College professors by day, rockers by night, best friends and bandmates Louis & Dan and the Invisible Band are coming in hot with their new album Smörgåsbord. It dropped earlier this month, and as the title would suggest, this album for all ages combines tons of different musical influences and spans subjects from how to save for college, to an ode to the musical city of Minneapolis, all the way to a defense of our nation’s other favorite bird, the turkey!
These aren’t your average songs for kids, either. When they say “all ages” they really mean it! Should you doubt, all you have to do is check out their hip-hop and rap-inspired track about financial literacy, Mind Your Money.
It won’t take more than 5 seconds for you to find your head bobbing along to the beat while you smile thinking about sharing the song with your kiddos. A song that is as catchy as it is actually good that also teaches a valuable lesson about managing your money responsibly? Yes, please!
We were lucky enough to get to ask the duo some questions about their music, working together, the freedom that comes with making music for families, and of course, what inspired their passion for turkeys.
What are the biggest challenges that come with making music with your best friend?
Dan: It has always been smooth with us. If anything, it’s gotten smoother over time. Initially, I think we were slightly feeling each other out. And I was definitely bossier. But in addition to coming to totally trust each other — we tend to trust each other’s ideas, but we also trust the other person when then say, “No, I don’t think so” — we’re starting to write and arrange more like each other. On the first record, I could go “Oh that’s my song. And that’s Louis’ song. And that’s my arranging idea. And that’s Louis’ arranging idea.” But on this last one — with a few exceptions — it’s a lot more “I have no idea who came up with that.”
Louis: I agree with everything Dan just said. (But only because he made me.) It’s true that we’ve worked pretty hard to develop an artistic process that doesn’t privilege any one person’s ideas over the other’s. One of the things I’ve realized is that if we disagree about something, it doesn’t mean that one of us is necessarily wrong; usually that’s a sign that something about a particular song or a particular line could just be better. And if we’re patient and we trust each other, as Dan said, then usually we find our way to that better version. It’s really an ideal way to make music.
As a musical nerd, it’s clear you guys take a lot of inspiration from the world of music. When you were a kid who did you listen to with your families?
Dan: My parents didn’t listen to a lot of music, but my three olders sisters did and I more or less just followed their lead: Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Pearl Jam, and The Police come to mind. Having said that, I did grow up with Raffi and Sharon, Lois and Bram, Canadian family-music icons. I have very very fond memories of seeing Sharon, Lois and Bram in concert in Toronto when I was a kid.
Louis: It must be nice to have older siblings to guide your listening. I was captive to my parents’ tastes, and it took me a really long time to figure out there was anything else out there. We listened to Broadway almost nonstop – I can still sing long stretches of Fiddler on the Roof, The Music Man, and Les Miserables. My dad loved Motown and other “oldies” – the compilation soundtrack to The Big Chill stands out as a touchstone of my childhood. And then we listened to a lot of classical music, especially recordings of symphony orchestras and solo piano works. But the greatest gift my parents ever gave me musically was introducing me to The Beatles, and supporting my Beatles habit by helping me acquire all of their albums by the time I was around 14. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
Not many folks speak out on behalf of our friend, the turkey — what inspired ‘I’m a Turkey’?
Turkeys are just amazing to behold. I mean: they are really, really funny looking. The immediate inspiration for the song, though, came from learning the turkey call that figures centrally in the song from our friend Dan Hernandez. I remember laughing very very hard the first time he did the call. And then it just became obvious we should build a whole song around it. That sound never gets old. I’ve watched this video like a million times
Louis: What can we say? We’re champions of all kinds of underdogs, and turkeys are woefully underrated.
What’s your favorite thing about making music for kids and families?
Dan: I love being unconstrained by genre. We can do a jazz tune and then a folk tune and then an indie-rock tune. That is so much fun. We also really, really relish writing a set of lyrics that build up to a moment where you know kids (and their parents) are really going to find something funny or touching.
Louis: I love the freedom to be as silly as I am in real life. Ask my kids or any of my students: the songs are an authentic representation of the kinds of bedtime stories I tell, the groan-worthy puns I make in class, the goofiness and dry humor I bring to daily conversations. And Dan might not like to admit it, but he’s a pretty silly guy, too. It’s great to have an outlet where we can be silly together, and hopefully bring a little whimsy to the lives of the people who hear our songs.
You can get your mitts on Smörgåsbord
immediately since it’s streaming now. Find Louis & Dan and the Invisible Band on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, and most other places
where you go to find music for you and your family.