When Bouncing Souls frontman Greg Attonito and his wife, Shanti Wintergate, performed at a bowling alley in Asbury Park, N.J.,to launch their debut record as Play Date, a female employee remarked that there really wasn’t much difference between a 4-year-old and a 30-year-old drunk guy. Attonito, who has no doubt performed for his fair share of drunks and, more recently, children, says she’s right. Punk-toddler crossover music is on the rise, due in large part to ska producer Mike Park’s Fun Fun Records, which features punk and ska veterans such as himself, Attonito and Jess Wagner of The Aggrolites performing music for munchkins. It’s an easy fit as punk has always been about unbridled expression and just having fun, something kids wholeheartedly embrace. Initially inspired to write for children after spending an afternoon with their nephew, Wintergate wrote a poem, “I Went For a Walk,” which she and Attonito later expanded into a book. The couple’s knack for entertaining kids naturally progressed into Play Date, which will perform at Zoey’s this weekend. Attonito took a few minutes during his travels to speak to VCReporter.
You guys are from New Jersey; how are your people back home doing?
Greg Attonito: Everyone is doing well. No major devastation, just dealing with no power. All our good friends and family haven’t had massive devastation.
You don’t have kids. What in the world inspired you to write for them?
We’re artists and musicians, so it happened kind of by accident. Shanti wrote a story which became our children’s book, and we have a nephew and we were invited to play music at his second grade class, and that’s the moment the idea was born, I think. Afterwards, we were, like, “That was fun, we could do this.” But when the book came out we went on a book tour . . . the teachers asked if we had a CD and we [realized] we really should. Finally, this year Mike from Asian Man Records started his kids’ label and that gave us the extra motivation, so we finished writing and recorded. We care about music and families and good music in the world, whether for kids or adults, so in that sense we are completely in the spirit of encouraging families to listen to music together, like The Muppet Show was when I was a kid. So with that spirit in mind is what we’re about and what the music’s about and we’re going to keep having fun with it. The world needs it right now more than ever — expressing ourselves through music and art and teaching kids how to express.
How do kids compare to adults as an audience?
They’re awesome! In one sense the uninhibitedness is cool. If you lose their attention they are gone, they’re off. That’s the biggest difference. It’s been a good challenge as an entertainer and performer to figure out how to interact with them and keep their attention. And that’s fun — we’re getting better at it.
It must be somewhat liberating to write playful music. Does it enhance your creativity overall?
It really is! We discovered that in an awesome way. Songwriting can be self-indulgent and I think this jumping out of that and into this world of it’s not about you — even if it’s about current issues, that can be burdensome too — it’s just letting go of all that, and its very liberating and the energy reflects that, too.
If Bouncing Souls fans wants to come see Play Date, will they feel out of place?
I don’t think so. In Boise and in Asbury Park we had a few show up some with kids. Some of the Bouncing Souls fans with kids were beside themselves that we’re doing it. It’s just getting together family-style and having a good day.
What if Play Date gets bigger than The Bouncing Souls?
That would be great because it would be great for the Bouncing Souls. That can’t be bad. Hopefully, we all get bigger and better.
What should audiences expect from your show at Zoey’s?
We are going to bring good music and get everyone together and have a good time. We have interactive drawing and some games like ring toss and bean bag toss and a face painter. It will be a good time and opportunity for anyone with kids to get out and listen to good music instead of doing the same old thing.
The Play Date Family Party will take place at Zoey’s on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. CDs, books and other items will be available for sale with 50 percent of sales allocated to purchasing supplies for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.