An Interview With The Pop Ups

Suzie Chiem reviews & interviews

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What do you get when you combine two Brooklyn-based musicians, along with hand-painted sets, colorful puppets and props with the quirky sounds of the “Flight of the Concords, you get the Pop Ups. This group made up of Jacob Stein and Jason Rabinowitz, they sure can win any crowd any age with their wit and charisma. In a nutshell, these guys are just having fun. And it translates effortlessly to the audience.

This band doesn’t clearly fit the kiddie genre mold in music. They aren't as silly as Sesame Street or choreographed as The Wiggles, but with their youthful melodies, it's easy to see why they have received national attention since releasing their first album “Outside Voices” in 2010, toured with Yo Gabba Gabba!, and earned a 2013 Grammy nomination for Best Children’s Album for their sophomore CD, “Radio Jungle.”

What’s the inspiration for the name and concept behind The Pop Ups?

We wanted a name that had it's own energy and felt fun. We love pop up books and pop up shops and the phrase “pop ups” almost sounds like the word “puppets,” which we found promising.  

Our concept was “flight of the concords” for kids – a place where we could make music that our friends with kids could enjoy just as much as their kids. We both came from educational music backgrounds, and wanted to make something totally our own.

What’s your musical background?

Jason has a degree in music and a used to tour with his Indie Rock band, The Blood Sugars, as well as several stints on Broadway including “One Man Two Governors.” Jacob comes from a musical family that tours as a band and an MFA in fine art which helps when he does live drawing during performances.

What drives you to record and release music?

Writing and recording songs is just the most magical and challenging thing we know how to do. Setting out to make an album is like having a door in your office that leads straight into outer space, the possibilities are endless. Babies understand music from the day they are born, and we all know there's nothing quite so cute as a baby moving to a beat…

Can you walk us through your songwriting process?

We wrote much of our new album in a field in Cobbleskill, NY. We hiked out with a guitar, laptop, and usb powered keyboard and sat all day writing songs for three days…

We always start from an educational benchmark or concept, and then it can just go anywhere from there.

What are some of the themes you like to cover in your videos/music?

Our web series is all about creative problem solving and free, unstructured play. We make all sorts of normal objects into puppets in our Make It A Puppet sketches. We have “the only cooking show starring real puppets making fake food” and we love animation!

Who are your musical influences?

Prince and high 80's dance pop. Really anything we like…

What was your first public performance like as a duo? How have The Pop Ups evolved since?

We started in a friend's living room just playing for a small group of kids. Next week we're headlining the kids stage at Lollapalooza. What a long, strange trip it's been!!!!

Describe the moment that you guys found out you were nominated for a GRAMMY.

The first time it happened Jason called me on the phone at 11:30 pm and I just didn't believe him until I found it on the web myself. Jumped up and down for a long while…

How did you guys react to your debut on Sprout’s “Sunny Side Up Show”?

We were so thrilled! The host that we worked with, Tim Kubart, had already gone on the road with us as a fill-in musician, so we're already buddies.

What was your favorite memory being on tour with Yo Gabba Gabba?

The first time we went on tour with them we were in the tour bus with all of the dancers from the show. That was loads of fun! We even wrote a song based on that experience called “Getting the Job Done.”

What is something on your bucket list that you want to do as a band?

We'd like to play at the White House.

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About the Author

Suzie Chiem

Suzie Chiem is an intern at Mamalode and a student at the University of Montana's Journalism School.

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