Caspar Babypants has two albums coming out this year; Recess Monkey has now logged more than 1,000 shows; and Eli Rosenblatt gave up salsa bands for shows for the younger set.
“It was a long time coming,” says musician Chris Ballew, swirling on a stool in his West Seattle home studio.
Ballew is speaking, of course, about his second act in music: Caspar Babypants.
Co-founder and frontman of the rock band The Presidents of the United States of America, Ballew says the lifestyle of a stadium rock group wore him down. But a new voice — one he’d always been looking for — struck him one day in the car thanks to a tantrum by his 2-year-old son, Augie.
His wife at the time, Mary-lynn (the two are now divorced), soothed their young son, singing the refrain, “Run, baby, run. Run, run, run.” Augie was calmed.
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“I saw it work and I was amazed by it,” Ballew says.
When he met his second wife, Kate, everything truly clicked. It was the universe she created with her bright artwork that made Ballew want to make music that “lives in that same world.”
Since then, he’s has written 10 Caspar albums and will release two more this year: “Away We Go,” a bouncy, story-rich record that includes a version of “Pop Goes the Weasel,” will be released Aug. 12. Following that, “Winter Party,” a holiday album with lively covers like “Joy to the World” and a twangy “Silent Night,” will be released Nov. 18.
But Ballew’s music isn’t just for children. In large part the songs are for the parents, too, he says.
“If I had my way, I’d call it parents’ music,” he says, noting that he often thinks of a family trapped in a car, everyone miserable, in need of some good entertainment.
Recess Monkey, another prominent kids-music band in town, whose members met as teachers at the independent University Child Development School, also say their music is aimed at the whole family.
“We were teachers full-time, working in the classroom,” says Recess Monkey bassist Jack Forman, “and most of the music for kids we heard wasn’t resonating with us.”
Since forming 10 years ago, Recess Monkey has played more than 1,000 shows, including Chicago’s Lollapalooza and, locally, Timber! Summer Fest, which regularly hosts a kids stage. The band has also put out 13 albums, most recently, “Novelties,” on Amazon Music, a cornucopia of sounds, high-pitched harmonies and visions of robots and kittens.
“To us, what’s most important is that we capture the kind of energy that we feel while we’re teaching,” says Forman. “It’s a very reciprocal — very joyful and responsive to the kids.”
Another veteran of the Timber! kids stage, songwriter Eli Rosenblatt, began his career in the Seattle salsa bands Picoso and Si Limon. But, five years ago, he needed a change.
“I had an early midlife crisis,” he laughs, “and so I quit the band I started. I was working at a preschool at the time and so I just started writing songs for kids.”
Rosenblatt, who has released two kids’ music EPs under his own name, says the shows he plays now are “more nurturing” and more of a “community experience” than the sweaty dance clubs he once played. One of Rosenblatt’s standout tracks is the Latin-inspired “Monkey Monkey,” a song about moving freely throughout the world.
“If I sing a line, ‘The sun shines its light on everyone,’ I will ask the kids, ‘What are your thoughts on the sun?’ ” he says. “And then all these little kids share their ideas and thoughts — it’s profound and absurd stuff.”