Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at OttawaMagazine.com. Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani
Three years ago, singer-songwriter Sherwood Lumsden rounded up the dads in his Preston Street neighbourhood to form a band. He knew Matt Young and Geoff Paisley for years before that — but he never knew their vocal talents until they started writing songs for their kids as the band Hey Buster.
Between the three dads — plus newest recruit Tom Stewart (Furnaceface, Slo’ Tom) — the band members have nine kids from the ages of two to 9. They write tunes for little ones without the preachy educational elements common to kids’ music. Their style hits somewhere between Junkyard Symphony and Robert Munsch with lyrics about family life that are observational and funny. Hey Buster’s first album called Bing Bang Bong was released in 2010 and includes songs about poo, pee, pink eye, and getting lice.
The song “Lice Twice” is about an experience familiar to parents of grade-schoolers. It rhymes hats with gnats. The chorus of “Pee Dance” describes the contorted moves kids make when they clearly have to go. “Oh no, I don’t have to go. No siree, I don’t have to pee!” goes the chorus.
“We’re getting away from poo and pee on this second album,” Lumsden says. That album, called Yeti Likes Spaghetti, will be released at the band’s afternoon show on Mother’s Day. The album focuses a lot on routines and everything that gets in the way of those routines. “Without a Hat” is about leaving the house improperly attired, “Monkey Breath” is about getting out of bed, while “Go to Sleep” is a gentle pleading.
The vocalists are almost placid in their acceptance of the bumps of family life. There is no Go the Fuck to Sleep -like exasperation in these tunes, but that’s not to say that they lack energy. There is the same kind of revving excitement one sees in hyperactive toddlers in the driving rockabilly rhythms that make the songs fun for kids and a laugh for the hipster parents who would congregate at the band’s Elmdale Tavern shows. Hey Buster played there regularly when it was still a venue for live music.
It was a popular gig. “Sellout crowds, I’ve never had that in my life,” Lumsden laughs. He was a singer-songwriter active around Ottawa in the ‘90s. These days he renovates part-time and teaches songwriting at schools. Young is a Grade 2 teacher and also leads the Hey Buster dance numbers for kids in the audience. This summer the band will play a number of community events and a CHEO fundraiser.
Hey Buster’s CD release show on Sunday at the Westboro Legion will feature guest musicians Michael Ball, Al Bragg, Dave Draves, and Dave Kerr. 3 p.m. $7.50. Kids under two are admitted for free.