Checking In With Care Bears On Fire. . . Or At Least the Drummer's Mom
photo by Kaysh Shinn; Izzy is the one with the drumsticks.
Kid-band Care Bears on Fire got adult-famous last summer when New York Magazine profiled them (and two of their mothers) for a kind of post-Grupian trend piece about how some would-be soccer moms were becoming rocker moms. (Or something like that.) Then three months later, the trio of drummer/singer Isadora “Izzy” Schappell-Spillman, guitarist/singer Sophie Kasakove, and bassist/singer Lucio Westmoreland got even more adult-famous when the New York Times proffered them as an example of a larger burgeoning Brooklyn "kid-core" scene that included under-age peers like Too Busy Being Bored, Fiasco (a punk band whose bassist is Steve Buscemi's son Lucien), Tiny Masters of Today (a two-thirds preteen trio with the drummer from Jon Spencer Blues Explosion).
But all that ballyhoo was last November. Now it's April, two months away from the end of another school year — a decade in adult years. How've the Care Bears on Fire been handling all the attention?
Izzy's mom Elissa Schappell reports via e-mail (Q&A below) that the Slopian sixth-graders are all doing fine. Since last fall, the kids have written some new material, including a tune that reads like an all-ages riff on Missy Elliott's "One Minute Man" called "Five-Minute Boyfriend." In February, they had their Manhattan debut at Piano's on the Lower East Side. (A guitarist from the band who played after CBOF sent us an e-mail the week after the show grousing, "If you’re ever in a band, make sure you never have to go on after a trio of cute, totally rocking 11 year-olds.") And yesterday, CBOF began recording a follow-up to their first five-song EP Confuse Me at Williamsburg's Studio G with Joel Hamilton.
Tomorrow, Care Bears on Fire play two free shows. One at Brooklyn Bridge Park's "Spring Fling" at 12:30 pm and another after 5pm at the Brooklyn Museum. I have it on good authority that they will be cute and totally rocking.
Who decided it was time to make a new record?
Elissa Schappell: The new record has all the songs from Confuse Me and all the new songs they've written during this school year. The reason to do the new record was that there were all these new tunes—songs inspired by doing time in the sixth grade—"Five Minute Boyfriend," "I Met U on MySpace," "You Walk Away." And now the kids know some more baby animals so they had to re-record ["Baby Animals"]. Who doesn't want to scream: "Hoglet! Tadpole!"
Confuse Me is out of print. Did that sell out or did you all just scrap it to make something better?
ES: ["Confuse Me"] sold out completely. The last gig was a Purim party and it cleaned us out. That was sort of freaky.
Izzy's brother Miles (8) is the merch guy. He's bummed that all he's got to shill is buttons, he's chomping at the bit to have some new CDs to sell—we've also got some T-shirts in the works. Got to have something to keep the younger sibling busy at gigs other than scootering indoors.
Given that they're all very young and in school, how does the recording process go?
ES: The first CD was recorded over two afternoons in the basement of one of the producer's houses last summer. . . As with any rock band the preparation has mostly involved lots of practicing and ingesting large quantities of mood modifiers—in this case sour candy.
Also, I saw they had their Manhattan debut at Piano's in February. How'd that go?
ES: It was an evening show, and not advertised as "all ages" so when they walked in it was all grown ups. Someone joked when they heard that the kids were the band that they thought they were midgets.
As for the show it was amazing. The sound was phenom, and the crowd was huge—what was freaky was that save for about ten people the crowd was made
up of strangers. What was coolest was that there were kids there that we didn't know, and they sang along with the songs—especially "Don't Want To Be Like Everybody Else." That sort of blew the kids' minds.
Have any of the kids had to give any other activities up for the band yet?
ES: Not really. Izzy had to drop out of a Taiko drumming class, because with homework and the school play it was too much stuff, but otherwise they're hanging tight.
How has the press attention affected them?
ES: Nobody at school seems to really care that the kids are in a band. When they played their first gig at Two Boots—that was end of fourth grade—kids asked for their autographs and that freaked them out some. Izzy bailed and ran over to the playground to play on the jungle gym.
Now when people ask them to sign CDs or autographs they still seem sort of stunned (especially if they aren't kids), but I think on some level they're into it.
A few times people have stopped us on the street and said to Izzy, "Oh I saw you in The New York Times," or "Was that you in New York Magazine?" and she tries to be all sanguine, but she blushes. It's a big thing to be recognized for doing something you love to do. And when it's girls or women who drum that's huge.
Yes, you've got people calling up and wanting you to play this club or that—pose for these pictures, whatever—but in reality you you still can't be late to Hebrew school, still have to get your homework done on time, and understand nobody is going to say: "Oh you had a show last night. Don't worry about taking your Spanish test tomorrow!"
What's a bit hard is that while the kids are listening to the Pixies, going to see Sonic Youth and Dylan their peers are into Britney and Beyonce. It's like they're living in a bit of an alternate universe. They're buying their threads at Trash and Vaudeville not Abercrombie & Fitch. Isadora's looking up to Patti Smith, not Lindsay Lohan—you know, choose your poison.