The Decemberists’ Chris Funk On Raising A Girl With Eclectic Musical Tastes
Family Albums, produced with our partners at Spotify, features influential musicians revealing the songs that they rely on to get their own kids dancing, sleeping, and as fired up about music as they are.
The Decemberists are a folk rock band that call back sounds of bygone eras with an impressive collection of sounds, and Chris Funk is responsible for a whole bunch of them. When he’s not busy laying down tracks on his pedal steel guitar, piano, violin, dobro, hurdy-gurdy, mandolin, saxophone, or theremin, he’s trying — and failing — to get his 9-year-old daughter, Scout, into Kiss.
On The First Music She Really Responded To
We used to listen to a lot of Joanna Newsome and Lavender Diamond, which is my friend Becky Stark. They both have this fairy queen feeling to them, which Scout identified with — there’s a sense innocence that made sense at the time. She got to know Becky on a tour; at the time we were playing this record, Hazards Of Love which is a rock opera. The part Becky played, she wasn’t a fairy exactly, but her character lends itself to a child looking at her like a princess. With Joanna, she has a high, unusual voice and she plays a concert harp, which evokes this quality that the layman might think of as fairy-like.
On What He Has Against Kids’ Music
I was never into traditional kids’ music; it drives me nuts. You don’t have to placate them and sing about a little red wagon. Children are open to hearing adult music and to hearing what you listened to. And I don’t just mean, “You like ‘Yellow Submarine,’ so let’s explore the Beatles.” Why not Diver Down, by Van Halen — something that’s awesome?
On Why He Doesn’t Worry About Her Encountering “Adult” Themes Through Music
We watched Grease, the movie, the other night and, oh my god, there are so many subjects … it’s a Broadway musical for adults. But I had this fond memory of it and probably hadn’t seen it since I was her age. But the stuff about teenage pregnancy, it just blows over their heads and they focus on the music and the costumes. It’s a child’s innocence, if you don’t explain it, then they don’t know the meaning to those songs and they just enjoy the music.
“I don’t just mean, ‘You like ‘Yellow Submarine,’ so let’s explore the Beatles.’ Why not Diver Down, by Van Halen — something that’s awesome?”
On Her Favorite Decemberists Song
She has a record player in her room and, unfortunately, she puts on my records a lot, so I wake up to my own music, which you think would be flattering, but it’s not. Her favorite song, “The Rake’s Song,” is about infanticide. That’s what I’m saying — they don’t understand what’s happening. Her and her friends made a stop motion video for the song with Playmobile characters.
On Why He Bought Her A Record Player
We got her the record player for Christmas — not for audiophile reasons. Vinyl is inexpensive and tactical and fun. You can pop it on and play records, instead of flipping through an iPod. She’ll have plenty of time to do that, too.
On What She Has On Heavy Rotation
She’s into this garage rock compilation that I bought for her, [which includes] “Ain’t Gonna Eat My Heart Out” by The Puppets and “I Get The Message,” by The Interpreters. She also really likes a Sallie Ford song called “Coulda Been.” She’s really into First Aid Kit, they’re a duo, sisters from Sweden or Norway or somewhere like that. There’s another duo of siders who are from England called the Smoke Fairies, she’s really into that.
“My parents, I guess I didn’t like the style of music they liked — Liberace or Lawrence Welk. I guess Kiss is like Liberace.”
On Why Failed Fiddle Lessons Didn’t Really Fail
I was hoping they would stick, but they didn’t. I listen to a lot of bluegrass, and there’s an early-morning bluegrass show on our local NPR station that I listen to every Saturday, and the other day she requested “Saturday music.” When music is always around, it seeps in. Some kids, it’s right away, some kids it takes a while. So you sprinkle it around them and they’ll jump on it eventually. She likes the traditional stuff, Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe. I have a band, Black Prairie, that’s founded in Americana music. She likes the album Wild Ones.
On Trying To Get Her Into The Music He Liked As A Kid
I was excited to play her Kiss, and she was not into that. I was shocked, because they wear makeup and breath fire. And I listened to a lot of Queen as a kid. Her teacher played some Queen in her classroom, so when I played it she rolled her eyes. She likes “Bohemian Rhapsody” though. My parents, I guess I didn’t like the style of music they liked — Liberace or Lawrence Welk. I guess Kiss is like Liberace.
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