted. Case in point: “A Cigarette, Saved” is simultaneously moody and frantic, channeling Nine Inch Nails one moment, then swinging into something akin to pre-goth Siouxsie Sioux. One has to listen a few times to a Castle Black song to let the poetry of the lyrics sink in, and even then, the moment is open to interpretation. 

Yet, the Castle Black live experience is consistently intense and fantastic. I know this, having seen Castle Black in more than one state, and in more than one nightclub. The combination of singer Leigh Celent’s mesmerizing vocals and effects-laden, arpeggiated guitar riffs — layered over thick, powerful rhythms courtesy of bassist Scott Brown and drummer Joey Russo — get me every time.

The band’s latest video, “Dead in a Dream” (from their EP, Take Her my Life), which premiered on April 8, offers just one small glimpse of their upcoming livestreamed set, to be held on Friday, April 17, as part of The Cellar on Treadwell’s “Dinner & a Show” event — which benefits the nightclub’s Employee Relief Fund (music begins at 7:30 p.m.)

We recently interviewed the band — pre-coronavirus — to talk about their latest EP, live music and future plans.
Rockmommy: How would you describe your music style?

Leigh Celent:  I let everyone else do this!

Scott Brown:  Post-punk indie rock I guess?

Joey Russo:  As a band, we’re some kind of rock. Math-grunge, some have said!

Rockmommy: You have a new record out. What can you tell us about it?

Leigh Celent: Take Her My Life represents this band’s journey up until now. It’s representative of the new line-up of the band; it is the first record made with Joey and Scott. Take Her My Life pushes the boundaries of our sound. We broke the album into two thematic parts — “Born in a Dream” and “Dead in a Dream” — where there is this relentless push and pull between themes of life and death. Themes of beginning/end, and hope/despair become blurred concepts. We had a burning birthday cake at our release show.

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Castle Black: Joey Russo, Leigh Celent, Scott Brown

Rockmommy: Who is the most inspirational live performer you’ve seen lately?

Leigh: I saw Thee Oh Sees last year in Brooklyn, and that was a really inspiring show. Their energy and intensity was infectious, and their show was captivating to watch.  Also, I recently saw David Byrne’s “American Utopia” on broadway, which was completely inspirational — he’s hypnotic to watch, authentic in his approach, and his longevity and evolution as a performer is inspiring.

Scott: So many of the bands we end up playing with are amazing. It seems like every show there’s something I hear or see that inspires me in one way or another. As far as shows we’re not playing, the Misfits at MSG most recently was one of those shows with a special energy in the air.

Joey: Thrice, which I recently saw in Brooklyn! I’ve seen them a few times and they always inspire something in me. Their seamless incorporation of odd times on groovy and heavy music with the catchiest riffs and hooks. So emotive and special.

Rockmommy: Do you think a lot changed in the past 15 years, in terms of female rockers becoming more visible?

Leigh: Things are constantly evolving and getting better, and that’s due to the number of people who have stood up for what is right, spoken out for what they believe in and just persevered in light of obstacles. I’m extremely grateful to women performers going back decades who faced different challenges and to everyone who is a decent human being in the world, who paved the way for change.  Of course, there are still people who aren’t decent human beings and who think women are objects, things not to be respected, things made for their imminent pleasure, not deserving of the same respect they would give a man etc. Do we still see that? Unfortunately, yes. But we see that in other facets of life living on this planet, unfortunately, and it’s a fight that continues — and not just for women, but for all beings.

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?

Leigh Celent: I make time for what’s important to me. I prioritize this band as much as I prioritize the other important things in my life. If something goes on the calendar, it’s on the calendar, and oddly that’s a very simple tool that I would be lost without! Some weeks are really hectic and stressful, where I’m not sure how I will do everything that needs to get done, but those weeks pass and things are back to feeling manageable, at least for a little while! All of that effort is so very worth it, because we are doing what we love, especially once we are the road for a few weeks, everything that went into making that happen is worth it.

Scott Brown: Playing and making music is an important part of my life and a great outlet that helps me deal with work and daily stress, so I prioritize it pretty highly. I believe that if something’s truly important to you it’s not really that hard to find ways to make it happen, even if it’s just a few minutes here or there. Those little spaces can add up to a lot if you’re dedicated to them.

Joey: Gotta be devoted to your craft! Make time for what you love.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Why Musician Randy Kaplan’s Version of ‘Hugs for My Family’ is the Virtual Embrace We All Need

By Randy Kaplan

Hello there! I just released a digital single: “Hugs for My Family (Coronavirus Version).” My pal Marisa — a fellow rocker parent and the editor of this blog — invited me to share the song with you and tell you a bit about its inception. So here goes.

[SEE RELATED: Randy Kaplan and 4-Year-Old Son Record Love Song to Wife/Mommy . . . About Candy, Protein, and Crime]

In 2018, I participated in Steve Denyes‘s 20-Songs-in-20-Days challenge, in which Kindie Music fans created titles and Steve (and a different one of his colleagues each day) wrote songs with those titles, one per day for 20 days. On the morning of February 4 (Super Bowl Sunday), I was given the title “Hugs for My Family, High Fives for My Friends.” I cooked up a song about that season’s flu epidemic. It became a SiriusXM Radio Kids Place Live hit, and I donated a portion of the royalties to Happy Star Melodies, a charity that brought musical instruments and musical experiences to kids facing long hospital stays. (The charity has since closed its doors.)

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Randy Kaplan and family

Last week, during our quarantine and lockdown here in Michigan, I thought about that song and how that terrible flu season seemed like the good old days compared to this current scourge. I took a look at the lyrics and saw that some changes were necessary if I were going to sing the song again. In the original version, the narrator has hugs for his family but only high fives for his friends. Now it would be luxurious to high five a friend. So I had to change that lyric along with some of the other no-longer-relevant passages. The coronavirus version was thus formed.

I also changed some of the symptoms from those associated with flu to those associated with COVID-19. And I had to add lines about handwashing and hand-sanitizing and the dry knuckles that result from all of that abrasion. Some interesting rhymes resulted:

So now that I’ve donned these gloves I’ve got on

and rolled down my sleeves, I’m not quite as skeeved.

But it’d still be nightmareful if my hands touched a hairful

or a handful of germs from your palm or some derm-

atological surface; we gotta be careful

not to cough or sneeze droplets and not breath in airfuls

of air that are filled with this novel corona-

virus that’s high-risk, so I sit here alone. A

slick surface like metal can host this corona thing.

It’s really unsettling. I just want my phone to ring

‘cause sitting here reading online is too much for me:

percentages, ratios, CNN, CDC.

I also worked in some terms in the news, terms we’re all well-versed in by now: “social distancing,” “flattening the curve,” “asymptomatic transmission,” fomites … okay, nobody but me and the infectious disease doctors know that last one. But you’ll know it too as soon as you look it up. [Side note, for the kids: Hey, when I was your age, I had to use an actual dictionary with weight and volume. It was much more onerous!] Anyway, “fomite” rhymes with “poem might,” so I had to use it.Randy.Kaplan.Hugs.for.My.Family.(Coronavirus.Version)

I have gotten a lot of nice feedback on the song. It seems to make people feel better to hear someone express a range of emotions they feel but may not have expressed. There’s anxiety in the song, yes, but there’s also hope, humor, and solidarity. The overall message, seen most clearly right there in the last quatrain, is the same as it was two years ago:

For now, yes, it’s scary, but we’re in it together.

This ton-of-bricks heavy’s feeling light as a feather

‘cause talking to you keeps me safer for longer.

The long and the short of it’s that together we’re stronger.

I’m certainly looking forward to high-fiving you when this quarantine ends! Until then, see you in cyberspace!

Listen for free (for now) at SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/randykaplan/hugs-for-my-family-coronavirus-version

Coming soon to iTunes, Pandora, and all the rest!

Randy Kaplan is a father, musician, teacher and author.

Rockmommy Joanie Leeds’ New Record and Message of Empowerment Celebrates ‘All the Ladies’

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

As a former Brooklynite, I thought I knew Joanie Leeds. When I interviewed the singer and performer in 2017, chatting about raising a tiny person in a busy but super-creative borough, I thought to myself, “yes! That’s my girl. She’s bright, happy, and living the mom life I would’ve lived if I hadn’t transplanted to the suburbs of Connecticut.” 

I also thought I knew her music — wonderful, insightful, high-energy kindie rock with a touch of sass — that was perfect for dance parties with my toddlers (who are now 6 & 7). Adorable songs like “I love New York,” made complete with fun, colorful videos.

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Joanie Leeds

[SEE RELATED: Singer-Songwriter Joanie Leeds on Motherhood, Her Summer Tour & ‘Brooklyn Baby’]

So when I heard that Joanie had spent the last two years channeling her emotions (and some life hard experiences) into a record that celebrates women’s empowerment — and features women instrumentalists — I was pleasantly surprised. At the same time, it made total sense. Based on Joanie’s previous work, it’s pretty clear she’s a creative, multifaceted rocker mama — a lyrical badass who writes songs that are universally catchy and relevant.

Joanie’s latest record isn’t just fronted by a female singer. It’s infused with ladies, and all about the #girlsplayinstruments movement. An added bonus: Today, April 3, she is part of an hours-long, all-women Facebook Live show (12:30 to 4 pm EST on the @alltheladiesmusicfestival page on Facebook). As such, her record is created for women by women.

We recently caught up with her to talk about her new album “All the Ladies,” motherhood, life in New York and everything else. 

Rockmommy: I love the concept of “All the Ladies.” Was this inspired by the 2016 election turnout, or the #metoo movement, in addition to a desire for true equality in the music industry?

Joanie Leeds: Thank you. Actually the idea came to me as I was sitting in audience of the 2018 Grammys Awards. I had just separated from my husband about three months prior and felt a rush of creativity flood within me ignited by my newfound freedom. At the ceremony however, I felt enraged by the underrepresentation of women at the Ceremony and those nominated. While it may have bothered me a little bit before that night I felt the need to take action. I took out my phone and started typing all of these ideas about an all-female performed, produced, engineered, mixed and mastered album. I even starting making a list of women I wanted to work with right there, at Madison Square Garden.

I sat on the concept for a year because I just started a grown-up music project Joanie & Matt (coincidentally, music from THAT project was inspired by the #MeToo movement). In March of 2019, I had lunch with Lucy Kalantari and whispered my idea for an all-female album for kids and she said she was actually looking to produce someone and liked the idea. It was the meal that changed everything. With that conversation I went home and over the next three months wrote all the songs from the album. In July, we started recording at her studio. Often, I would walk directly out of the court house during my divorce trial and head over to Lucy’s to record. The entire process was emotional and cathartic all at the same time.

Rockmommy: The last time we chatted you had a kids’/family record! Is ‘All the Ladies’ for the mamas (or can kiddos listen along too)?

Joanie Leeds: For the past 10 years I have written kids songs focusing on the 2- to 5-year-old audience. While my own 4-year-old loves all the songs from “All the Ladies” as well as many other under 5’s who have heard the tunes, I really wrote these tunes with older kids in mind. While the album non-apologetically carries themes of feminism through out, it is not just for young girls and women. It’s for every age and all gender identities. Someone once asked me, “What about the boys? I answered, “Anyone who has ever had a mother, sister, grandmother, aunt or a daughter will find value and joy in songs that honor and respect their family.”

Rockmommy: You relied on other females to make your record. I gotta say, even in NYC, it is damn hard to find women (other than singers and guitarists) for the purposes of collaboration. Why was that so important to you? 

Joanie Leeds: EXACTLY! I wanted to challenge myself and I couldn’t do it alone. Lucy put all of the instrumentalists together. I had a list of singers in mind but she did an incredible job finding string players (Nelly Rocha, Libby Weitnauer) a bass player (Caylen Bryant), percussionists/drummer (Rosa Avila, Lisette Santiago, etc)… I had been playing with an all-male band for 10 years and whenever one of them couldn’t play a show and I needed a sub, I would ask for their short list — it would ALWAYS be ALL men. I was just sick of it. The only way to bring women into the room and into the conversation is by making change, shaking things up. I say this with my own band in mind but it’s true of ANY profession, at any level.unnamed

Rockmommy: Can you tell us more about the virtual live show on Friday?

Joanie Leeds: One of the singers on the album, Tina Kenny Jones, reached out to me after my album launch concert (and entire tour) was canceled due to COVID-19 and suggested I hold an online music festival. I called up my publicist right away and was like ‘Do you think it will work?’ After I heard a big yes, I asked all of the singers on the album and they were all in too! It’s been a wonderful thing for me to throw myself in to help take my mind off the crisis here in NYC. I need to stay busy. Between creating all the artwork, media, taking zoom tutorials and all the logistics of producing an online festival, and telling the world about it, it’s been quite a ride already. It will be Friday April 3, featuring all the incredibly talented ladies below: 12:30-4 pm EST on the @alltheladiesmusicfestival page on Facebook.

Rockmommy: How are you making time for music with the kids home?

Joanie Leeds: It is NOT easy. With deadlines looming and online concerts to prepare for and perform each day, every moment of each day is a balance. The day usually starts out with ‘school’ and playing in ‘centers’ and then eventually I have to get work done. Sometimes that is an epic failure and the iPad comes on so I can practice or hold an online show and sometimes, my daughter surprises me by building or playing solo with toys in her room. It’s not easy being one on one but we have a lot of fun with daily dance parties (tonight was Phish, last night was Tom Petty, most nights it’s Brandi Carlile. We love screaming and playing cowbell out the window at 7 PM to send love to the first responders.

Rockmommy: What words of advice or inspiration can you offer to your fans and rocker mamas in NYC and beyond?

Joanie Leeds: Maybe this comes with age but to the all the amaaaazing rocker mamas, I am most recently living in a constant state of NOT GIVE ANY *&^%s. I don’t know if it’s being in your 40s and finally knowing who you really are or if it’s being a mother, but I couldn’t care less about what anyone thinks of me and at the same time, I have never been as comfortable in my own skin as I have been over the past few years, gray hairs, readers and all.

For the kids: When I was in middle school, the kids gave me a very hard time at school as well as my sleep away camp. As a result, I had little confidence and was filled with anxiety about just showing up at school or entering a room. I know it’s cliche to say but it does get better. To all the kids struggling, there are many things I would to say. First, believing in yourself can only come from within so find the things you love about yourself and share those things with the world. Do your best not to compare and despair. Elevate your friends by cheering on their accomplishments and always try your best to make everyone feel included, even when it’s not the popular thing to do. As it relates to the album, I want to see young girls putting themselves out there more with the confidence that you can be ANYTHING — raise your hands and help each other out. It’s important to stick together. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Bilingual Music Mama Flor Bromley Brings Virtual ‘Fiesta’ into Your Home

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

If the last few weeks has taught me anything, it’s that I still need love and joy — and music. Like most other parents, I’m stuck mostly indoors with my kids, engaging in the once-unthinkable balance of homeschooling and working. Trying to stay sane. 

So when I heard that musician mama Flor Bromley, a bilingual singer-songwriter and guitarist, had released some fun, family party music — I could not have been more ecstatic! Flor’s new single, “Fiesta de los Globos” is a celebratory song, sung in Spanish and infused with horns, keys and an aura of springtime joy.

Flor Bromley_9_photo credit Carmen Steven

Flor Bromley

“The world needs hope,” Flor tells Rockmommy. “Kids essentially need a sense of normalcy. They need to know that everything will be ok, even through changes, so why not release stress and turn it into a big party, a big balloon party with our families to celebrate togetherness, to celebrate unity?” 

This week, the mother of two — 4-year-old and an 8-month-old — took a break to chat with us about her new single, and the importance of celebration and culture. 

In addition to the new single and a forthcoming album, the mother of two — ages 4 and 8 months — is hosting bilingual musical story times for kids three days per week through her Facebook page: Kids can join Flor, her puppets, and her “Bonita” guitar to learn Spanish through music and stories for 30 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 11 a.m. EDT.

Rockmommy: Flor, I love your new song “Fiesta de los Globos.” Can you tell us about the creative process that inspired it? 

Flor Bromley: Thank you! I created this song right after doing a concert at a birthday party. There were so many balloons, and I decided that we should play with them and sing along, so I started the process of “Balloon Party” which is a song included in my upcoming album Fiesta Global that has the collaboration of Jazzy Ash on the vocals. The Spanish version “Fiesta de los Globos” was created especially to be released as a single because Spanish is my native language, and I wanted kids to enjoy this song in English and Spanish as well. After crafting the song, I decided to play it in NOLA jazz style because of the way the verses and the chorus were intertwined, and producer Sinuhe Padilla, who is also my musical director, helped me make that happen. I’m very happy with the outcome.

Rockmommy: New Orleans is an amazing city (I lived there for two years!) and your song takes me right back there. Who were some of your inspirations growing up?

Flor Bromley: Being Peruvian, you don’t get a lot of NOLA jazz there, but you do get a lot of cartoons, especially the old Walt Disney ones. The 4-year-old me, without knowing, was being exposed musically to Dixieland jazz from early childhood cartoons, and I feel it’s has been engraved in my musical brain since then. In my journey, I re-discovered this type of jazz in my early 20s when I went on a trip to Argentina. I was at a music venue, and the band started playing a NOLA inspired jazz number, and the sound just filled my soul, and I couldn’t stop moving. So I researched more about this music, and I fell in love with the ease of the style and the way it just makes you get up and dance. One of my favorite albums of this style is Louis Armstrong and the Dukes of Dixieland.

Rockmommy: Can you tell me why the song is exactly what the world needs right now?

Flor Bromley: The world is in an intricate state right now. Things are changing. Globally we are all together fighting a big virus that affects everyone in different ways. It’s time for hope. The world needs hope. Kids essentially need a sense of normalcy. They need to know that everything will be ok (even through changes), so why not release stress and turn it into a big party, a big balloon party with our families to celebrate togetherness, to celebrate unity? Which is also what the world needs. Unity.

Rockmommy: What else can you tell us about your upcoming album?

Flor Bromley: Fiesta Global will be released April 24. We have collaborations with Latin Grammy winner 123 Andres, Peruvian award-winning singer Damaris, and jazz family favorite Jazzy Ash. Fiesta Global is a celebration to dance around the world. Because there will always be music. Cultures use music and dance to heal, to mourn, to celebrate. With this album I want to celebrate our world, the different types of rhythms that live inside of us (the way NOLA jazz always lived inside of me since I was 4), and I want to give families a time to dance together, being united in the joy of music.

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Flor Bromley’s new record “Fiesta Global” 

Rockmommy: What are some ways families can share traditions and culture and music during this difficult time?

Flor Bromley: This is the perfect time to be close as families, to learn more about each other, to teach your children things that you weren’t planning on doing. So, I encourage parents to research music, find new and old music, to use the best tool we can right now from our homes via the internet, and learn about our roots, learn about cultures, make new traditions and celebrate each other, having a big “Fiesta de los Globos”!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Mourning the Loss of my Music Community While Trying to Stay Hopeful

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Was it really two weeks ago that my band played a packed club — with barely enough room to move, let alone dance? On the night of February 29, which feels like years ago, my band Trashing Violet played its third show in a string of weekly gigs, and we felt unstoppable. Sure, we’d heard about the “novel coronavirus,” aka COVID-19, but it seemed like a distant thing. A potential threat, health authorities had said, but not a big one for us in Connecticut. We’d be fine. 

I wasn’t prepared for the current pandemic, and the economic fallout that would ensue. The cancellation of conferences. The closure of my kids’ school, which would force me into a homeschooling role I’d never wanted nor prepared for. Guitar lessons getting dropped, because of the need for “social distancing,” a term I’d never before utilized. Now it crosses my lips every day.

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Me (Marisa Mini) preparing for a solo acoustic gig on 3/25 that will now happen in a Facebook Livestream.

Throughout the world, the coronavirus started spreading. And spreading. People stopped shaking hands and hugging. Everything shut down. And we keep getting more and more isolated from each other. One week since “elbow rubbing” became the new handshake, the elbow rub seems like a distant memory.

In my personal life, the biggest casualty of this catastrophe is in my musical life: My band had momentum. But it’s no longer safe to rehearse. There won’t be any new gigs. 

So at the end of last week, two days after my birthday, I cried a lot. My husband had to console me. I had a lot to be thankful for — a nice house, kids who are healthy, work I can do from home and get paid to do. But the life I knew and loved — a perfect life, by all accounts — is now on hold. My new reality gives me only little slivers of time to pursue the things I love: fitness, music, and writing this blog. Forget the dystopian novel I’d been working on. All of the realities I’d imagined for 2200 now seem dated. The future has never been more uncertain. 

The loss of my music community has hit me the hardest. I love my bands — up here in the NYC tristate area and in Washington, D.C., I love my friends’ bands. I love the people I rehearse with, the musicians I open for, the drummers, bassists, singers, keyboardists, and guitarists galore I’m friends with — in real life and on social media channels. Many of these friends have supported me when I had little support from other channels. And now, many of them are struggling. 

Musicians who are super rich, like Gwen Stefani, will probably be fine. No gigging for a month is no big deal, financially. But if you’re a singer in a cover band who depends on bringing home $1,000 to $2,000 a month for club gigs — or you’re a deejay who runs karaoke nights — you’re hurting and/or super stressed right now. I’m sure those of us with “work at home” income will also feel the forthcoming recession soon, but to feel it now and not know where your next paycheck, let alone your next gig, will come from is an especially tough blow. qypxwibBSt21l%3mz81EuA

Yesterday I decided I’d use technology to play Facebook Live shows, and ask for donations via PayPal or Venmo, which I’d transfer to the musicians who are hurting the most. Mark your calendars for March 25, 2020. 🙂

I encouraged my musician friends in the NYC area to do the same. We need to try and spread the wealth we have so the entertainers we love and need don’t lose hope. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Balancing Band Life and Raising Boys: How Much is Too Much of a Good Thing?

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Five years ago, having a few moments to myself to strum my guitar — without getting interrupted by a toddler — was a bit of a miracle. 

Fast forward to 2020 and my two young sons are no longer toddlers. They’re 6- and 7-year-olds with their own interests who need me less and less. This is bittersweet: While I don’t want to repeat the baby years — the diapers! the sleepless nights! the 2-hour nursing sessions! — I miss our constant time together. I miss reading to them big chair, snuggling on the couch, pushing the double stroller to the park while clutching a mug of coffee. The whole bit.

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Baby Nathan, sometime in 2013, and my guitar.

One positive development that’s come out of their independence is my ability to nurture interests of my own again — namely music.

[SEE RELATED: New Year’s Goal #1: Making Time for More Joy and Spontaneous Jam Sessions]

After Nathan was born in 2012, I pretty much put #bandlife on a shelf, save for teaching guitar and the playing occasional solo gig or reunion show with my longtime D.C. pop-punk band Grandma’s Mini. But in 2018, I was ready to fire up the old Fender Stratocaster — and the new Gibson SG — and play out again. The only thing I was missing was bandmates. So I asked the universe to help me find them.

The universe granted my wish. In November of that year, my guitarist pal Anna and I met with rock daddy bassist (and guitarist) Doug E. through Craigslist, scored rehearsal space in a studio, and soon after, brought my friend Jason’s brother Nick D. into the group to play drums. Several rehearsals after that, our band Trashing Violet became a living, breathing, gigging machine. 

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Me, rocking out with my band Trashing Violet at Cafe 9.

Yet amid the sheer joy of playing songs every week in our rehearsal space, never in my wildest dreams did I think we would actually play shows — not just occasionally, but ALL THE TIME. About a month ago, we were asked to play so often that I started getting that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach when I’d have to ask my husband, yet again, if he minded that I got booked for yet another show. 

As I explain in this interview (below), filmed over the weekend at our gig at Sage Sound Studios, the fact that my bandmates and I found each other in a similar time in our lives was nothing short of pure serendipity. That I could find bandmates with intense day jobs and parental responsibilities who understood that I’m a #mommy first and a #rockmommy second was amazing. 

 

But of course, as we rehearse weekly and gig weekly, my sons are undoubtedly seeing less of me. I’m not there 2 nights a week to tuck them in. My older son, who is especially independent, is OK with this; my younger son gets a little clingy each time I leave (he’s been known to shout “band practice is dumb,” according to dada). It was a bit of a wakeup call when I realized this morning, while scanning photos on my phone, that I have taken more pics of my bandmates than Nathan in the last two months. As I gazed into his dark-chocolate brown eyes, my heart swelled, and I felt a tinge of guilt: Am I playing out too much, and missing out too much on the little things?

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

I realized then that achieving absolute perfect balance in every area of my life would be impossible. At the same time, there are limits. I need to make sure I’m considering the feelings all of the people who need me before I overcommit myself. Time is more precious than ever. Every minute I spend away from my loved ones better be worth it because it’s a minute I’m missing out on being with them.

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My younger son Logan, playing the keys at the local movie theater.

So, yes — I can play consecutive shows if the opportunity arises. I can practice once a week with my band because it makes me happy. I can go on tour for a weekend or even a few days … should the right opportunity arise. But I can’t rehearse every single night and play every Friday and Saturday — nor can (or should) I say “yes” to every opportunity that comes my way. 

When my kids are 14 and 15, I might find that I’m needed even less, and there’s more time to pursue music goals. Maybe I’ll go on a two-week tour. Maybe I’ll do a lot of things — travel to Greece, surf in Hawaii, learn how to play the drums.

But in the immediate future, I need to pause and reflect, and see things through the lens of motherhood: Is a gig I’m being asked to play good for me and my band? Is it worth taking time away from our families? Does it fill my heart with joy?

Putting my family’s needs first is important, even if it means saying “no” once in a while to creative endeavors. And it makes the stuff I say “yes” to all the more special. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy. 

NYC Rocker Michele Stork Unleashes the Noisy Punk Princess with (A)llerdings!

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

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!

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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.

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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. 

Gail Silverman Puts the ‘G’ Back in ‘Girls Rock’ with New Music and New Outlook

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

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!

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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.