How did you come up with the name Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals?
I don't know -- people ask me that all the time and I can't remember! I know I wanted to come from out of left field a little bit. I was looking at the names of other music programs and they were all so straightforward, like Let's Sing or Music Together. You got it immediately. I thought Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals would be a curiosity -- which would be an advantage. I thought people would wonder what it was and then look into it. But the name also had its downside at first. There were people who asked, "Music for art? What? Music for artwork? Art projects?" Now everyone knows what it is!
How did the Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals music classes start?
When I first had children, I took my son Ezra to a music class. It was one of those big national programs. And I just thought that the centerpiece of the class, the music itself, was so lame and dated -- like it was sung by mezzo-sopranos, and it was just really icky. And I thought, I want to write about subways and taxis and skyscrapers and bagels. So I went home and started doing that. And it really hit a nerve with parents.
A lot of your music focuses on the urban experience.
The only time I ever wrote a song about a farm animal, it was about a bunny. But the bunny ends up in jail!
And from the classes the band Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals grew?
Yes. I started doing the music for these classes for my own kids. I had no intention of making a career of it. I was bartending and I was also assigned to a label -- playing the very opposite of kids' music! The music got pretty popular around the East Village [of New York City] and I started getting all this press.