Tender Loving Empire's newest Portland band stars a 9 year old
What do you do when you're a musician with young children and the word pandemic has reentered the public lexicon? Make music with them, of course.
Jared Mees, co-founder of the Tender Loving Empire record label and retail shops around Portland of the same name, did just that last year.
Mees, 41, started collaborating with his two daughters, July, 9, and Piper, 5, to churn out songs.
The result? A band dubbed Triple Rainbow, making inspired, catchy children's music that blends acoustic, folk, indie rock, pop and dance beats. Together, the family tapped in to its collective creative well, producing music to respond to everything from the mundane to the magical moments of everyday life. The band's forthcoming album, "You Are Magic" is set to be released January 22, 2022.
Triple Rainbow's first single, "Why Can't Every Day Be Halloween?" was released in early October.
"You Are Magic" marks the first official project from the Mees trio, but the family has been riffing and jamming together for years.
"Our first song we wrote when I was five. Piper wasn't born yet," said July during a recent interview from the family's Bridlemile home. The Bridlemile Elementary School fourth-grader has dabbled in music for years. She's tried her hand at different instruments and has no problem commanding the microphone, but it turns out she also has a knack for songwriting.
"I've been playing music since I was her age, and we'd sing lots of songs at bedtime," Mees said. "She got really good at remembering all the lyrics."
July learned the Bright Eyes song, "Bowl of Oranges," which impressed her dad.
"She had a good memory and was able to hit the annunciation of lyrics really well," Mees said. "The goal was just, can we make some songs? Can my 8-year-old sing?"
Drawing on his daughters' creativity and curiosity, combined with a penchant for visual art, the three have created more than just a band. They found an outlet and a way to shine a light through the darkness that permeated much of 2020 and 2021, while stretching the imagination,
"It was definitely an escape from the insanity of Portland 2020 summer of wildness," Mees said. "We were just making positive, beautiful music, and (July) would tell me if a song wasn't working or if something wasn't happening."
He calls the resulting sound something akin to "Green Day meets Dr. Seuss."
"We really focus on concrete imagery and visualization of the songs," Mees said. "Kind of like Shel Silverstein."
Bright, pop art dominates the group's aesthetic, bringing life to lighthearted tracks that are as uplifting as they are playful and sentimental.
"You Are Magic," the album's title track, channels The Flaming Lips for a lush, yet tender opener. "Slime" takes listeners on a journey about Piper and July's attempt at making homemade slime. "I'm making slime out of Borax and glitter and glue. And if I do it right it won't even hardly stick to you."
The timing couldn't be better.
The album's release comes as mental health, particularly among children, has taken a notable decline amid a pandemic that cut off socialization, traditional learning environments and extra-curricular activities for kids across the nation.
With a goal to make something palatable for his friends with kids, Mees tested his eldest daughter's musical inclinations, while teaming up with his network of musicians to record the tracks. The album leans heavily on July for lyrics and vocals. Piper is credited with "slime and robot noises."
Portland-based musicians Andrew Yeghazarian and Jake Hershman helped make the record, along with Matthew Sweeney of Seattle.
"A lot of the songs are just riding the wave of children's energy," Mees said, noting the album is a reminder: "children are magic and you are magic, and remembering you have magic in you."
You can view the video for the band's latest single, "You Are Magic," here.
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