Singer David Weinstone of Music For Aardvarks and Other Mammals

David Weinstone is not an aardvark, but he plays music for them, and all other mammals, too. The godfather of the musical movement otherwise known as Kindie Rock, David’s music is delightfully irreverent and high on the cool factor. We spoke with David Weinstone about his music, his hugely successful musical program and how he tests to see if a new song he’s written is good or not (Warning: It’s dangerous!)

(Please note: No animals were injured in the making of this cover shoot. And yes, the painting featured in the image below IS what you think it is. Thank you. 🙂 )

Let’s talk a bit about your musical background.
I knew from a very young age that there was nothing else that I wanted to do other than play music. After I graduated from Berklee College of Music, I started my own band, Mozart’s Grave. We got signed to an off-shoot of Sire. We put out a couple of records, and during this time I was doing a lot of writing and playing. When my oldest son Ezra was 3, I wanted to put him into a music class. I tried two big nationally-known music classes, and I saw how much he enjoyed being there. I found the music boring, but the kids loved it.

What was wrong with the music?
It was the same music I heard when I was a kid. It was the same music my grandfather heard when he was a kid. Some of these songs were literally 400 years old, like Ring Around The Rosie. You know it’s a song about small pox, right?

It is?!
Yes, it’s from the 15th century. Small pox caused a small dot on the skin with a ring around it. People would carry posie in their pockets because they thought it had a healing effect.

That’s incredible. Now, how did you decide to start your music program, Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals?
First, I want it noted that credit should go to Music Together and Kindermusik for even considering bringing children into a live musical situation that’s not overly organized or instructional. I stand on the shoulders of these people. I don’t have to like the music, but I certainly admire the concept, the thought and the dedication that goes into it.

Duly noted.
Having said that, I felt that the centerpiece of the program — the music– was the weakest part. So I decided to write my own songs. I wrote a song about a taxi, the subway, boogers, skyscrapers, etc. Back then, there weren’t a lot of “me’s” around. Now there’s a plethora of them. The music was about observing what kids do, what their world is like, with fresh eyes.

The music really hit a nerve, and I started a class, begrudgingly. I gave out tapes, and it grew and grew and grew. This was in 1997, and I got major press. Within three months, I quit my job. I could no longer handle how many kids and parents wanted to be a part of the program, so I had to turn them away. Then 6 years into it, 7 CD’s later, the press started labeling the music “Kindie Rock”. Now it officially had a name, and it was a movement. And I thought, “That’s it for me, I’m out.”

I had a large repertoire, and felt now that it was a thing, it was going to be watered down and less interesting for me. So I took a break. I watched all these bands take off. I wasn’t as commercially viable but I was certainly successful in my own right. When it became a thing, this is when people took a second look at me and suddenly the guy who they didn’t know where to place had a place. I signed with Nickelodeon, and started writing again.

How would you describe your musical style?
The music is very interactive. I have songs that sound like The Ramones on acid. I do what I do as long as it makes me happy and laugh. I don’t pay much regard as to whether parents are going to think that this doesn’t sound like children’s music. I think this happens all the time in art when someone turns the corner; there is always opposition.

Your latest CD, All I Want, is coming out early next year.
There are 19 songs on the CD, all new. My sons are a big muse for me. Their trials and tribulations were topically wonderful for a songwriter. Keen observation is a huge part of what helps me deicide what is a worthy topic for a song and a good philosophy of what kids are able to handle. It helps me to go places where other musicians don’t go. To test out whether a song is good or not, I do the car test.

What’s the car test?
I picture listening to the song on a very long car ride. I think to myself, “How long can I listen to this before I purposely hit the gas, plow into a tree and kill everyone?” If I think that won’t happen, I’m pretty sure it’s a good song. If there’s any chance that will happen, I scrap it immediately.

[laughs] How did the name Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals come to be?
Just as I write, I didn’t want to come straight at it. I knew I didn’t want to have “music” in the title. It’s a round-about way to say that it’s music for humanoids. An aardvark is a mammal, as we are. It’s really music for kids, but adults sure seem to like it, too.

You’re a very involved dad. How do you balance everything?
It’s not that hard. From the get-go, I jumped right in. Parents ask me about parenting all the time. It’s such a unique experience, but the one thing I say is this: “Just be with them.” That’s what they want more than anything. You can sign them up for anything, but if you have them in a billion classes, and you’re working 50 hours a week and a nanny is raising them, you’re missing out on a lot. My boys love to skate. I spend a lot of time in skate parks. That’s all they want to do, every free moment.

I make the time to write, which is what I love to do, record and play live shows. Where it all goes, I don’t know. If I were on my deathbed, I would reflect back on my life, regardless of any “success” I’ve had, and be extremely grateful for my wife, Nicole, my children and that I spent my life being involved in something that I feel passionate about. Success has already happened for me more than I could have hoped for.

For more info on David and Music for Aardvarks, please go to

(Painting: Andy Fish.

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