An interview with multi-platinum rocker James DiNanno on his new band FIRST ROCK BAND ON MARS with well known musicians Kelly Quinn, Ryan Key and Howi Spangler!
Multi-platinum rockers Kellin Quinn (lead singer of Sleeping with mermaids), Ryan Key (formerly the lead singer of Yellow card), Howi Spangler (lead singer of Threshing!) and James dinanno (formerly of rising silhouette) recently announced their new kid-friendly pop-punk group The first rock band on Mars. TODAY (June 11) they released an accompanying album of the same name. The album features music aimed at parents, who would love nothing more than having alternative options outside of “Baby Shark” and other classic children’s tunes to bond with their children.
The idea came from the four musicians, mostly fathers, who felt there was a void in children’s music today. Quinn said, “I think it’s important for parents and their kids to have a song that both of them are passionate about, a song that isn’t strenuous to put in the car or at home and listen to. This is what we set out to accomplish. The concept album is from DiNanno’s best-selling children’s book of 2020 The first rock star on Mars, which explores an adventurous journey into space, with the very first music festival held on the planet Mars. In the book, children are encouraged to follow their dreams, learn about the planets, and think big. DiNanno noted, “When my son Caden was born, I was compelled to create this lively musical universe that inspires the current generation of children and their parents. It was very rewarding to create the book, the album and the cartoon. I think it will be an equally fun trip for the families exploring it. The children’s book The First Rock Star on Mars is available for purchase now through Amazon and an animated miniseries is in the works.
Read more about The First Rock Band on Mars in the following. All access interview:
Thank you for your time! So first of all, how did you start this project? What made you think you could work together? Was it difficult to find a name?
It all started as an idea for a book that struck me shortly after the birth of my son, titled “The First Rock Star On Mars”. When the book was finished I thought, “How cool would it be if a real rock star told the audiobook?” I asked Kellin and luckily he was down. Then I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if the audiobook ended with a song?” Kellin was also on the ground. So I called in Howi and Ryan to finish it off with Kellin and me. Kellin and I were so happy with the result that we decided to do a full EP to support the book.
How are you all feeling at this point in the pandemic and recent openings? Are things slowly returning to normal for you guys? Have you been vaccinated?
Feel good. I have been vaccinated for a while. I’m trying to appreciate the little nuances of unity a little more now.
Since you’ve all been in different groups before starting this project, what has it been like to bring all this experience to this group? How did this help shape the sound of The First Rock Band on Mars?
It wasn’t something we really discussed. I think we all have some sort of hunch about what the music in this bustling universe would be like. Perhaps this is where the previous experience came in. We all seemed to have our mental antennae tuned to the same frequency.
Let’s talk about your album. Are you all excited to release it today? Where did the idea come from to write music for parents that was also fun for their children? How did being a father yourself help create these songs?
I think everyone is really happy with how it came out. I am really proud of it. Funny, I didn’t think I had a real attachment to the songs at first as they are fictional and family oriented, but the result was the opposite. I feel like the songs say a lot. I just hope the families enjoy listening together, we had fun making the songs!
The idea came from the book and was built from there.
Without being a father, I wouldn’t have thought about the idea for the book and none of this would ever have happened. My son, Caden, is my inspiration for everything I do these days.
How does the children’s book, The First Rock Star on Mars fit in with this music?
The book tells the story of a young boy pursuing his dream (surprise, surprise) of becoming the first rock star on Mars. The story follows his journey into space. We made sure all songs supported the story visuals. Lyrically, everything revolves around the universe (sometimes, metaphorically.)
Can you tell us about some of your favorite songs on this upcoming album? Where does their inspiration come from?
I don’t have a favorite. It’s really a concept album. It sounds a bit ambitious for a family album, but I really like it as a full listening experience.
It’s really cool that at first listening, these are just pop songs. They don’t seem elementary. Kellin wrote a song called “Comet”, based on a little lyric idea I had. It sounds a bit like a Brit Pop ballad from the 90s. It’s very powerful and I don’t think parents will expect it.
What do you think makes an ideal show for this project?
The only way we operate is if it’s actually on Mars. If Elon Musk wants us out, the Martians will have a show!
How do you think your hometown influenced the sound and how do you all behave in this band? If not, why do you think it is?
When I wrote the book, The First Rock Star on Mars, I was trying to encourage broad, sometimes abstract thinking. I had a great education in a small suburban Massachusetts town called Wakefield and really can’t complain. But, I think in general, small towns can sometimes give way to small reflections, or settling in.
I have certainly had teachers and people throughout my life who have tried to reject big ideas. I guess it influenced this project because the book and the music encourage the reader / listener to challenge it.
Which musicians have really inspired you all since you started making music? Who would you all like to work with in the future?
I can only speak for myself. But I’ll just say that I was very lucky to have Howi, Kellin and Ryan to back me up on this point. They are all extremely talented and versatile. They have inspired me throughout this process and it would not have been possible without their combined talents. I can’t ask for more.
What do you think is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
I just hope the music is just as enjoyable for parents and their children. Hope this can make some fun connections. I also hope that the book, album and future animated shorts will encourage children to think big and pursue their dreams; especially the unique ones.