The Dirty Sock Funtime Band is coming clean. The larger than life band broke out onto the national music scene in Jack’s Big Music Show and it’s been musical success ever since. Celebrity Parents spoke exclusively with the
Dirty Socks themselves—Adam Jacobs, Stephen Jacobs, Annie Elmer, Bill Phillips, and Mike Messer—about the bands’ evolution, their pure passion for music and, why every kid deserves a Dirty Sock.
How did The Dirty Sock Funtime Band come to be?
Stephen: It really started from an education program. We were doing Kids Creative, an after school and summer program where kids got to create original rock music. We started asking friends to play on the recordings of the music we created with the kids so they could enjoy it.
Adam: One of the parents liked it, and told me that her family listened to it all the time. We realized there was something more here, so we tried to come up with a name for the group. Stephen and Bill had a band named
the Dirty Sock Funtime Band, so we chose that name. We put out our first album, The Search and Rescue of Genius Backpack on cdbaby.com, and it was the music that we had written for plays that semester in Kids Creative.
Mike: We decided to make a solid band after that. One of the moms in the program saw it and from there we got into the NY Post. Nickelodeon saw it and then they asked us to be part of Jack’s Big Music Show. For us, it
was the first time we were writing independently of the afterschool program. From there we had national exposure and started putting out records after that.
It sounds like it happened really fast.
Adam: It was a month. We were playing at a NYC school, PS 87, and then a month after that we were talking with Nickelodeon.
Now is that a blessing or a curse?
Stephen: Oh, it was awesome. One of our strengths is that the music initially came from working with kids. We are really good friends who also have very diverse musical tastes. What I love about making kids’ music is that there really aren’t many boundaries.
Now how did the rest of you come into the band?
Mike: I went to college with Adam and Stephen’s brother, Hank, and was friends with this guy named Mike who was working with Kids Creative. My world had always circled around children’s entertainment. I had done an episode of Sesame Street. I was developing children’s musicals, and as a singer/songwriter, I had always done kids’ stuff in some way. I was excited about the prospect of the Dirty Socks and wanted to be a part of it.
Bill: Stephen was traveling across country. We met at a party and we jammed and we ended up recording regularly after that. One of our recordings was a Dirty Sock Funtime Band cassette.
Annie: I had been teaching toddler movement for years. My classes were in the mornings, and a friend of Mike’s told me about this great after school program, and they needed someone to assist. I worked with them but
then got a full-time job. But I couldn’t think of life without these guys. I just wanted to come to the shows and dance.
Stephen: Annie is the MVP of the Dirty Socks.
Annie: I just like being the mom.
Stephen: She’ll bring bagels to shows and makes sure that we eat.
Adam: We all have personalities on the stage. The kids can relate to at least one of us. Annie makes the kids happy; she helps break that wall and get the kids dancing. Stephen has an amazing connection with the kids—and
his headbands. [laughs] Mike has that big lead singer vibe. Billy is slinging the guitar. And there’s a guy with a gigantic pink hair. I’m a bit of a wild card and I also make the bridge between the stage and the audience. It’s a
unique element to the show.
Annie: Another thing that is unique is that we do not leave a show until we have met every child who wants to meet us. Some kids might be shy, especially around Mr. Clown, so it’s a proud moment when they overcome their shyness to give Mr. Clown a high five.
Stephen: Also, we just bring it. It’s really a rock show.
Annie: My socks are soaking wet after the shows! [laughs]
How has the music evolved since the band’s inception?
Stephen: We write based on a story, whatever it might be. We have become more focused in our writing. When we write for the plays, anything goes. When we write for Dirty Socks, anything can be an influence. But we make
sure that the music stays in an accessible area.
Bill: The music is deep and has been eclectic in terms of the blend. We’ve had so many people involved in the band, with many influences, but there has always an appreciation of the song craft of classic rock and pop. We’ve gotten to the point where anything goes but high energy is our stock and trade. It has to be fun and something that turns us on musically as well as lyrically. We’ve built the core of high level of songwriting, but we’ve also
made it family entertainment; parents and kids are digging it. Even the sixteen year old daughter who was dragged along to the show is also rocking out and having a great time. When you get the whole circle to enjoy the music, it makes you feel great.
Let’s talk about the new record.
Mike: The new record is The Dirty Socks Come Clean. It makes us laugh each time we hear the name! It is like we’re opening up more. We’re really excited about it. It’s going to be 18 tracks long. It’s coming out in the spring and we’re working on videos for it; we’re also working with Chuck E Cheese as well. Of course, there is the same diversity in the music. There are some great guest appearances, like Laurie Berkner. It’s a duet with Laurie and
Mr. Clown and it’s a love song called “We’re in Love.” The balance of her singing so softly and beautifully and him coming in with this lunacy is amazing.
Bill: I don’t care what we do, as long as it’s a step forward for us. And this is definitely a step forward. It’s a big record.
Mike: When exuberance meets a good mentor, really good things can happen. And the main thing we have is exuberance!
Stephen: One of our core beliefs is that all ideas are good. We created an incredible community in both Kids Creative and Dirty Socks, of people treating each other well. We hang out and have a good time.
Mike: Those tenets are especially useful at 2 AM when we’re sweating, trying to figure a harmony! They also help to keep things moving forward in a positive and useful way.
Stephen: We decided that when one of us brings a song to the other, we don’t put judgment on it right away. We give it a chance and put all of our artistic energy into it to make the song be what it’s supposed to be. When
you do that, you have a creative feeling of safety. You feel that everyone supports it and that’s crucial.
Annie: From a parent’s perspective, I look at these guys and they are not only friends, but they are mentors. My son, Christopher, grew up with them and they mentored him. I couldn’t have asked for better male role models than them.
Stephen: Her son is an amazing guitar player; he was my guitar student.
Annie: Chris studied with Stephen for years, and he emails Bill regularly. He’s in touch with them because of the growing process he had with them. And it’s not just my son; any child can go to these men and look to
these guys because they are amazing singers, musicians, composers, and they have my back. Simply put, every kid just deserves a Dirty Sock.