Musicians (And Former Teachers) The Bazillions Want To Educate Kids Through Music

Celebrity Interview: The Bazillions

Let’s talk about On the Bright Side. How would you describe this album?

I think that this collection of songs is particularly upbeat and positive. We chose the name, On the Bright Side, with that in mind; not to mention the double meaning since a large portion of the songs have educational value to them. More than ever, each song has a story to tell. I think that our ongoing partnership with the animation team at eg design has affected some of the writing in that we often already have images in our head as we write the songs. This brings an individual vibrancy to each song. This cd has such an energy to it, more so than any we have recorded before. We recently played a sample set for a group of adults and the comment we continually heard was that they could not stop smiling afterward. That’s the reaction that we hope to get all the time.

How does it differ from previous albums?

By the time we recorded this album the band had really developed a method of writing and recording a CD. Our process had been developing over the years, but we were finally to the point of it being second nature. I think that gave us the solid foundation to build these songs stronger and more thoughtfully than ever before. We put more time than ever into the arrangements, harmonies, lyrical content, and general feel. There is also the song-writing factor. Even though we have been writing music for a long time I think that you are never finished developing as a songwriter. This record shows us fine tuning those children’s music writing skills. Over the years we have gathered performance experience and gotten more feedback. Together these help us to expand our ideas and learn what kids, parents and teachers want to hear.

How do you hope to educate children through your music?

Music is powerful stuff. It solidifies itself in your head. I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can sing you a chorus from a song I learned in 2nd grade music class. The quality of the song will always come first with us. With our educational songs we aim to harness that power and create catchy music that has educational content. Just because it may be educational does not mean that we sacrifice a hooky feel or storyline. In fact, I think that makes it even more important. While working in schools I had to hear some pretty low end recordings about multiplication, shapes…. The kids were interested, but eventually they groaned every time the teacher pushed play. Children are smart. They do not want to be talked down to. It is hard to teach a lesson in 3 minutes so we try to take the key idea of a concept and set some of the rules or an explanation to music. That way students may be able to recall our tune and that can help them solidify the material in their head. Kristin was once monitoring a test and watched a student that often struggled in school come to a question and hum our song, later to find out that she got the answer correct. That is our goal, to assist the students and teachers in learning and make it even more fun.

What kind of influence has being teachers had on your music?

Having been teachers has had a huge influence on our music. Just being around children really keeps you young. It keeps things fresh; you remember what you used to daydream about and you appreciate how exciting every little moment can be. It has given us insight as to what students and teachers struggle with and has blessed us with scores of song ideas. We know that our music needs to be honest and smart for today’s child to take it seriously.

Having worked in schools has forged our performance skills in a big way as well. I think that most teachers and people who work with young kids are natural performers. They have to be to keep their attention. We try to test out our material live in classrooms whenever possible. I currently work in early childhood music, but I still go in and volunteer weekly with elementary schools where I am able to sing with the kids and get a feel for what works and what could be beneficial to them.

What are some of your plans for the future, both personally and professionally?

Professionally we would like to continue to get our music to as many kids, parents, and teachers as possible through recording, performing and our animated videos. We hope to continue to develop and pursue more on network, streaming and cable television with our video partnership. We also want to work with teachers as much as we can and tour when possible. We are already starting to concept and write our next CD so there is always work to be done.

Personally, we are always focused on our own children and encouraging them to be happy, healthy, and positive members of our community. We try to have as much family time as possible since they are young enough that they still want to hang out with us. They are both very curious and adventurous. We would love to do some traveling with them in the future.

What do your children Naomi and Felix think of their rock star parents?

Naomi and Felix have grown up surrounded by music, musicians, and lots of gear. It is second nature to them to have a jam session in the basement, so the whole “rock star’ thing is pretty normal and boring in their book. They are both pretty musical and artistic themselves so they like to experiment with all the equipment and play their own tunes. They are certainly contributors to the band in their own way. They will often have ideas for subjects for songs. As you can imagine they are brutally honest and often offer constructive criticism. So I guess they are our first tier test market.

You had said that you made the first CD just for fun. Do you think that creating music simply because you loved it helped contribute to your success? 

I never really thought about it from that point of view, but I suppose that did aid the success of our first record. We had been singing these original songs with kids at school for a while and families wanted a recording. We could have easily just recorded a live acoustic version of each song and stopped there, but that would not have been as enjoyable. We really wanted to do the songs justice. We first asked the rest of our indie pop band, The Humbugs, to do it to fill out the songs, but soon you could see they were having fun with it too. Playing music for children is so unbelievable rewarding and I think they felt that even in the recording sessions, before performances solidified it for them. Recording music for kids we all found ourselves less inhibited and more willing to go out on a limb or just be silly. Silly is fun. Having no pressure was a great positive reinforcement. Since then, The Bazillions have developed very organically. As a result of not putting any pressure on ourselves it has allowed things to happen as they should happen rather than in a forced, more artificial way.

What is your ultimate goal for The Bazillions?

Wow! That is tough. The comic reply seems to naturally be “world domination”. I think that the Bazillions want to leave behind a strong contribution to both children’s music and education. We are very proud of the quality of our content and how we have not compromised musical or visual complexity for our young audience and want to continue to grow that content possibly into a television or web series. We aim to get classrooms singing our songs, make the car ride home more fun, and earn some smiles everyday! We are fortunate to have a great following internationally. The Bazillions would like to nurture that and contribute to the education and playlists of children, parents and teachers that may not always have access to materials. I guess that is not world domination, but rather world contribution.

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