Saskatoon StarPhoenix – June 4, 2012
BY STEPHANIE MCKAY, THE STARPHOENIX
The members of the Monkey Bunch never expected to be performing rock concerts for toddlers.
The four performers who make up the kid-friendly musical act became accidental children’s entertainers after creating a special and unconventional Christmas present for their nieces and nephews.
“One year we didn’t have a Christmas gift for them and we recorded a quick little thing of three songs and sent it off,” said the group’s frontwoman Shoshana Sperling. “All of a sudden everyone wanted one.”
The group decided to record a CD, thinking they’d sell a few and then forget about it. But the momentum kept growing and then requests for live shows started to pour in.
Even though she never pictured herself performing regularly for children, Sperling said the experience is amazing.
“Because I did comedy for a long time it’s very different. Children are a much more honest crowd than adults ever are, so that’s really fun. Grownups will be rude and yell stuff at a comedy club but kids will just fall asleep or they’ll say ‘Why are you doing that?’ ” she said. “You could have told me I’d be doing this 10 years ago and I’d be like ‘no way.’ ”
To date, the band has two full-length albums. Their latest, Power to the Little People, features cameos by Danny Michel and Adam Gontier from Three Days Grace.
Children probably won’t be impressed by the guest appearances, but the Monkey Bunch is all about getting the parents in on the fun, too. Though the band has a collection of original songs, it also plays cover tunes ranging from Prince to The Beatles and The Who.
“We give it to kids and let them decide if it’s kids’ music, and it is. Kids are really just people but shorter,” said Sperling.
The members of the Monkey Bunch originally met in high school; three of four grew up in Saskatchewan. Bass player Maury LaFoy and guitarist Graham Powell were in a Regina band called Fall Down Go Boom. The two musicians and Sperling eventually moved to Toronto to pursue different things. While the guys played music, she acted and performed comedy. Drummer Lyle Molzan completed the group when they decided to pursue children’s entertainment.
It’s not often you’ll find a kids’ group with such serious chops as the Monkey Bunch. All three men have performed with major Canadian touring artists including Jann Arden, Colin James, Kathleen Edwards, Sarah Harmer, k-os and Ron Sexsmith.
“They’ve played with all the really big musicians in Canada so they bring a musicality to what we do that I think is really unique to children’s music,” said Sperling.
The five-foot woman, who has studied clown and theatre, brings something very different to the group.
“What I’m doing is really goofy and really silly and a whole bunch of characters,” she said. “I think it’s a really nice mixture. We can give kids real music and real comedy and not talk down to them.” The Monkey Bunch also has a nice mixture of songs. The band hopes to empower children with messages about confidence and environmentalism, but there are plenty of purely silly tunes, too. One song in particular, Poopie Diaper, gets a big response from kids.
“There are some people who will say you shouldn’t talk about poop, but I say why has it taken so long to talk about it,” said Sperling.
Sperling describes the band’s live show as a rock concert with lots of audience participation. The Ontario group is travelling to children’s festivals across Western Canada, with Sperling’s own little monkey, her fiveyear-old son, in tow.
Even though she didn’t envision touring children’s festivals, the happy accident is something Sperling simply loves to do.
“You have to love what you do or don’t bother doing it … unless you really need that job,” she said. “We want to make sure that what we’re doing isn’t saccharine sweet or annoying. I want to make music that I like to play and I want to do comedy that I like.”
THE MONKEY BUNCH
Today 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Tuesday 11: 15 a.m. and 2: 15 p.m.
Wednesday 10 a.m. and 1: 15 p.m.
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