It’s official, after 10 fast and furious Februaries, the NL RPM Challenge has produced more than 1000 local albums. This year, about 130 local albums were written and recorded in the month of February, and every weekday for the rest of the month the Editor of the Overcast will haphazardly select and feature one, to merely skim the surface of what was released. See the full list here. Feel free to fire along some fun facts about yours to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Land of the Lakes’ Pink Rabbit
Land of the Lakes are no strangers on the local live music scene, nor to award nominations at MusicNL or the Borealis Music Prize. But their latest project is definitely a new twist on their fresh rock sound. It’s a kids album. And like all good kids movies today, it’s something parents can love too.
Wanting to show their sons they can create (not just consume) media, they took them into the home studio to write some really great rock songs about the heroics of toy trucks, the transformative knowledge of learning your ABCs, and the importance of only-occasional indulgences of cookies. Stuff they’d relate to.
Here’s a track about their eldest son’s insistence that broken toys aren’t useless toys.
The idea was Danielle Hamel’s, you might recognize her name from one of last year’s blowup RPMs, It Could Be Franky’s Your Friends Don’t Buy It All.
“Our oldest son, Thurston (age 4), was really digging this song on YouTube recently, about a Tow Truck, and Matthew and I both agreed it was a real jam. In the spirit of RPM, we felt like we should just try something new.”
Dad Matthew Thomson agreed a kids album was “a good way to stick to our style, but do something new at the same time. We have two boys and they love music. We always make up songs on the spot about whatever we are doing, brushing teeth, getting ready for bed, etc. We thought it’d be a great idea to write songs that they’d be excited to sing.”
Hamel says she wanted to do an album that showed their kids what it meant to create something. “They are already expert media consumers. They can sit and watch TV for hours. But I wanted to plant the seed that they can create media, not just consume it. At the beginning of the month, I asked Thurston if he wanted to write a song. Instead, he began to list the songs he knew.
“He didn’t understand what I was asking. By the end of the month, they both started to get the hang of it and began to contribute to the process, suggesting new lines for songs, getting excited about new verses.”
Thomson admits he was a little hesitant at first, “but knew that if I did do a kids album I wanted the music to be good and listenable for the parents as well.” Which it damn well is. Everything about the album shines: the first rate recording, the songwriting, the endearing nature of a child’s mind set to pretty perfect indie rock. By the end of it, you’ll want to build a pinhole camera, ride a zamboni, and forgive yourself for the occasional cookie.
“I wanted to put kid topics to music that I’d normally write,” Thomson says. “I also didn’t really want to do another Land of the Lakes album as an RPM, because I wanted to put more time into the next record, to work on it properly.”
So a kids album satisfied both of the duos creative needs during RPM, and as far as Thomson is concerned the only real difference is the lyrics anyway. “If you put ‘regular’ words over the top of these songs, then they’d be regular songs, along the lines of all our other stuff. I didn’t want to ‘dumb down’ the music just because these songs were written for kids.”
The songs might be about sillier topics than your average rock song, but Hamel says they didn’t approach the songwriting or arranging any differently. And Thomson adds that the lyrical content was no less a challenge, either.
“There are topics where you need to have your facts right, you need to research your topic before writing out the lyrics.” He’s not joking: one song didn’t make the album because he ran out of time before the deadline to fact check. If only papers, or world leaders were so diligent.
Lachlan helped them escape those trappings on the title track though. It’s about a wild dream he had during the recording process. “Being in the middle of writing a kids album, I immediately wrote everything down that he was telling me and asked a dozen more questions. ‘What was the rabbit’s name?’ ‘Red!’ ‘What else did he bring you?’ ‘A new machine’ [his word for construction vehicles] … Pure gold! All I had to do was keep digging and write it all down.”
5 year old Thurston gets co-write credits for track 5, “Zamboni.” Hamel says the family was out shoveling, and Thurston started singing it to himself, Watch the Zamboni smooth the ice. Watch the Zamboni smooth the ice.
She instantly got it on video to save it for later. “We sat down with him on the drums to jam out his song and asked what he would say next. He added ‘When the zamboni comes, you gotta get off.’”
“It comes straight from his experience skating at the Loop and having to get off to wait for the Zamboni to clear the ice. So he watched his song go from idea to finished song. He’s very proud. He sang it at daycare and they asked him to teach it to his friends for song-time.”
The kids’ newfound rock stardom is lost on them though. “Their perception of the world and where things ‘live’ is fascinating,” Hamel says. “When I told him that people really like the song ‘Cookies Are Okay Sometimes,’ Thurston was confused. To him, the songs are for us, and they live at our house.”