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Interview: Alt-Country Kids Act The Roughhousers

Every parent has been there. Whether spending time at home, driving around doing errands, or going out to a restaurant with little ones, uncomplicated, repetitive, and often obnoxious children’s music is always playing in earshot. It can be challenging to reach a common ground that can be listened to for so many hours on end while still being kid-friendly, but the remedy to this time-old dilemma is The Roughhousers. This rockabilly children’s band delivers songs that children will find interesting and exciting, with jovial lyrics and upbeat instrumentals that can also be enjoyed by adults, who will have a greater appreciation for the duo’s musical stylings. In anticipation of their debut album, Princess Mike, The Roughhousers’ Grey DeLisle and Eddie Clendening have already shared the tracks “Princess Mike” and “Azucar” with the world at large. Now, they’re adding to the available collection with their newest single, “Monkey Butt.”
The Roughhousers “Monkey Butt” (children’s music/alt-country)

Don’t be so quick to judge this song by its title; “Monkey Butt” is another fun song from The Roughhousers that’s bound to satisfy listeners young and old. It is a tune packed with comedic relief, perfect for getting any tiny tikes hyped for bathtime. The lyrics describe all the “monkeys'” activities and actions that now require them to clean themselves up. The chorus’ recurring “Monkey Butt” title phrase helps add to the fun, humorously packing the words of encouragement for kids to jump in the bubbly tub and wash their dirtiness and stinkiness away. Beyond the surface lyrics, DeLisle and Clendening’s classic vocal twangs harmonize together so nicely. Attentive listeners will undoubtedly recognize the true art and talent of the artists behind these child-targeted creations. To top it all off, the instrumental on its own is unapologetically catchy with elements that stretch further than the usual children’s music genre offerings.Despite what might be expected of music for kids, the visual for “Monkey Butt” approaches the song’s theme and message in a way not at all resembling cartoon clips or nursery-rhyme videos. DeLisle and Clendening immerse themselves in this idiomatic situation through their lively, entertaining performance. What’s more, it gives kiddos real people to look up to, much like the actors on their favorite television shows or YouTube Kids’ channels. From DeLisle monkey-dancing around the living room to Clendening playing the bath brush guitar from the tub, there is nothing not to love about how The Roughousers are breaking the status quo for children’s music for the better.

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How did The Roughhousers come to be?

Grey DeLisle: I was homeschooling my three kids during the lockdown and trying to make up funny songs on my autoharp to keep them entertained during “Mama’s Music Class”! They were laughing so hard and begging for more and it was really surprising! I realized how little kid-directed music they had heard in their lifetimes. I mostly just played things like Johnny Cash, Dolly, and The Beatles for them because I just couldn’t stomach most music written for children. Eddie and I had recently become virtual friends on Facebook and he suggested we start a band for kids that adults wouldn’t hate! As for the name, I think we wanted something that was kinda tough and not too “goody goody” sounding or patronizing. Eddie came up with the name. He’s good at naming stuff. He named my cat

Eddie Clendening: I’ve had occasion to perform at some schools and for audiences of children many times over the years and it always struck me what a great audience they are. Much better than adults. Willing to dance and be silly and get lost in music as long as it’s good, and when you get a room full of kids to pay attention, you know you’ve done well.

So, I’ve always wanted to create some sort of project that was conceived and executed specifically with kids in mind, but that would also hold up alongside the sort of music I make for grown-ups, too.

After me and Grey had discovered our common thinking on that fact, it didn’t take long for us to get the ball rolling. Greys enthusiasm and work ethic certainly were and are the driving force behind what The Roughhousers are turning out.

The name just struck me as a good description of the concept, playful but not playing around. When you’re roughhousing, sure it’s fun, but occasionally something gets broken, or somebody gets hurt.

It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye…

What makes your music different from what is out on the scene?

GD: Well…for one thing….it’s actually GOOD! Ha! My kids and I do a thing called “song swap” in the car when we listen to music and everyone gets a turn to play whatever song they want. We all have pretty good taste in music so there’s never a time when any of us are rolling our eyes in agony. That’s the experience I’m hoping to bring to other families! Good music is good music! Our music is fun for EVERYONE!

EC:The band is maybe best described as roots rock and roll for kids, but with a strong hope that parents will enjoy it all just as much, and anybody else who might need a little fun in their ears.Everything we are doing owes a lot to the great artists we (as a band) all admire from the middle of the last century through to present day.

I don’t want any of our music to ever feel like homework. But if some kid out there listens to one of our songs and it leads them on a road to discovering a Bo Diddley record, or Chuck Berry, or Hank Williams etc etc… I will be very happy and content with the job we’ve done.

Why is it important to create silly, fun music?

GD: Doing voices for cartoons makes me unafraid of making a fool of myself. You’ve gotta make bold, weird choices and be completely uninhibited. I feel that kids really respond to things like that because that’s how THEY are! I want to help kids preserve that fearlessness and creativity that they have. Seeing an adult acting a fool is so refreshing for kids!

Grey has a great way of being very silly and not taking herself or much else too seriously, while not ever looking like a joke herself. She’s a natural entertainer, and the voices she uses in her work all appear in her life too. All you gotta do is hang around her a while and you’ll start to notice when she’s telling a story, or conversing with somebody, you get to see all the characters living inside her head come out and join in. She brings things to life in a great way.

The music, and the videos 100% benefit from that too, I think.

Tell us about “Monkey Butt”, where did the idea come from?

GD: When my kids need a bath, I always say, “Eeeew! Somebody’s got a MONKEY BUTT! So that’s kinda how this one started. But Eddie has great ideas for songs too and he’s a phenomenal musician. I write a lot but I’m terrible on an instrument. I write the songs in my head and then plunk them out on the autoharp and send Eddie voice memos that he turns into beautiful, fully-formed songs. He’ll feed me a great idea and I just kinda throw in in the Crock Pot of my brain and let it stew for a few days and then it just sorta tumbles out & Supper’s On!!!!!

How was it shooting the “Monkey Butt” video?

GD: Our friend, Neuman Mannas, had been hanging out in the studio with us just to take a few pictures here and there. He’s an incredible musician too but his band wasn’t touring because of Covid so I hired him to just get some behind the scenes footage. But then he started sending us these AMAZINGLY EDITED MASTERPIECES and we knew we had to rent a proper studio and do REAL videos with him! We shot all 11 videos in about 2 days and had a complete blast doing it! I sure hope kids and their parents have as much fun watching ’em as we had making ’em!!!!

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