While Greg Attonito is best known for his decades as the frontman for the Bouncing Souls, he has an even more juvenile side. Along with his wife, writer/musician Shanti Wintergate, he has released the children's book I Went For a Walk and is now preparing to work with her on another project, this time as a duo known as Play Date, producing fun kid's music that follows the progressive trend being set by the likes of other veteran punks Mike Park and Billy Jackfish, creating music for the children of punk parents that everyone can get into.
We connected with Attonito while he was on the road with the Souls to find out more about I Went For a Walk, Play Date and what it's like to be part of a husband and wife team.
RC: Where did the idea of I Went For a Walk originate?
GA: The idea originated from a little poem Shanti wrote inspired by going on nature walk/hikes with our nephew Jaydon.
RC: And how long was the process from its earliest stages to becoming a book?
GA: The entire process took about five years. From the very first version of the poem, until we had the books in our hot little hands. Shanti “commissioned” me to illustrate the story, which I did all over the world on tour with The Bouncing Souls.
RC: Then the illustrations have a special story in their creation, as far as where they were created. This wasn't something just drawn up at an illustrator's desk over the course of a few weeks was it?
GA: No, this process took time and my artist desk changed everyday as I hauled my supplies with me on tour. Sometimes it was on a bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka or on a park bench sitting next to the Eiffel Tower, various hotel rooms, parks and backstages across the US, Canada, Europe. Then there were beaches and city centers in Australia and New Zealand. The list really goes on. Generally I can flip to a page and remember where I was through it’s creation. Most of the drawings were done in stages in different places.
RC: Are there any hidden stories within the illustrations, experiences on the road that made their way into the illustrations?
GA: I’m sure..I don’t know if I can pinpoint any specifically but it all soaks in to my system and becomes part of the artwork. People, places, events - it’s all in there, big and small through my brain's processor/imagination and out my hand onto the paper. One page in particular in chapter two: Moove has a character in it that Shanti and I always call our friend Wig. It just looks like him in a caricature sort of way, and there’s another page that Shanti always says looks like me… some kind of subconscious self-portrait maybe.
RC: How did the collaborative process work? Did Shanti just give Greg the illustrations and he ran with it? Or was there more of a give and take?
GA: Well, Shanti wrote the story, and acted as an “editor” of sorts with the illustrations. Because the creating of them spanned a few years, my style would start to change a little, which is fine in an artistic sense, but a little too confusing when you’re creating one complete book. So, we would always work back and forth with things and Shanti would sometimes adjust the story to make for a better picture, etc. It was a total collaborative effort.
RC: And what's it like being a "husband and wife team?" Do you think it makes the creative collaborative process different from that of, say, bandmates?
GA: I would say they’re both pretty much the same. I guess a husband/wife team is even more closely knit because almost every aspect of our life is otherwise shared, but to function in a healthy way as a band it too has to have aspects of being married to each other. The communication and respect of one another, the shared outlook on life and goals, the compromise, the shared finances, they are very similar but I would say the Husband/Wife team is one more degree into all of that.
RC: What's the bridge between punk and children's music or writing? It seems like a step that a lot of punks are taking, from Mike Park to Billy Jackfish, it seems like a lot of punks are taking steps to create art for kids, and there's some really good punk music for kids now. Is it just the fact that we're all getting older and having kids, or do you think there's a bigger connection?
GA: Truly, I could say that I’ve already been writing music for kids with The Bouncing Souls for almost 25 years… these kids are just a little younger. I guess as we all get a little older, we’re either having kids ourselves or around our friends or family having kids. Spending time with our nephews really opened our eyes to a lack in good quality kids' music.
I guess, like a punk song, kids' music is best when it’s simple, meaningful and has a good rhythm to get you going. So that’s how it’s also similar. So many existing punk songs could already be great kids' songs as long as the swear words were edited out.
RC: Now you guys have something else lined up for children as well. What is it?
GA: Shanti, with a little help from our friend Zak has created an ebook version of I Went For a Walk, viewable on ipads and avail soon on itunes and iwentforawalk.com. Also in collaboration with animator Jesse Cordtz (Krux Creative) we will be releasing an animated version of the book, which will also be available for download soon. Shanti and I just finished the narrations for it. You’ll be able to choose if you want to hear Shanti or Greg read the book to you. It’s really cool.
Also, Shanti and I just finished recording a new album titled Imagination as Play Date. It will be released on Fun Fun Records on Oct. 9th. We’re really excited about it. We just played our first show at a music festival in Montreal “Pouzza Fest” and it was a blast. Pete Steinkopf (guitar player for Bouncing Souls) recorded/mixed and co-produced the record with us and Michael McDermott played drums. The entire record has such a great, fun and positive energy to it. We even have an appearance by famed B3 Organ player Brian Auger on a track titled “Dance Like a Monster.” We can’t wait to play more shows and festivals as Play Date.
RC: Are there any other collaborations planned?
GA: We’re always collaborating on things and will definitely continue. I’ve started doing artwork for a couple of other story’s Shanti’s written. And we may create some kind of deluxe package for the release of the Play Date Imagination record, including limited pressings of books created from some of the song lyrics.
I’ve also started posting drawings online everyday while on this current Bouncing Souls tour and that’s been really fun and good for me creatively. It’s really amazing to see so many people responding to the art. As long as I enjoy doing it, I may have to make it a regular thing on these next few Bouncing Souls tours!