Tot Sauce: From Indie Rock To Kindie Rock

by Jason Toon

Maybe it's a reaction to the excesses of mainstream kids' music the same way indie, punk, alternative, etc. was a reaction to the excesses of mainstream rock. Maybe it's a vehicle for passing down the heritage of cool to your kids. Maybe it's just a way to listen to music with your kids that doesn't drive you insane. Personally, it's all of those plus just something fun our whole family can enjoy together.

However you frame it, "kindie rock" - that is, kids' music with an indie sensibility, also known as family music or all-ages music - is a thriving scene these days, complete with its own festivals, venues, and stars. And many of those stars were indie-without-a-k rockers before they found a younger audience. Here are three that my kids enjoy.

Elizabeth Mitchell
One of the pioneers of family music, Elizabeth Mitchell started playing for kids in the late 90s along with her work for grownups in the band Ida. And "family" is more than a genre description: her most frequent collaborators are her husband Daniel Littleton (also in Ida, and previously in 80s melodic hardcore legends the Hated) and their daughter Storey. Her five albums are filled with lovely renditions of songs by everyone from Lou Reed to Neil Young to Augustus Pablo.


The Not-Its
The faux-naivete of indie pop makes actual kids' music a natural progression. Sarah Shannon of 90s Sub Pop indie-pop heroes Velocity Girl now fronts the Not-Its, a quintet playing tight, catchy power-pop tunes about school, tag, animals, and other prepubescent concerns.


They Might Be Giants
From their very first recordings, the geek-pop titans have always flirted with kiddie sounds and nerdy educational lyrics. Now they're up to four proper kids' albums (No, Here Come the ABCS, Here Come the 123s, and Here Comes Science) but as a longtime fan, I can't even tell the difference from their regular stuff. Each album was also released with/as a full-length DVD video, and they made 18 episodes of a family video podcast, too.


These are just three that get some play at my house - the indie-gone-kindie roll call could also include Laura Veirs, Dan Zanes, Caspar Babypants, Wee Hairy Beasties and many more. Hope this post helped you and your kids find a new favorite. And if there's a kindie-rock classic racing up the charts at your house, share it in the discussion thread!