Go Banana Go!: Music For Stir-Crazy Kids (And Parents) In Quarantine

May 7, 2020
Originally published on May 7, 2020 7:13 am
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There's really no deep meaning behind the songs on Go Banana Go!'s debut album, Hi-YA! Band member Brian Wecht says the songs were mostly written with the simple goal of helping his daughter unwind.

"It's such a good opportunity for her to be silly and have fun and just go crazy in the middle of all this wild stuff that's happening," he says.

For kids going stir crazy staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic, Hi-YA! offers some goofy songs to take their minds off of everything serious. The album has upbeat, ridiculous tunes about eating cookies and tying shoelaces, dinosaur chicken nuggets, stinky diapers and, of course, bananas.

Songwriter and producer Jim Roach has worked with Sara Bareilles, Linkin Park and Amy Schumer. He says so much children's music is educational or saccharine, so for this album, he and Wecht wanted something different.

"Sometimes you're like, let's just get weird and let kids let their imaginations go wild," he says. "We were like, let's be the left-of-center kids' band where there's no lessons, there's no pretext — let's just have super-silly fun. So that was kind of our mantra as we were writing this."

The duo met two years ago. Wecht, once a theoretical physics professor at Queen Mary University in London, had retired from academia and pivoted to comedy music with the bands Starbomb and Ninja Sex Party.

Go Banana Go! members Brian Wecht (left) and Jim Roach at work.
Courtesy of the artist

"I have a 5-year-old daughter named Audrey, and I would make up these little songs for her in the morning just to move things along and be silly and have a good time or drive to school," Wecht says. One day when he and Roach were in the studio on another project, they realized they were both doing that for their children.

"After singing all these ridiculous songs around the house," Roach says, "my wife's like, 'You are insane for not making a kids' album.' "

So last summer, the two formed Go Banana Go!, named by Roach's 8-year-old daughter Kennedy. For one song on their album, they recruited another friend — voice actor Flula Borg, who appeared in Pitch Perfect 2 and voiced characters in Trolls World Tour and the Netflix series Boss Baby: Back in Business.

"I have the brain of a caffeinated reindeer and the curiosity of a frog," Borg says. "And so I thought this was the perfect reason to try to team up with them and confuse everyone with half-German, half-English, nonsensical mayhem. Which is what we did."

The voices of Roach and Wecht's children appear on Borg's song "German Lessons," and many of the other songs on the album. They often inspired the lyrics, as well: For instance, Audrey Wecht came up with "The Queen of No Share" and "Pizza Feet."

"She was walking around with a pizza box on her feet, screaming, 'I've got pizza feet!' And I was just like, 'Well, that's a song,'" says her proud papa.

During our interview, as we spoke about being with our kids at home under quarantine, my 8-year-old daughter Amaya interrupted to announce she was going to give our cat a bath.

"Brian, we definitely need to write a song about giving a cat a bath," Roach enthused, "because it is a disaster every time. Cat Bath!"

"Cat Bath." Just like that, a silly song was born.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We know a lot of kids are going stir crazy staying at home right now. Well, there is an LA band that has an album to take their mind off of everything serious. It's called "Hi-YA!". Here's NPR's Mandalit del Barco.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GO BANANA GO!")

GO BANANA GO!: Are you ready to go banana?

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: There's really no deep meaning behind the songs on Go Banana Go!'s debut album, says band member Brian Wecht.

BRIAN WECHT: It's such a good opportunity to be silly and have fun and just go crazy in the middle of all this wild stuff that's happening.

DEL BARCO: The album has upbeat, goofy songs about eating cookies and tying shoelaces, dinosaur chicken nuggets and stinky diapers and, of course, bananas.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GO BANANA GO!")

GO BANANA GO!: (Singing) Go banana. Go banana. Go banana, go. Go banana. Go banana, go.

DEL BARCO: Songwriter and producer Jim Roach has worked with Amy Schumer, Sara Bareilles and the band Linkin Park. He says so much children's music is educational or saccharine. So for this album, they wanted something different.

JIM ROACH: Sometimes you're like, let's just get weird and let kids - let their imaginations go wild. And so we were like, let's be the left-of-center kids band, where there's no lessons. There's no pretext. And so that's kind of was our mantra as we were writing this.

DEL BARCO: Two years ago, Roach met band mate Wecht, who was once a theoretical physics professor at Queen Mary University in London. He retired from academia to be in the comedy band Starbomb and Ninja Sex Party.

WECHT: I have one 5-year-old daughter named Audrey. And I would just make up these little songs for her in the morning just to, you know, move things along and have a good time or driving to school. And one day in the studio, when Jim and I were working on another project, we were just kind of talking about it and realized that we were both doing the same things for both our kids.

ROACH: This is Jim. My wife, probably since 10 years, has been going, you need to write a kids album because I was always writing these ridiculous songs - not writing them, like, seriously, but just singing songs around the house. And my wife's like, you are insane for not making a kid's album.

DEL BARCO: So last summer, the two formed Go Banana Go!, named by Roach's 8-year-old daughter, Kennedy. For one of the songs on their first album, they recruited their friend Flula Borg. He appeared in the movie "Pitch Perfect 2" and voiced characters in the movie "Trolls World Tour" and in the Netflix series "Boss Baby: Back In Business."

FLULA BORG: I have the brain of a caffeinated reindeer and the curiosity of a frog. And so I thought this was the perfect reason to try to team up with them and confuse everyone with half-German, half-English, nonsensical mayhem, which is what we did.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GERMAN LESSONS")

BORG: It's time to learn some German words, words that we use every day in Germany. Are you ready, children?

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Yes.

BORG: Here we go. (Speaking German, singing) means, the donkey sits on the banana splits. This is what you say at the ice cream store when you see a donkey's knocking at the door.

DEL BARCO: The kids' voices on many of the songs belong to Roach and Wecht's children, who often inspired the lyrics. Audrey Wecht came up with "The Queen Of No Share" and "Pizza Feet."

WECHT: She was walking around with a pizza box on her feet screaming, I've got pizza feet. And I was just like, well, that's a song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PIZZA FEET")

GO BANANA GO!: (Singing) I've got dough on my feet, on my feet, on my feet. I've got sauce on my feet, on my feet, on my feet. I've got cheese on my feet, on my feet, on my feet. I've got them pizza feet.

DEL BARCO: As we were talking about being with our kids at home under quarantine, my 8-year-old daughter interrupted.

Amaya, hold on. My daughter's now about to go give our cat a bath.

ROACH: Brian, we definitely need to write a song about giving a cat a bath because it is a disaster every time. "Cat Bath."

WECHT: "Cat Bath." I was just about to say it. Yeah.

ROACH: Done.

DEL BARCO: A song is born.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STINKY DIAPERS")

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Pee-yew (ph).

GO BANANA GO!: (Singing) Oh, baby brother... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.