All-mom bands rockin' the house and babies' cradles

Posted: Thursday, January 20, 2005

DALLAS — They're housewives, workaholics, PTA members and ... rock stars?

Women fighting to shatter the stay-at-home-mom stereotype and rediscover their youthful voice are forming bands, such as Housewives on Prozac in suburban New York, Frump in Dallas and Placenta in Oakland, Calif.

These moms are rocking the house and the cradle, singing about breast-feeding, exhaustion and making kids do their chores.

''I feel like what we do is remind people about their passion and that sense of importance and that sense of vitality,'' said Joy Rose, a 47-year-old mother of four who founded Housewives on Prozac in 1997. ''Life is really short and it's important to live colorfully.''

Mothers have struggled for identity and fulfillment for decades, growing more exasperated with their increasing career and child-rearing demands, said University of Michigan professor Susan Douglas, who co-authored the book ''The Mommy Myth.''

She said those feelings may explain the growing number of mom rock bands. (Rose estimated there are about 50 active mom bands across the country, with 20 of them having been formed in the last year.)

''In our cultural common sense, what could be more opposite from the icon of mom than a punk rocker?'' Douglas said.

Suzie Riddle, who has three children aged 19, 12 and 6, started Frump in 2001 as a gag for her 40th birthday party. A punk rocker in her youth, then a librarian, Riddle hounded other mothers at her church and her daughters' school until she found three women willing to play along.

At first, they performed five songs, including ''Suzie Is A Headbanger'' by the Ramones and ''We're Really Beat,'' a song Frump guitarist Frances Peterson wrote to the tune of ''We've Got the Beat'' by the Go-Go's.

''See the mothers driving down the street, see their makeup melting in the heat, straight from work, the pantyhose are tight, it's take-out tonight,'' the song begins.

Three years later, the band has grown to five, adding new members as others have moved away. Frump practices Saturday nights and performs about once a month at parties, churches and community events such as the Punky Mamas Christmas Bazaar in Dallas.

The band members even encouraged their daughters to get involved, and the girls formed their own band called Spawn and have played at two gigs with their moms.

''It is the best feeling in the world,'' said Frump lead guitarist Diane Harris, whose 11-year-old daughter Anna plays drums in Spawn.

Frump is still trying to forge an identity, teetering between being a novelty and a serious band, Riddle said. She'd like to add a second weekly practice and focus on cultivating a unique sound.

But any group that bills itself as an all-mom garage band is going to get a few chuckles, she conceded.

''I am really proud of this and I'm proud of the attention that it's gotten us,'' she said. ''It's kind of a silly idea and a lot of people have taken notice.''

At the Punky Mamas bazaar, an audience of mostly middle-aged women and their children clapped and tapped their feet to Frump's music, even getting up to dance to ''Twist and Shout.'' A few young couples on a Saturday evening date watched from the back of a half-full dance hall.

Julie Hougland came with her 6-year-old daughter, her 55-year-old mother and her 35-year-old sister. She said she was surprised by how much fun they had.

''How many venues are there where I can take my daughter and dance?'' Hougland said.

Rose hopes the movement soon will catch on commercially as more people see mom bands in concert. Housewives on Prozac has recorded two CDs and a holiday CD single, which is available on Amazon.com. Several mom bands will converge on New York City throughout May for the fourth annual Mamapalooza festival. The festival, founded by Rose, will feature at least five days of events, including a free outdoor concert and a poetry and jazz night.

And for the first time, Mamapaloozas are planned for Dallas, Detroit, Nashville and San Francisco. The Nashville event will be held May 17-18, but the others haven't been scheduled.

''It's kind of been this whirlwind ride of mother rockers spreading the good word that life isn't over after 40, that music and creativity are still alive,'' Rose said.



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