ACL Interview: Play Date
I ran into Greg Attonito, frontman for veteran Jersey punks the Bouncing Souls, at ACL Fest last weekend and was surprised to learn he was playing the Kiddie stage with wife Shanti Wintergate as Play Date. Debut CD Imagination includes songs like “Rad” and “Dance Like a Monster.” They’re on Fri/Sat at 1:30pm.
Austin Chronicle: Were there any kid singers you grew up on?
Greg Attonito: It wasn’t children’s singers as much as family entertainment. I loved watching The Muppets! My Dad loved it too. He would laugh at the jokes I didn’t quite get, the ones that would challenge your little kid brain. I just started reading the Jim Henson biography. He was never interested in making stuff for children, but he ended up in that world and he’d say, “It’s not for kids. It’s for families.”
AC: What elements go into music that appeals to little kids and adults?
GA: Depth and honesty. Shanti and I wouldn’t want to play a song over and over if it was annoying kid music with no depth. We try to make music that’s saying something and that’s true to our hearts. The song “Imagination” isn’t necessarily a kid’s song. It could be a regular song. Then, on the other hand, we have educational songs on the record like “The Number Song” and “XYZ,” so it can be both. We’ve learned that what kids really respond to is energy. Not goofy energy, but genuine energy.
AC: What was your thinking behind the song “Rad”?
GA: That was primarily written by Shanti and I think she wanted to have an empowering song from a fun perspective with a Ramones feel.
AC: The Ramones make great children’s music because it’s simple and bouncy, except for the references to sniffing glue and being sedated.
GA: Yeah, definitely can’t play all the Ramones songs, but there’s something about their simple, fun, energetic, three-chord rock & roll that’s undeniable, no matter how old you are.
AC: After so many years of playing crazy punk rock shows, what adjustments do you have to make to play for kids?
GA: It was scary at first. I’ve been lucky because Bouncing Souls has an engrained audience that already knows the songs. With these kids, it’s the exact opposite. If we don’t hold their attention, they’re just going to leave! So that became the challenge for Shanti and I. We experimented and made a 25-minute set, tested it on some friend’s kids, then once we played it live we had to tweak it some, but now we’ve got it down.
AC: How was your experience playing Austin Kiddie Limits last weekend?
GA: Friday was fun, but Sunday was a lot better because it was more of the day out for the families. We talked to some of them and they bought a three-day pass, So Friday and Saturday was Mom and Dad’s day, then Sunday was the day for the kids. In general, I think [ACL] is doing a great job, because parents can have a real live music experience with their kids.