Philly-based Eco-Feminist Duo’s ‘Curious’ LP Inspires Kids to Love Their Planet

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

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.2019 album _Curious_ Cover-2

In fact, it’s that thinking that birthed the Philly-area activists’ duo Ants on a Log, which is now performing a musical based on its latest album Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline!

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Ants on a Log performing live. 

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?

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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!

Ants on a Log are playing on Saturday, April 27, 10 a.m., at the Day of Play at Parent Infant Center in West Philadelphia, and on Sunday, April 28, at the Earth Day Celebration in Downingtown, PA. The Ants take the stage around 2:15 pm.

Want to learn more, so you can plan a fun, engaging family outing? Details are available online here.

‘Daddy Issues’: Why the 2019 Indie Film is Perfect for Mommy’s Next Date Night In

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

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.

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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!

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‘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.

Download ‘Daddy Issues’ on iTunes.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Hospital’s New Pacifier-Activated Lullaby Device Improves Reflexes for Premature Newborns

The soothing power of lullabies is undisputed, and now a few lucky new parents have an even greater incentive to belt out Bob Marley songs.

UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital recently began testing pacifier-activated lullaby (PAL) device, which plays parents’ recorded lullabies whenever the baby successfully sucks on the pacifier. The device, which can be used by all babies, is especially helpful for preemies born before 34 weeks gestation who haven’t developed reflexes to suck or swallow.

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Jana and Greg work with a music therapist on a personalized version of “Three Little Birds.” The song is loaded onto a pacifier and plays while the baby sucks (photo credit: UCLA).

To get the song on the pacifier, parents work with music therapists in the neonatal intensive care unit, who help them write and record a special lullaby. That song plays when the baby sucks on the pacifier and stops when they stop sucking.

According to Jenna Bollard, expressive arts therapies manager at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, who conducted the research, simply hearing their parents’ voices is an incentive to keep sucking. And for the parents, it’s a huge stress relief.

Just ask Jana and Greg (pictured), whose triplets were born eight weeks early. After working with music therapists to record a personalized version of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” they laid down the track and loaded it onto the PAL device. During the triplets’ 52 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, the device helped them improve and grow.

And that’s something to sing about.

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Sukey Molloy Discusses ‘Five Little Oysters’ and Using Music to Engage Children

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Children’s music artist Sukey Molloy brings joy and music into children’s lives on a regular basis, but when she got her start in 1985, she was more focused on leveraging the power of movement. More than 30 years later, Molloy can’t imagine her life or career without music (or movement), and has written dozens of engaging songs for the littlest listeners.

Here, she catches up with Rockmommy about her latest project, Five Little Oysters.

Rockmommy: You began working with children in 1985. How did it occur to you to bring music into the picture?SukeyMolloy07-72+photo credit Dyana Van Campen

Sukey Molloy: My work with young children began with an interest in exploring movement activities to nourish the developing brain. As the program developed, it was a natural step to include music and singing as part of the overall ‘learning through play’ emphasis. I first adapted and created new lyrics for familiar traditional tunes, and then began writing my own songs to accompany the movement activities I was exploring with children. It became clear early on that music and movement together create an atmosphere of play and learning that complement one another in a very natural way — and serve as a remarkable invitation for children to learn while having fun!

Rockmommy: How did you create ‘Five Little Oysters’?

Sukey Molloy: The album ‘Five Little Oysters’ was created with my co-producer, Larry Alexander, and is intended to feature favorite, traditional tunes, along with original tunes, poem, and story. And of course, I adapted many new lyrics for the traditional songs, but the melodies remain as known, along with lots of special nuances and fun sound effects with surprising twists and turns. We are very proud that the album won the NAPPA Award! As for the Five Little Oysters audio picture book and animation, I created those images in my felt art studio, and once the book was completed, I worked with my animation friend Mark Marshall to create the “Five Little Oysters” animation video for YouTube.


Rockmommy: What do you love best about what you do?

Sukey Molloy: There’s a special look that appears on a child’s face when an activity calls the attention, and the child becomes fully engaged. That particular quality of participation, when the child attends completely voluntarily, is the most rewarding moment for me. And particularly when it happens to a whole room of parents and young children at the same time! There is a deep resonance for me when what I am bringing attracts the attention in the room, and allows a group of children and families to feel the joy of learning through movement, music, and play. I believe that this experience helps them to feel acknowledged and respected, and to feel the encouragement and permission to relax and enjoy the moment.

Rockmommy: From where do you draw your inspiration?

Sukey Molloy: I feel we all have a little child within who remains there from our birth, and it is that small child in myself who I call upon to help me locate the melodies, lyrics, felt art images, and movement vocabulary I bring to my work. Also, along with that childlike ambiance, I have studied developmentally based music and movement education, and I make sure to include that understanding when I am creating songs, stories, books, videos, and movement programs. But most importantly, I draw inspiration from the children and families I have had the privilege to work with over the years who are my greatest teachers!

Rockmommy: What do the best circle times for children have in common?

Sukey Molloy: Learning through doing, hands-on materials and activities, full engagement and participation, fun and laughter and a feeling of ‘I can.’ And so much more!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Liz Phair, Proving that There isn’t an Age Cutoff for Wearing Miniskirts

Age shaming is a hot topic these days, mostly affecting women. There’s age discrimination in the workplace, in the arts and onstage. Collette McLafferty, author of Confessions of a Bad Ugly Singer, documented this experience succinctly, having spent every year since her 25th birthday being told she was too old to make it big in music.

[RELATED: Collette McLafferty Finds Her Most Powerful Voice in Wake of $10 Million Lawsuit]

One of the most insulting ways age discrimination manifests is through fashion. There are tons of videos on “what not to wear” when you’ve hit a certain milestone, like your 30th or 40th birthday. This Oprah magazine video, in which stylist Adam Glassman — #Adamsays — tries to convince a 48-year-old mom to swap her cute miniskirt for a pretty-but-boring turquoise sheath dress, encapsulates this attitude. You might look great and feel great in a miniskirt, but don’t you dare put one on unless you’re “a cougar” trying to attract young men. 

[RELATED: East Village Rocker Mama ReW Takes On ‘Mainstream’ Fashion in TLC Show]

But in an era when 40-year-old Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine can tear off his shirt during the Super Bowl and flaunt his perfect abs, I call BS on this double standard — and (probably) so does my rockmommy friend Rew, who was told on TLC’s “Love, Lust or Run” to drop her signature goth-dress-and-chunky-boot look for a more streamlined, body-hugging green dress that was supposedly more age appropriate.

And instead, I’d like to draw attention to the bold and badass Liz Phair, who recently told The Washington Post, “They’ll bury me in a miniskirt.” She was 51 at the time of the interview.

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Liz Phair

Seeing Liz Phair perform is inspiring. Exile in Guyville is one of the greatest records I’ve ever owned, and it pretty much captured all of my angsty, lusty, complicated emotions. I spent hours singing along to the CD in my car (as well as all follow-ups, including whitechocolatespaceegg and the self-titled Liz Phair). I’ve only seen Liz twice, but she commands her set like a pro. And she also does it while looking fantastic in a miniskirt! If she enjoys wearing one, why shouldn’t she? Why should some fashion “guru” create the rules of what we can and can’t wear?

Because Liz is a mom, she probably gets twice as much backlash. But again, motherhood should not dictate how a woman dresses, except that a mom should feel as comfortable and supported as possible when rearing young children. Motherhood does not mean a woman should stop wearing bikinis, miniskirts or whatever else makes her happy. 

So I’d like to raise a glass (of coffee) to Liz Phair, my idol in music and in fashion, an inspiring rocker and rock mama. Keep strutting your stuff, girl. Redefine what it means to be a fifty-something gal. All of us thirty- and forty-somethings are looking up to you. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Nashville Pop-Rock Dad Zach Vinson on New Record and Being a ‘Better Man’

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

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.

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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.

Listen to Zach Vinson’s singles “Better Man” & “Hold My Son” on Spotify.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

How Meeting Dick Dale, my Favorite Guitarist of All Time, Changed my Life

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

In 2002, I met Dick Dale in kind of a weird way – at the CTIA Wireless trade show in Las Vegas. I had just begun my post-college journalism career and had the distinct advantage of being one of the few young women who wrote about technology. Someone mentioned he’d been hired to perform a few songs, so I decided to swing by the sponsoring company’s booth.

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Me and Dick Dale, his bassist, and some other girl (2002)

As I watched him perform, he noticed me right away – my eyes transfixed, my whole being completely spellbound by his masterful skills. I’d never heard of Dale before that day, but like anyone who’s seen and heard Dale shred, I was immediately taken with his insane, wild guitar-playing style that made me feel like I was on the craziest road trip in California. He played his big hit “Miserlou” – which I recognized not only from “Pulp Fiction,” but from a belly dancing class I’d taken in Washington, D.C.

I approached him after the performance and told him as much. I also mentioned that I played guitar, but he was more interested in my side gig as a belly dancer.

“You coming to dance at my next show?” He asked, as we strolled along one of the corridors at the Venetian.

“Sure,” I said. “I’d love that.”

I opted to skip the party at the Luxor his bassist invited me to that night, but I made a point to email Dale a day or two later. He responded right away – I still have that email in the recesses of my Yahoo! Account – with his phone number and told me to call him the next time he had a show on the East Coast.

That’s how I became a Dick Dale groupie. He answered all my calls, and I followed him from show to show. He put me on every guest list I asked to be on, but after a while I stopped asking (because I wanted to support him). I belly danced here and there – a deal is a deal — but he didn’t care. He was more excited to see the look on my face – and the faces of his other devotees – when he launched into “Let’s Go Trippin.’”

I think I saw Dale play something like 10 or 12 times in my twenties, between Vegas and Baltimore and a few beaches along the Mid Atlantic. I became a better and more inspired guitarist simply by listening to him, my Surf Guitar God. Absolutely no one put on a better live music show.

And no one played the guitar like Dick Dale, either — not even the highly schooled, beloved guitar teachers who mentored me when I eventually moved to New York City and started teaching guitar. Who could keep pace with his absurdly fast tremolo picking? Very few. Dale wielded his Fender Stratocaster in unreal ways – upside down, hand sliding up and down necks. I wasn’t shocked when I heard that he would actually burn through multiple picks during shows.

His capabilities transcended traditional surf rock. One of my favorite moments of every show was when he launched into his rendition of “House of the Rising Sun,” his deep, dark voice giving the Animals classic a sinister spin, with his signature “heavy machine gun staccato” picking style working the upside-down fretboard.

I also loved it when he’d bring his young son onstage to play along with him. Those were the moments I felt like I had really glimpsed into his heart.

But as I settled into New York City life after graduate school, I let myself lose touch with Dale. I got sucked into the hustle of working and playing shows, of punk rock nights and deadline days. I wish I hadn’t forgotten the feeling I’d gotten when I met him, and I first saw him perform. I wish I had made the time to see a few more shows.

I heard he stumbled on hard times. He developed cancer at one point, and was continuing to tour to afford health insurance, playing shows like his life depended it. Because it did. But Dale didn’t let cancer or age stop him. He played every show as if it were his last.

Rest in peace, my surf guitar king.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.