Milkshake, the Grammy-nominated group that the LA Times described as "a fizzy contemporary band that really rocks without losing sight of its target audience" and Parenting Magazine called "Think of what would happen if the B-52s and the Cowboy Junkies visited your child's school" is coming to New York City!
They'll be playing a concert at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 3 at The Jewish Museum on 1109 Fifth Ave. at 92nd St. to celebrate the March 26 release of their fifth studio CD, Got a Minute?
Because the NY Gifted Education Examiner has written a great deal about the importance of music to a child's intellectual development, we talked to Milkshake's founding member, Lisa Matthews, about how music helps young people learn and process otherwise very complicated subjects.
Plus, win a free copy of Got a Minute? Find out how below.
NY Gifted Education Examiner: This album, your fifth, grew out of the music videos you did for PBS Kids, Nick Jr. and Discovery Kids. Can you tell us a little bit about the process and also - just between us - confess: These songs are sneakily educational, aren't they?
Lisa Matthews: It's always amazed me how, once we have a concept or have given ourselves a task and topics to write about, how fast the songs come. Mikel (Gehl) and I usually write separately at first, and then come together and see which songs have enough merit to continue working on further, finishing them enough to go to the recording studio. Personally, ideas for songs come when out walking, driving in a car or - in the case of a song like "Starry, Starry Night," watching a TED talk on astronomy. I knew I wanted to do a duet with Kyf Brewer, whose voice I just love, and singing about the stars after learning more about them, well the song just came together like water and gelatin. Once we have the songs, we show the guys in the band, and then the true magic usually happens in the studio. We just hole up at Invisible Sound, with sushi, chips and coffee and toss musical ideas back and forth, recording some things that we keep, others that are tossed. Although there can be tedious times and roadblocks, really recording with Milkshake is one of my favorite pastimes. And now that our kids enjoy sharing the time, too, it's a beautiful thing.
As for whether the songs are sneakily educational, perhaps the PBS KIDS songs are, but really I have always thought Milkshake's strength was that we weren't trying to be outright educational, and our thing has always veered more toward social issues and emotions, especially the more recent stuff. The PBS KIDS songs were written to topics supplied by the network, and we had just a few days to write the songs, demo them and get approval. I think we enjoyed the challenge of writing teeny songs that had to say enough while clocking in at 58 seconds. When we were finally able to put the songs out on a CD, writing 20 more songs was a blast, especially with less time constraint and more production values.
NYGEE: Some of your songs on this album deal with heavy duty issues like Tolerance and Bullying. How do you make such big issues palatable and understandable for little guys? All in under a minute, no less?
LM: These are big topics for us, and as parents, we are keenly aware of the need to respect different cultures and races, and to respect each other and speak up when this isn't the case. Mikel and I did "Let 'em Know" at a school the other day, and it was mostly pre-K through 1st grade. I thought perhaps they were too young, but there they were, singing the chorus with us, and afterwards, one little girl said "I know mean kids...Tommy was sent home yesterday." We usually talk about songs like this before performing them. When we do a song like "Travel Far" (off the Great Day CD), I talk about the need to travel and its educational value, and then we throw a big Earth ball out to the audience, which the kids gleefully toss about while we sing the song. Afterwards, I hold the Earth ball in my hands and we talk about the Earth and how important it is to take care of the only planet we know of that we can live on, and wouldn't it be cool if we could just throw the Earth in a washing machine when it got dirty, and then of course, we do "Washing Machine". I think talking and singing about these issues helps the kid understand the concepts and importance, all while having fun. It's got to be fun!
NYGEE: Your 2009 album, "Great Day" received a Grammy nomination. At the NY Gifted Education Examiner we talk a lot of about how talent is nothing without hard work and perseverance. Can you talk about the process of starting a band, touring, recording, and how eventually you got to a place like the Grammys?
LM: Mikel and I were in an adult rock band called Love Riot, enjoying the music and the process and the late nights. We had had some success, with our music being included in various TV shows, and we had played a few big festivals like the Lilith Fair. But then I became pregnant and everything changed for me. I wanted to just be a mom. My whole focus shifted. Mikel, ever the musician, insisted we could still make music. He suggested we make music for kids, and shortly afterwards, his wife became pregnant and it all made sense - a natural evolution. Writing for our babies was easy - the lullabies at 3 AM while nursing my daughter, the simple songs about counting and the early wonders of life. As the palette of what we wrote about shifted, the music itself opened up and we were no longer tied to a certain alt-rock style. We initially hired whoever we wanted to play all kinds of things in the studio. It was very liberating. When Noggin called, wanting two songs and videos, we started getting very successful. TV is an amazing force. We were asked to do a big tour called Jamarama and got a band together. Touring really made this band a family and we have had the same players in Milkshake for many years, now. I think that says something very positive. We tour quite a lot, and when we unexpectedly received a Grammy nomination, well, it was very gratifying. I think the recipe for Milkshake has been to follow our hearts, do what's right, be kind and respectful of our co-workers, spoil each other and listen. We have shared some amazing times on the road and in the studio and I think we share deep admiration for each other while being uniquely different. I think to be truly successful at what you do, you have to truly love what you do. Being a musician isn't easy if you want to also make money at it and be successful. I couldn't this - I wouldn't this - if I didn't love doing it. Some days I wake up and say it's time to do something else, and that's probably true. But then I go perform a show for the little guys and everything's right in my world.
NYGEE: You're parents who started Milkshake when your own kids were babies. Now they're tweens and they even contribute to this album. What have you learned through the years about the role that music can play in children's lives and development?
LM: It's been documented that children learn easily through music. When you put something to a melody, it sticks. Simple songs like "Fingers & Toes" were written while Jesse was in a bouncy chair. I would hold up my two hands and count to ten. And in the mornings, there was no sweeter way to wake up than the family clapping and singing "It's Breakfast Time, it's Breakfast Time...time to eat our breakfast." The early songs were very simple and effective ditties. Through the years, as our children grew, the songs also grew in complexity and subject matter. But that was the whole idea in the first place: Milkshake was created to grow with our kids and reflect the states of childhood. In a way, this new CD is a perfect coda to the whole experience. I think sharing the music from creation to recording to live performance has been great for our kids. They would be out there in the audience tossing the baseballs during "Baseball," spinning under the yellow "sunshine" confetti during "Bottle of Sunshine," and laughing in a sea of kids they didn't know but that had come together in a shared experience of music and fun. I have to believe this is a positive thing and our kids are in part who they are because of it.
NYGEE: What can families expect from your show at The Jewish Museum on Sunday, March 3rd at 2pm?
LM: We love playing the Jewish Museum and the Milkshake Trio will be perfect for the venue. We'll play Milkshake classics like "Baseball," "Bottle of Sunshine," and "Fingers & Toes," along with some new tunes. Come expecting to dance, sing and have fun!
Want to win your own copy of Got a Minute? It's easy! Just share this article on your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, your blog, or anywhere on-line, send the link to AlinaAdams@gmail.com and you'll be entered in our drawing to win. Enter as many times as you like. The winner will be announced on Monday, March 4. Good luck!