Ask any parent who’s got even a faint cultural pulse and they’ll tell you: The single biggest threat to their sanity is the focus-group-tested, lobotomized soccer-mom-approved drivel that passes as “children’s music” these days. Children’s music is in a shit state of affairs, chock full as it is of condescending aging hippies with acoustic guitars and good intentions or creepily empathetic purple dinosaurs.
Luckily, a couple of generations of punks have also been busy breeding, so it’s increasingly likely that the tyranny of Raffi may soon be broken by three-chord shit-kickers well aware of the following: Punk rock is loud (kids love loud); punk rock is simple and repetitive (kids dig that too); punk rock is obnoxious (ever get into a fart noise contest with a 5-year-old? ’Nuff said); and most importantly, punk rock at its heart is fun.
Enter Detroit’s Candyband (singer Daniela Burckhardt aka “Skittles”; drummer Tammy Ristau aka “Starburst”; bassist Anita Kelly aka “Kit Kat” and guitarist Paula Messner aka “Almond Joy”).
These four metro-Detroit stay-at-home moms have nine kids among them and share a mutual desire to start a mini-mosh revolution, one “jacked-up” nursery rhyme at a time. Sample cuts from the Candyband set include Ramones-simple punk reworkings of “Hickory Dickory Dock” (ne “Hickory Dickory Rock”) and originals like “Ken Lost His Head.” (“My girls are always ripping the heads off their Barbie dolls,” says Messner by way of explanation.)
“Our hit song is ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ from Mary Poppins, and it fuckin’ rocks! We do like ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb” and break into ‘No Fun’ by Iggy — we do one for adults too,” she laughs.
The band was formed a mere four months ago by Messner (who, in her other life, is the guitar-slinging third of distaff Rock City riff merchants the Motor Dolls).
“Being in a rock ’n’ roll band my whole life, then having kids and listening to those damn ‘We Sing’ [really horrible kids music] tapes was driving me crazy. I couldn’t stand ’em and I basically threw ’em out,” says Messner speaking from her home in Royal Oak while simultaneously potty training her 2-year-old daughter (such are the perils of mixing rock and parenting).
So it was that Messner roped in the three other married moms from her local YWCA — rock ’n’ roll rookies all — into her scheme.
“I’d see these other moms and think ‘hey, they seem pretty cool.’ And I’m just the kind of person that doesn’t take no for an answer, and I talked them into being in a band and now they’re having the time of their lives — they got the buzz now!”
So, like any fledgling band, they hit the basement and started working up a set. Except A) their debut gig was to be a birthday party for one of their kids and B) their rehearsals demand a special kind of babysitter to corral the Candyband kids.
“Oh, man, I’ll tell ya,” says Messner. “One time while we were rehearsing and the kids filled the toilet up with silverware. Another time they smeared moisturizing lotion all over the walls.”
In other words: true anarchy.
But the plumbing and cleanup headaches are worth it. “It’s actually easier to get gigs with a kids band than with a ‘normal’ bar band! I haven’t been this excited about a rock band in a long, long time,” enthuses Messner.
And thus far, audiences have agreed. Besides the aforementioned birthday command performance they’ve played their YWCA (“over 200 hot dogs sold!” boasts their Web site), the Woodward Dream Cruise, a couple open-mic nights at “regular” bars (“The drunks do not get us!”) and the Royal Oak Public Library. Talking to Messner the day after the Candyband “rocked” the typically blue-hair-friendly Library lawn concert, it’s clear that they’ve struck a nerve.
“The kids went nuts! When we did [the theme song from] SpongeBob [SquarePants] it was deafening. It was like a Deadhead concert — all this spacey stuff and pogoing!” says Messner.
But it wasn’t just the kids tuning in, either. Messner says the blue hairs were getting into their uptempo covers of old-time tunes like “She’ll Be Coming ’Round the Mountain” and actual name-brand local punks were in the house too.
“I looked out in the crowd last night and saw Keith from Noir Leather with some heavy punk-rock people! I guess we’re popular from diapers to dentures and everyone in between,” says Messner, sounding for all the world like someone who may have stumbled upon a genuine marketable formula for a second-act musical success.
So as the Candyband heads into the studio next month to record their debut CD with pal and Brothers From Another Planet main man Jake Smith, do they have dreams of opening for the Wiggles dancing through their heads?
Actually, their ideal gig is a winning combination of pragmatic and pipe dream and, for one, this journalist and parent is happy to help them bait the hook.