When singer-songwriter Alison Faith Levy performs, her audience's receptiveness is quite obvious.
tells The Daily News, "When I see a huge crowd all crawling around on
the ground like zoo animals, that thrills me to no end."
5-and-under set, Levy is a superstar. "If they're having fun, jumping
around, laughing, dancing and being silly, then I know I'm doing my
job," Levy says, laughing.
Levy became well known for her role in
the immensely popular kids music band, The Sippy Cups. Now she has her
own delightful album, "World of Wonder."
Levy will be performing
these vibrant songs on Saturday and on dates in July with her new band,
Big Time Tot Rock. The group includes Sunnyvale guitarist/producer Allen
Clapp (The Orange Peels), drummer Andrew Griffin (Felsen), ukulele
player/backing vocalist Karla Kane and bassist Khoi Huynh (both of
Redwood City's The Corner Laughers).
"When I met all these guys,
it just clicked," says Levy, who is based in San Francisco. "They fit in
really well musically and personality-wise with what I was doing. So it
"World of Wonder" presents a delightful
variety of musical styles, including glam, garage, gospel, wall of sound
and Brill Building.
"I just went into the studio and played
Allen some very spare sketches or demos of what I wanted, and as we
would talk through them, the ideas would start to come to me about the
influences that would shape the sound,
production-wise. A lot of it wound up being things that influenced me as
a child, like Carole King or, on 'Itsy Bitsy Spider,' the Phil Spector
sound. On one song, 'Detours,' I went for an Elton John vibe. So it was
picking back through the '60s and '70s a little bit. But then, 'World of
Wonder,' that song, I wanted to do something really modern, where it
had interesting textures, more of a Flaming Lips or Bjork kind of vibe.
I'd never really done that. Neither had Allen. So we had fun figuring
out how to create an epic sound, sort of Pink Floyd, but modern."
husband, filmmaker Danny Plotnick, created a wondrously imaginative
animated video for the title track. You can view it on YouTube, at http://tinyurl.com/levywonder.
12-year-old son, Henry Plotnick, plays drums and sings on a couple of
the album's songs. Levy says, "He has his own amazing thing he does --
keyboard, synthesizer, looping, creating his own kind of ambient,
electronic music. He actually has a record, called 'Fields,' coming out
now on Holy Mountain Records, which is based in Portland.
has, from a really young age, been attracted to minimalism and
experimental music. He started out liking Kraftwerk and then really got
into Philip Glass and Steve Reich. He's just on his own musical plane."
grew up listening to her dad's rock record collection. They lived in
New York until she was 7, then moved to the Bay Area, residing in
In college, in New York, Levy formed indie bands. "When I
moved back out here, I started a band that fizzled. I put out a couple
of solo records. I would up joining The Loud Family (an indie pop-rock
band). I did that for two albums and two tours with them, which was an
incredible experience. I was a huge fan of Scott's (singer/guitarist
Scott Miller, who died in April) from college all the way through. When
we got back from our second tour, I was pregnant with Henry.
decided to take some time off, wasn't sure what I was going to do next.
Then I met Paul (Godwin). When Henry was 2, we started taking toddler
music classes and Paul was our teacher. And he was like, 'I really want
to start, like, a psychedelic rock band for kids with, like, Syd Barrett
songs and Beatle songs.' And I said, 'That sounds great! I'm in.'"
Thus was born The Sippy Cups.
exploded, and we wound up touring the country over and over, played,
like, Lollapalooza. It was nuts. We had this enormous kids show with
aerialists and giant balloons. We made a few albums and a DVD. It was
"But we all had
really young kids and none of us had expected it to blow up like it did.
After the third album, we just said, 'We need to tone down touring so
much, so we can be home with our families.' And it just kind of fizzled.
We all went off and started doing other things."
Levy started an
Americana duo, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, with longtime friend Victor
Krummenacher (Camper Van Beethoven). Then it was back to children's
"I love being around kids. I especially love performing for
the 5-and-unders. I get them and they get me. We have fun together. I
find it easy to communicate with them. Two and 3-year-olds, I can't get
enough of them. They crack me up. And they inspire me so much. I like
being able to catch them when their imagination is still so fresh and
they're willing to try anything and be really silly. I'm truly grateful
that I'm able to do this for a living now."
She enjoys singing
about science and nature from a child's perspective. "I don't try too
much to teach with the songs. I like the songs to just be fun and have
the kids learn about music from that, rather than, 'Here's a song about
brushing your teeth.' That's not my thing. My thing is, 'Let's sing a
song about how the ocean goes on forever.' I try to get their minds kind
of tripping out a little bit on things."
Parents and teachers
enjoy Levy's musical trip, as well. "The songwriting is just
sophisticated enough that the adults can appreciate it. When kids have a
CD, they want to listen to it like 5,000 times in a row. So, if the
parents don't like it, you're in trouble,' Levy says with a laugh.
music is Levy's focus for now. "I definitely miss doing grown-up music a
little bit, but the nice thing about doing kid music is, the audience
is always excited to see you. And you get paid. When you do grown-up
music, neither of those things are guaranteed."
A new McCabe and
Mrs. Miller CD is due soon, an acoustic version of Bruce Springsteen's
classic "Nebraska" album. Springsteen's people have given their
blessing. A Big Time Tot Rock album is on the horizon, too.
is adapting "World of Wonder" into a children's stage production. "My
ultimate goal as an artist has always been to write the great American
She teaches tot music classes in San Francisco and at the Peninsula JCC's preschool. Music offers children myriad benefits.
"There are so many studies about how it helps their brain development, learning capacity and ability for complex concepts.
a 2- or 3-year-old is learning music, they're actually learning
pre-math concepts, like pattern recognition, that will help them later,
when they learn math. Everything you can do to help put those pathways
in place in their brains is a good thing. And music is huge for that, in
a lot of ways. Also self-expression, creativity and imagination, as
well as the more academic concepts."