Marsha and the Positrons are a DC-based kindie (kids + indie rock) band specializing in fun, clever songs about science & how the world works with positive social messages! Playful and educational, they are known for shows that are a ton of family-friendly fun!
What could possibly be better than learning about the world by listening to music? Marsha and the Positrons are experts in making learning into a fun adventure. Not only are we discovering new things through their clever lyrics, but the masterful melodies draw listeners into a wonderful world of catchy tunes and toe-tapping beats. Marsha's songs explore everything from astronomy to nature and wildlife. Her albums are full of discussion starters that answer those burning questions, ignite curiosity, and keep us dancing and singing along. I'm a huge fan and I am so excited to share my interview with Marsha on my newest edition of Beppie's Beats!
Your amazing music is all about science and positive social change. What are your favorite scientific topics to sing about?
That is such a hard question! I find astronomy fascinating. It’s one area where we’re still exploring and learning new things, so it’s full of wonder for me. I also love nature, so I end up writing a lot of biology-themed songs. The truth is that I love writing about and singing about all kinds of topics. I’ll often write about something I don’t know a lot about already and will learn about it while I’m writing. I like looking up new topics and including interesting facts in my songs, but I always try to find an angle that’s fun. I think about why would anyone want to hear about this in a song? Then I think about how the topic connects to us as human beings and why it matters. I try to include those ideas about how it’s meaningful in a way that’s hopeful and inspiring, but catchy and fun to listen to! And if I can make a joke and make people laugh, it’s even better!
You have a very impressive background in science and education. How did you go from being a Cognitive Neuroscientist to being in a kindie band? In your opinion, which job is more fun?
I’ve been singing my whole life, but really enjoyed science, too. I kind of took a break from my work in science when I was finishing my Master’s degree. I was determined to finish my Master’s thesis and was working in a non-science job while I did that. The day I sent in my thesis, I bought a guitar and started taking guitar lessons so I could play the songs I was already writing in my head! I also started singing at open mics and blues jams and realized how much others enjoyed my singing. It grew from there and I just never went back to a science job. Once I had kids (I have three), the songs started coming from those life experiences. A lot of my songs come from conversations and questions with one of my own kids or my students, once I started teaching music classes.
I couldn’t love what I do more. Being able to share my passion for science and sing at the same time is a dream! Writing songs that other people want to hear is awesome and humbling — and not something I ever imagined doing when I was growing up. Knowing that people really want to hear my songs is a magical feeling. It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to create and know that it matters to other people. Getting to perform for audiences and experiencing that joy of live music, and making records is just so much fun.
You've been super busy lately! On February 11th, you released a single called 'Thank You Science' with the fabulous Claudia Robin Gunn (what a dream collaboration!). What inspired this tune and how did the two of you connect?
Claudia and I connected by social media during the pandemic, and even though we’re on opposite sides of the globe (I’m based in Washington, DC and she is in Aukland, New Zealand), we both love writing and singing songs about science and nature! So, when she suggested we try writing together, it seemed like a good fit. I wasn’t sure how it would work since I’d never written with a partner before, but we met by Zoom and it was such a natural and comfortable connection that in our first session wrote two songs!! Claudia came with the idea and musical hook for Thank You Science and we wrote most of that song during that session, but got sidetracked and wrote another song first! We’ve met up by Zoom other times and have written most of an album now — we just need to record the rest of the tunes!
While my band and I were in the studio making our new record, we recorded our parts for Thank You Science. Claudia recorded her parts in New Zealand and sent them to our talented producer, TJ Lipple, who put everything together. We’ll probably record the next songs for the rest of this project separately as well, but boy would it be amazing to get to meet in person and work together! Someday!
What advice would you give to your young listeners who want to learn more about the world of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)?
Go for it! I think there’s so much room in science for everyone and you bring your unique perspective, ideas, and questions to the table. Ask lots of questions! You can also look up answers online or go to the library. Experiment, and learn as much as you can. In addition to many great resources online, but you could participate in a STEM fair, take out a book from the library with experiments you can do at home (with a grownup’s permission), and be an observer. Also get out in nature and explore as much as you can!
You just dropped a brand new single last week and your new album, Energetic, is coming out soon! Can you tell us about this new project and when it will be available to stream/download?
Yes! So our latest single, Ghost Forest Investigators, is out everywhere and available to stream and download in all the places. That song is about a measure of climate change that I didn’t know about until I was writing the song. I was talking to a mom friend on the playground — our sons play on the same soccer team and go to school together. This friend, Keryn Gedan, happens to be a biologist and a professor at George Washington University who studies ghost forests! She told me about her research and I thought it was something more people needed to know about! Ghost forests develop when the sea level rises. Since the trees along the coast can’t drink the salt water, they dry out, their bark falls off and they look ghostly. These forests can be found all over the world, and studying them can help scientists understand patterns of sea level rise, so it’s really important stuff. She is hoping to get citizens — kids, families, grownups — who observe ghost forests on their bit of local coastline to report them so the scientists can study them further. It would be amazing if my song can help get the word out and I would love to see kids getting in on the action to help the scientists!
We expect our album, Energetic, to come out at the end of July!! We’re really excited about this record and I think it’s our best work yet. We had 16 musicians contribute to the project including kindie artists SaulPaul, Keith Grimwood (of Trout Fishing in America), and Tina Kenny Jones (of Danny Weinkauf’s Red Pants Band); hip hop artist Dumi Right, beatboxer Jamaal Collier, NYC-based sax player Jonathan Parker, and veteran jazz guitar player Tony Harrod.
We cover a range of topics, from bee communication to tying your shoes; from not being afraid of getting shots to dreams. I have a mashup of musical influences including indie rock, jazz and blues, R&B, and pop, so my songs come out in variety of styles. With this album, my producer, TJ, bandmates Ayanna Gallant, David Durst, and Jon Guo, and all the other collaborators added their combined talent and creativity. Their terrific ideas and incredible performances caused the songs to evolve into something even more exciting and special! We had a ton of fun making the record, and I think it’ll come across to the listeners, too.
Learning about science can mean having to tackle some very tricky words. What is the hardest scientific word you've ever had to sing?
That is such a good question! I think the hardest scientific word I’ve sung is in a song on our new album called Starlings, which features our friend SaulPaul who rapped on the track. You may already know that starlings are birds which fly in large flocks that make cool formations as they fly. Those formations are called murmurations! I learned the word while I was writing the song and it comes up a couple of times in the song. Since I love learning new things as I’m writing a song, I figure if I learn some new or interesting fact or word, there are surely kids who would like to learn them, too! One of the things that I find amazing about starlings is their teamwork and how they cooperate as a unit. In the song I draw the connection between starling murmurations, unity, and working together.