Hey, moms! Hey, everyone! I’ve got a critical item to add to your pressure-cooker of a to-do list. But the good news is that it’s going to lighten everything.
Here it is: laugh.
Here’s how: watch the Big Ditties’ new video.
The Chicago-based band’s motto is “let’s not take ourselves too seriously.” It’s excellent advice for moms, dads, all parental types, what the heck, all humans. Let’s start a revolution against the tyranny of the “shoulds” and let’s triumph over the stressful, shaming, consuming “aspirational” advice lobbed at us on a daily basis. Let’s turn aspirational into wise-asspirational and badasspirational!
Great news: the revolution is already underway. Behold the Big Ditties’ newest rock video, “Mom, Just Quit the Band!” The Big Ditties are, in order of video appearance, Tu-PO, DJ K-Heyyy, and Ad Rik. (The Cubs bling-adorned hands at the beginning belong to DJ K-Heyyy):
One way you can call the Big Ditties “serious” is for their serious musical chops. Tu-PO trained at Interlochen Arts Academy and studied jazz at University of Miami. Ad Rik has been singing and playing music since she was six and says, “I was never properly trained, but my mother was always willing to supply me with the instruments if I could learn how to play them.”
DJ K-Heyyy also grew up surrounded by music. Her father was the long-time chair of Northwestern University’s music program. She sang and played multiple instruments and later signed with Atlantic Records. She has written music with Better Than Ezra and saw one of her original works included in the film The Replacements with Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman.
With this spring’s release of “Mom, Just Quit the Band,” the Big Ditties are gaining a national spotlight. The video appears on Funnyordie.com and Dr. Demento selected the song for airplay on his June 3rd episode.
My own too-serious mindset got a welcome antidote of lightness and funny when Ad Rik and DJ K-Heyyy took time out to speak with me by phone about the band’s origins, parenting advice – serious and not, and how they got banned by Chicago’s City Winery for life.
Teme: When did you meet and decide to form the band?
Ad Rik: Tu-PO and I started the band in 2010. K-Heyyy, when did we rope you in?
DJ K-Heyyy: Tu-PO and I had a playdate at my house when our kids were starting kindergarten. Three bottles of wine later, she asked me to join the band without ever hearing me play or sing a single note.
Ad Rik: Tu-PO informed me that she had just invited someone to join our band. I said, “What? That’s weird!” Then we had our first rehearsal with all three of us. It clicked instantly and I was glad she did it.
Teme: How did you know you were kindred spirits?
DJ K-Heyyy: By the amount of alcohol we consumed. No! Honestly, the second we started three-part singing, it was a blend. We all had chills and we were like, “Oh my God.” Then we started picking songs apart and adding and twisting them and doing mash-ups like, you know, “Smell Yo Dick” [by Riskay] with “Clocks” [by Coldplay] and we would laugh our asses off. We thought if this is funny to us, hopefully it will be funny to others and we’ve got to do something with it.
Ad Rik: Exactly. It started out as more of an excuse to drink and crack each other up and then it evolved quickly.
Teme: I like your mission statement, “Let’s not take ourselves too seriously.” When did you know in life that that’s a really good idea? I discovered it really late and still forget it!
DJ K-Heyyy: For me, the loss of a parent and dear friends and health issues in the family made me realize that life is incredibly precious and short. “We’re all gonna die” is my motto. So why not do the thing that either makes you laugh or scares the crap out of you? So that was it for me. I did not want to take life too seriously anymore. It’s just not worth it.
Ad Rik: I don’t know that I ever took myself that seriously.
Teme: It’s brilliant advice. When I think about all the time I wasted getting stressed out and taking things way too seriously, I wish I could have all that time back!
Ad Rik: Yeah, I hear that.
DJ K-Heyyy: I think you just have to remind yourself that it’s all so fleeting and in the end nobody’s going to remember you anyway.
Ad Rik: You have to be very zen about these things.
Teme: That’s a very liberating thought.
DJ K-Heyyy: It is. It’s what drove me through improv for nine months. Improv was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. My mantra, which I passed along to my improv group, was, “Fuck it. Let’s just act like assholes and be freaks and figure this out because who cares?” Really? Honestly? Who cares! It’s not that big of a deal.
Ad Rik: It’s also about committing. If you’re not willing to make an abject ass of yourself, it’s going to suck. Sometimes when you do commit and go over the top it doesn’t work, but I think it works a lot more of the time than not.
DJ K-Heyyy: My other motto is “If you fuck up, fuck up with conviction” and then do it again.
Teme: That’s a great motto, too! Where did you do improv?
DJ K-Heyyy: I did the improv program at Second City last year. Tu-PO suggested that we do it as a band and I was the only one that showed up.
Ad Rik: You were the only one that could find it.
DJ K-Heyyy: Tu-PO couldn’t find the building, so I went and thought I’ll just try this once and I was blown away by it and kept signing up and doing the next level and the next and it was amazing.
Teme: What inspired you to write the awesome “Mom, Just Quit the Band”?
DJ K-Heyyy: Tu-PO was dropping her son off at a baseball game on the way to a Ditties gig. He gets out of the car and she said, “Okay, have a good game” and he said, “But Mom, why can’t you come? You have to come to the game!” And she’s like, “Well, I’ve got a Ditties gig” and he said, “But Mom, just quit the band!” Then she came to the show and we were talking about it and started singing the hook and it just went from there.
I already had this other part written, the “mommm!” It was my kids always screaming for me like that. I had the idea to do it as a heavy metal growl like, “whaatttt?” We joined the two together and then wrote the raps.
Teme: There are so many funny and cool individual moments in your video like the “I love farting” mug, the numbers you hold up, and driving through the cake! I see something wonderful and new every time I watch it. What are the moments you want people to look for and which were your favorites?
Ad Rik: There are “Easter eggs” in there. It’s kind of like a “Where’s Waldo” except Waldo is a transvestite. I think my favorite moment of myself is when I attack the clown who actually happens to be my husband.
DJ K-Heyyy: Ad Rik’s husband John was the most experienced actor on set. He’s had major acting experience and we were all in awe of him.
I would say my favorite moments are the clown with the babysitter in the bushes. It’s quite the treat when he spits the lugey. And then I love when we take over the stage and we push the kids. Then at the end, we have, “No moms were hurt in this video” vis a vis who cares about the kids, right?!
Teme: The clown is such a great part of the video. I’d love to hear more about John’s work, too.
Ad Rik: He had his own theater company back in the ‘80’s called Mainline. He and his partner also made five independent feature films. They were made for car fare and a bag of chips, but they did some good work. He also did a lot of industrial work. Now he’s a writer and working on a novel.
Teme: We’re getting into a challenging season for parents. What is your advice for getting through the summer months?
DJ K-Heyyy: Drink lots of rosé and create play dates with parents who drink a lot of rosé . The kids can take care of themselves. I’m on a rosé kick.
Summer is the time to be bored. If my children nag me and say, “I’m bored,” I’m like, “Good. Go be bored outside.” Summer is the time to not be scheduled. It takes a little bit of a transition at first, but then it works out and everyone’s cool and having fun. But at first, they’re at each other’s necks. I lock the doors and leave ’em outside with a pail of water, couple snacks and I’m like, “you’re good to go!”
Ad Rik: She hoses ’em off at the end of the day.
DJ K-Heyyy: Exactly. Yep. That’s how I roll as a parent.
Teme: Makes a lot of sense! Overscheduling seems like both a symptom and cause of stress. Are your kids in the video?
DJ K-Heyyy: My son and daughter and Tu-PO’s son and daughter are in it. They’re the kids in the intro and my son is in the scene where I roll down the roller coaster and smack the cake. He is the one sitting at the table by our love slave’s torso when the cake arrives, with his tongue sticking out going, “yeaaahhh!” My daughter is the one that I push off the stage. Tu-PO pushes her daughter off the stage, too.
Teme: Making the video must have been so much fun for them, too. What do they say about it?
DJ K-Heyyy: They are on the track singing all the “Mom, just quit the band” and I was horrified when we went into the studio and the engineer hadn’t bleeped out all the bad words, so the kids were literally sitting there counting the swear words on their fingers. We had to fill up the swear jar that night.
Ad Rik: So that’s why you’re taking out a second mortgage on the house!
Teme: Speaking of that, I love the opening with the birthday party invitation and you’re like, “Oh fuck!” That’s always my reaction to party invitations, too.
DJ K-Heyyy: Totally. You can hear my son screaming in the background. That was after a long day of shooting and the kids were just over it. They were in the other room fighting when I shot that scene. I was just like, “Aw, fuck!” That’s exactly how we feel. You are exactly right.
Teme: Do you have a birthday party story that just really exemplifies why we feel that way?
DJ K-Heyyy: There is a place here in Chicago called . Maybe you shouldn’t print the name, but I fucking can’t stand that place. Any time my kids got invited to a birthday party there, I would just groan. I don’t know what it was … It was kids literally bouncing off the walls. It was the loud hum of the air keeping the shit pumped up. They’re jumping all over the place and we parents have to stand there and watch them. When they were old enough to do drop-offs there, I would do it. But I will be honest. I have RSVP’d “no way, my kids are not going to that birthday party” and not told my kids about it.
Teme: Totally understood! We have to preserve our sanity.
Ad Rik: I used to be a nanny. I was at a party with my little girl and she was in the ball pit. This was during potty-training and she just lost it. In the ball pit. And no, I wish it were pee. All over the ball pit. Oh my God. I don’t know what they did because, obviously, we left.
DJ K-Heyyy: They just leave it there and let it crust over. That’s what they do.
Ad Rik: I informed the management and they shut the ball pit down. DJ K-Heyyy, where do all those balls go to get cleaned?
DJ K-Heyyy: I don’t know. Hopefully, they just go, “Ball change on 7!” and change them all out.
Teme: How did you get banned for life from City Winery?
DJ K-Heyyy: Ah geez…
Ad Rik: Oh boy.
DJ K-Heyyy: We opened for Cathy Richardson and had one of our best shows ever. The place was completely sold out. We got tons of laughs. It was an amazing show and come to find out a couple of weeks later that we were banned because Tu-PO had made somewhat of an offensive joke.
We offended a couple who was there because they hadn’t liked their meal in the City Winery’s dining room, so the manager said, “Go check out the show. It’s on us.” They came in and then complained about us because we, you know, we’re not for the faint of heart. We are very raw and over the top. The management said, “Okay, fine, they will not be allowed to play here again.” So we got banned!
Ad Rik: These people complained about their dinner and were given a free show, but they had no idea what they were walking into. They had no idea who we were. Nobody’s safe from us is the long and short of it. Maybe they thought, “We complained about the meal and we got a free show. What happens if we complain about the show?”
DJ K-Heyyy: Comedy cred! But we will happily take City Winery back.
Ad Rik: We’ll take City Winery back into our fold.
Teme: For their sake I hope they come around! Who are your favorite comedians?
DJ K-Heyyy: I love Louis C.K. and George Carlin. I loved Steve Martin growing up. Richard Pryor.
Ad Rik: Wanda Sykes always kills me.
DJ K-Heyyy: Bill Murray. Tons of Saturday Night Live folks. There are so many. Jerry Seinfeld. I just saw him for the first time. He was amazing.
Ad Rik: We’re definitely influenced by Flight of the Conchords.
DJ K-Heyyy: They’re brilliant.
Ad Rik: The Muppets.
DJ K-Heyyy: It’s like we’re stuck in seventh grade when we get together. We are talking a little bit of an adolescence combined with just making fun of it all. Making fun of the music business. Making fun of the whole rock star thing. Taking it totally over the top.
Teme: Yup. I feel like I’m twelve years-old all the time.
DJ K-Heyyy: Exactly. Making this video and planning it, I felt like a little girl playing dress-up.
Ad Rik: We found it very funny and we hope other people will find it funny as well. Sometimes when we’re writing and cracking up, I’m thinking, “Okay, I think this is really funny, but is it one of those things ‘where you had to be there funny’ or is this actually funny?” So far, it turns out, most people are finding it pretty funny.
Teme: What are you working on now?
DJ K-Heyyy: Our next song is a heartwarming tale called “Your Pussy’s In Love with Your Best Friend’s Husband.” We have that one all done. We have another song we’re getting ready to mix, called “We’re Not Twenty” where we make fun of not being twenty anymore.
Ad Rik: Mostly we’re making fun of ourselves. That will be our next video.
Teme: What else would you like your fans to know?
DJ K-Heyyy: Between the three of us, we play Wurlitzer, bass, guitar, keys, percussion, kazoos, bells, washboards. We play everything between the three of us and do intricate three part harmonies. We really spend a lot of time on our arrangements. We don’t just throw something together. We spend time on every detail and take pride in that. Combined, we have a ton of experience in performing and recording. The goal is to make it the silliest possible but with a major pro backdrop.
We’re also fortunate to have incredible people around us. My husband is in the music business. Tu-PO’s husband owns a high-end, amazing recording studio and Ad Rik’s husband is John, as we mentioned. We have these husbands and musicians and community around us that help us curate what we do. We’re really lucky to have that.
And you can keep in the part about how I kicked my kids out of the house and locked the doors. That’s what I really want to get across.
Next chance to see The Big Ditties in person is when they headline the Big Guys Sausage Fest on Saturday, August 12 at 9:00 p.m.! Details here.
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