Play Date

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You might know Gregory Attonito from a little band called The Bouncing Souls, a widely-acclaimed punk group that achieved international acclaim in the ’90s alongside artists like Anti-Flag. What you might not know is that Attonito and his wife Shanti Wintergate formed a band of their own called Play Date back in 2012, shortly after publishing a children’s book “I Went for a Walk.” As musicians they performed at their book readings and, after receiving great feedback from parents, they knew what their next project was.

BTRtoday sets out to discover how one goes from punk to kindie, from mosh pit to circle dance, from all-nighters to bedtime meditation.

BTRtoday (BTR): Hey Greg, tell me how you started off in the music scene.

Greg Attonito (GA): Well I started making music with my high school buddy. We started as a cover band at first and we played U2 songs and Ramones songs. That’s what started my first musical inspiration, and it evolved into a punk-rock band, The Bouncing Souls. And in 25 years we turned into an international touring band, and along the way I met my wife, Shanti, who is also a musician and has done a lot of her own solo-work. And then we started our band for kids, Play Date.

Courtesy of Santo Rizzolo at The Stone Pony Holiday Show.

BTR: How did you go from punk to children’s music?

GA: As funny as it seems that it would be a long distance apart, it’s actually not. Essentially, it’s music for people. It’s interesting how we got there: Shanti and I created a book for kids, she had written the story and asked me if I wanted to illustrate it. After publishing we started doing book readings and we would play music at them, because we’re musicians first. We really enjoyed it and got so much great feedback that Shanti wrote a few more songs and they evolved and we just eventually made a record. It’s been a rewarding musical journey; every step of the way has been great.

BTR: What inspires you?

GA: Making music always comes from the same place–having something to say or something to express. It’s about having a musical experience that the parents can share with their kids. First we were like, “There is so much corny kids’ music out there, we don’t want to be that, so let’s make music that we enjoy and we want to play.”

The energy is very specific, very positive, simplistic in the way how it’s easily absorbed, but has a great musical quality to it that isn’t simple. It has a lot of depth and it reaches the spirits of the kids. And what’s great about kids is they’re so receptive, so if you put that positive energy, they will feel it instantly, and that’s one thing I’ve really enjoyed experiencing while doing this project.

It’s important to mention that another big inspiration—we’re kind of professional aunts and uncles—we made music at my nephew’s class many years ago. He was in fourth grade and now he’s 20 years old. So that was probably one of the first incarnations of us playing for kids, the first time we did it and we walked away thinking “this is great, that was a lot of fun.”

Courtesy of David T Kindler.

BTR: How does having a show for adults differ from a kid’s show?

GA: It’s not a whole lot different, it’s louder, a little more aggressive, it’s a rock-band. Essentially, some parents that come are fans of the Bouncing Souls and they come and get so much out of it, they have so much fun, because they love the rock-band. So it’s like a special treat, “I’m gonna bring my three-year-old and share this thing I really love,” which sort of introduces them to the experience of live music.

And it’s so cool seeing the little kids come to their first show. And we’ll ask them “have you ever been to a rock-n-roll show?” and most of them will answer no, and a couple will say “yeah!” We present it that way; we tell them, “there’s only a few things you need to do at a rock-n-roll show: have fun and remember that everyone is your friend.” We encourage them to dance as well, most of the times though, they’ll get up and just start moving. All of that makes an organic experience without a lot of structure.

BTR: Tell me about the “Ninja Dream Training,” the bedtime meditation album, how did that come around?

GA: At one point people were requesting it. “It would be great to have something that would help the kids go to sleep,” because some parents were putting on our mellower tunes for kids to before bedtime.

Shanti took it to the next level and proposed to make a bedtime meditation, exactly for that purpose. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a kid or an adult—our brains need the same thing to fall asleep. It was a totally interesting, creative project too, using different instruments and putting together the timing and thinking about what we were going to say.

And it was rewarding getting responses, like, “wow, this is great!” And it was a way to help the parents get their kids to go to bed.

Artwork courtesy of the band.

BTR: What do you want the kids to take away from your music?

GA: I think it’s a really deep thing for us that the children learn to be aware of their potential, to expand their creativity, to inspire them to make their own music and create things on their own. A lot of kids, especially now, are not exposed to those kind of things.

So a live performance—and we’ve seen it—can really open up the kids to a new energy and they can start to see themselves in a different way and start thinking in a different way. It’s all about having fun and the joy of creativity.

It’s about self-expression, putting feelings into words.

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