The Philadelphia-based group, Ants on a Log (Julie Be, Anya Rose, and newcomer Miles Crabtree) performs music for children and other childlike people, songfully advocating for positivity, social justice, and silliness.
I had the pleasure of working with Ants on a Log when they were curating music for their 2020 compilation album, Trans & Nonbinary Kids Mix. I was so excited to be a part of such an amazing initiative and I quickly fell in love with their music and messages. Their smart, inclusive lyrics are paired with fun melodies that spark important conversations and questions. They have created an authentic sound that incorporates unique grooves, unexpected changes, and kid-friendly stories.
Ants on a Log has dropped the first single from their upcoming album TODAY! Make it Myself is a fun, inspiring track that delivers all of the best qualities that we expect from the group. Check it out and make sure to give them a follow and a share. Trust me when I say that our musical worlds will all shine a little brighter when we include a little Ants on a Log.
It's release day today for your new album "Make it Myself"! What inspired this new project and who was involved?
“Make it Myself” feels like a happy middle between shiny-brand-new and good-old-times. Some songs like “King Midas” and “The EPA Song” have been audience favorites for years, and some songs have barely seen the stage. A few songs have already lived long fruitful lives and were remixed for the album. For example, “Had to Stand Up” has a companion anti-racist discussion guide, and “They’re My Best Friend” was first released on the Trans & Nonbinary Kids Mix.
In an effort to bring often-unheard voices into the music world, we have tried to prioritize hiring recording engineers and producers who identify as women, trans, nonbinary, and BIPOC. That intention led to a long journey which ended with my deep dive into studying recording and production. To make a long story medium, I ended up co-producing this album, under the generous mentorship of many teachers, including Jam Phelps (Denk Studios, Omni Sound Project) and Dean Jones (Grammy-winning kindie musician/producer, and the other co-producer on the album). I also learned from Lucy Kalantari (Grammy-winning kindie musician), and got involved with Omni Sound Project, which offers “affordable audio engineering classes presented by female-identifying and gender non-conforming teachers.”
My bandmate Anya Rose brought many of these songs to life by involving her elementary students in the recording process. Because our society does not encourage girls and women to use their voices/be loud/take up space, we consider teaching young girls to use a microphone confidence-building, life-changing work, and we are grateful for their voices on our album!
Fun fact: when we were recording, we hired Miles Crabtree to play drums on three songs. Now, almost a year later, we have welcomed Miles into the band as an official Ant on our official Log!
Your music tackles a wide variety of social justice themes like inclusion, consent, racism, feminism, and environmentalism. How does it feel to know that your music is making a positive impact and motivating change?
We like to think of our music as a soundtrack for social justice education and progressive parenting. As parents and educators move through the difficult process of modeling values for kids, we are proud that our music can support these efforts. Being a model for kids is hard work! We need media (music, movies, etc.) to do some of that labor. Plus it’s just more joyful to learn about these concepts in catchy songs rather than in more didactic or academic ways. If our music motivates kids to make change, that would be a beautiful outcome. If our music motivates adults to model change and involve children in that change, that would be a VERY beautiful outcome.
A RockMommy article recently described the new era of family music as “less about bath time, and more about social change.” We are proud to be a part of that movement!
When you write music do you end up recording and releasing every song? Or do you end up with a bunch of songs that didn't make the cut?
Funny you should ask because this album originally had 15 songs. I asked some trusted friends to attend a listening session and give feedback. After listening to the album in its entirety, several people in the group used words like “manic” and “unfocused” to describe one of the songs. Interestingly, I felt particularly connected to this song because I had worked hard on creating a beat for it in a sort of deep mathematical flow state. I just had to laugh at the group’s response, which was obviously a reflection of where my brain was at the time. Writing, recording, producing, and working on all the album logistics had led my brain into a scattered, ungrounded state of exhaustion, and here it was in a musical expression that made sense only to me. I removed the song from the album, but perhaps it will be released as a single in the future. I learned a lot about my brain during that listening group, and I am grateful I have friends who have stellar ears and who will give me honest feedback.
What is your favorite topic or theme to sing about?
We are often motivated to write when educators and parents tell us that our songs are useful for everyday life and skill-building. A few songs on this album model patience and offer concrete phrases and activities to increase frustration tolerance and mood regulation. “Waiting in Line” demonstrates spontaneous games kids can play while feeling impatient. “Cuddle” models asking consent and saying “no.” “They’re My Best Friend” shows how to use nonbinary pronouns through a quirky story about playful friends, without didactic lessons on gender. The title track “Make it Myself” encourages kids to think about what they can make themselves, and the music video (released date is March 3!) shows how to make some fun DIY items without having to buy into our overly-consumerist culture of disposable plastic. We love when adults tell us that our songs helped them find the language to introduce these concepts to kids.
It's almost "Make it Myself March"! What is happening next month and how can we get involved?
Today the first of three singles comes out. Get excited for the next two singles in the upcoming weeks! On March 31, the full album will be released. Stay tuned by following us– @antsonalogmusic – on social media and streaming platforms (and Bandcamp– a great place to support musicians!)
We are excited to bring our music into action by amplifying community spaces, organizations, and other collaborators doing important work. Here are some highlights:
On March 18 we are partnering with the Resource Exchange, a creative reuse/art space, for a one-of-a-kind event. Jeanette Bradley will be reading her book “Something Great,” which is about a nonbinary kid who invents creations in their maker space. Her book, our music, and the Resource Exchange all bring environmentalism, gender-justice, and creative problem solving to families.
In April, we’re going on tour for Earth Week! Our tour starts with 4 shows at the Brooklyn Children's Museum, and culminates with a multi-show run in Boston. Mélissa Smith (from Bee Parks and the Hornets) will be joining us– in addition to being a stellar musician, she is also the author of "Insects and Me, A to Z," a book full of insects and affirmations which will be featured in our Earth-themed concerts.
In June, we’ll be playing Pride Shows in Philadelphia and beyond! Check out all our events here, and get in touch if you’d like to bring an Ants show to your area.
What's the craziest, silliest, most ridiculous song you've ever written?
The answer to this question is the song that I wrote about above– the one that got cut from the album! The song is deceptively simple– the only lyrics are “I practice yoga in my yurt and I eat my frozen yogurt.” When we perform this song with audiences, is it a complex chaotic experience full of shenanigans! We act out the words, we sing a round, we stand on one foot, we sing harmonies, we jump rope, we stand on the other foot, we drum, we sing upside down, we sing with no sound. The larger the audience, the more it becomes a joyful cacophony!
Anya’s songs are very ridiculous (and brilliant!) so I asked her to comment on this question: “Most of my songs are silly. It’s just a question of which ones are worth sharing! Recently I was looking through an old “journal” of draft songs and I found a song I wrote to help me get through a shopping experience: “Running just as fast as I can, through this box store that I can’t stand.” In the background I sang a list of the things I was getting on that particular trip: “DVDs, scissors, sugar, lamp.” Then I ran through the store grabbing what I needed, while singing the song, and left as quickly as possible. After rediscovering those songs, I posted the drafts on my Soundcloud because I realized many of them are not half bad. “When We Get There” is one of the silly songs that made it out of the journal and onto the new album. Like many of my songs, the chorus just came out on a long car ride with my family. I also have a song about a piece of broccoli that forces the singer to eat it…”