CBB Exclusive: Shaking It Up with Milkshake

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If you think Milkshake is your average kids’ band, think again. Featured on Noggin’s Jack’s Big Music Show, PBS KIDS and Discovery Kids’ ToddWorld, Milkshake is creating super cool music for kids (and parents!) to rock out to. CBB traveled to Baltimore, MD for an exclusive interview with Mikel Gehl and Lisa Mathews, leaders of Milkshake, along with fellow band members Tom Moon, Michael “Shepp” Sheppard, Brian Simms and Cord Neal. Very rowdy at times, never boring, the guys (and gal) of Milkshake are truly just a bunch of kids at heart.

Photography: Gabbeli Photography (www.gabbeliphotography.com)
Hair & Makeup: Douglas Martucci

Click below for the photos and interview.

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How did Milkshake come to be?

Mikel: Lisa and I met almost 20 years ago. I ran an ad in the ‘Village Voice‘ looking for a singer for my band, Love Riot. It was 80’s New Wave glam rock. [Pictured below.]

Lisa:  I lived in an apartment in the Village, had purple hair, but I loved the music and lyrics that Mikel was creating. He talked me into moving to Baltimore, which is where we live today with our families.

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How did Love Riot become Milkshake?

Lisa: I was always a singer/songwriter, and as such, you’re always changing styles. We never wanted a style of music to limit us. As Love Riot, we were doing great. We were booked months ahead, touring the country, opening up for acts like Sarah McLachlan and 10,000 Maniacs.

Mikel: Then, one day when we were driving on the NJ Turnpike, Lisa turned to me and said, “Mikel, guess what? I’m pregnant and the doctor thinks it’s best for me to stop performing right now!”

Lisa: Music is a constant evolution and since I had a baby, I began creating songs for my daughter, Jesse. And Mikel started his own family, too. Milkshake is a result of where we were at a particular point in our lives.

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When did the other band members come into play?

Lisa: I wanted to do a rock band for kids, and for that, we needed a full band. At the time, there wasn’t a lot of rock music for kids. I knew it would be a success.

Cord: Anything Lisa does is a crusade, and we all followed her!

Mikel: The first two albums were just Lisa and I, and we’d call our friends in to help us. But with the third album, along came Cord, Shepp, Brian and Tom. And we told them to not dilute their personality, to be exactly who they are. Of course, we can’t play quite as loud, for practicality, and some language is inappropriate.

Tom: That’s why they didn’t give me a mic for the first 2 years!

Brian: My contingency for joining the band was that we got a bigger dressing room than the Muppets!

Lisa: We told the new band members that it wasn’t part of the job description to love kids, but they do.

Shepp: We’ll stay an hour after the shows to sign autographs.

Brian: A lot of the parents like that we’re a real band, and after the show when we’re cleaning up, they’ll bring their kids up and show them our instruments.

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Do you think Milkshake will always create music for kids?

Lisa: It’s interesting because with each CD, we see our audience getting older. Yes, we have toddlers at our shows, but we also have ‘tweens, too. I recently had a 10 year-old girl write a letter to me, asking us to write songs about certain topics that were important to her.

Mikel: As our own kids are growing up, we get to see our musical audience grow. 

Brian: I’m “child-free”, but I have to say, spending time with these guys, I so dig watching those children’s faces when we play. If I were that age and my parents took me to see a rock band catered to me, I would have been so happy.

Shepp: We see young girls there wearing tutus like Lisa’s. Parents and kids sing along. It’s amazing.

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Since all of you come from “adult” music, how was the transition to playing kids music?

Shepp: It wasn’t so much that it was a “kids” band; it was about the music and the songs.

Cord: In the beginning, I didn’t know how to act onstage, and I felt uncomfortable. Lisa said, “Do what you always do, honey!” So I just played the same way that I play in all my other bands.

Tom: I wouldn’t want to be involved in something that wasn’t good and I didn’t believe in. This is quality stuff.

Mikel: We do 100 shows a year. We create a musical world that we love; obviously, it has to be true to ourselves. We hope that it’s inspiring to the kids as well as the parents and that they love it just as much as we do.

How do you balance touring with parenting?

Lisa: Sometimes we take the kids with us. I think they get a kick out of what we do. When I go to Jesse’s school, I think she has a sense of pride now.

Cord: In five years from now she’ll be calling you a geek!

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What do you have going on now?

Mikel: We’re working on songs for the new album, which will have a Fall ’08 release date.

Lisa: Another cool project is that we’re creating a comic book that portrays each of us as a superhero with powers that relate to us in real life. My talent is that I can sing. Brian likes stinky cheese, Cord likes to chew gum, Shepp is a 300 bowler, and Mikel’s talent is that he’s great at baseball and can predict the weather. Tom has his hat full of his two dogs, like Thing 1 and Thing 2.
The comic book will be available for purchase in the spring through our website.  And we’ll also release our first DVD around the same time.

Mikel: At the end of the day, we just want to keep making music that’s viable. I want to inspire all kids to play their own music and just have fun.

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For more information on Milkshake, go to www.milkshakemusic.com

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