The Okee Dokee Brothers are Grammy Award winners who have just completed a new 27-track album entitled “Songs for Singin'” which is due for rehearse on May 1. Bandmates Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander (who are lifelong friends and “brothers” in spirit) hope the album will entertain people during the COVID-19 quarantine. The album even includes a 32-page illustrated book that contains the chords and lyrics to each song—perfect for inspiring living room sing-alongs!
Mailander recently discussed this album via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in music and how come you focus on family friendly in particular?
Okee Dokee Brothers (ODB): Justin and I grew up together in Denver, Colorado, listening to music, singing around campfires, performing in bands together, and writing little songs our our trips up to the mountains. We loved the feeling of singing in harmony while outside in nature – and we’ve never been able to kick the habit! This shared childhood inspired us to continue to make those type of memories for a younger generation. We played in bars and clubs after college, but we found that family venues brought out our best selves.
MM: How did you first break into the music industry and what is it like working together?
ODB: We didn’t break in as much as we eased in to the music industry. We started playing park concerts, family nights, libraries, schools, museums, and then worked our way up to performing arts centers. Hopefully we’ll make it back to those library shows one day – we liked those! What’s it like working together? Well, it’s like working with your brother. Do you have a sibling? Some days it feels like you’re working with your best friend and somedays it feels like you’re working with your annoying little brother! Now ya get it!
MM: What inspired the 27 songs on this album and do you have any special favorites? Why?
ODB: These aren’t from google – I’ll tell ya that! I, Joe, like “Singin’ for Me Supper” and “Neighborhood Band”…today, that is. And Justin he’s liking “Ask Away” and “Seasons in a Day” today.
Neighborhood Band–In 2019, Joe started an all-ages sing-along down by his neighborhood creek. Families bring picnics, instruments, and their voices, while Joe brings some books full of simple singable songs. These casual Friday night get-togethers directly inspired lyrics like “Nothin’s proper and nothin’s planned,” “It’s okay without a microphone,” and “Little Pete plays his horn in the street.” The Okee Dokee Brothers believe that local community celebrations that bring together all different types of people can help unite a divided world. Like many tracks on this album, Justin and Joe recorded this song live in order to capture the free-spirit, energy and imperfection of a thrown-together community band.
Ask Away–Kids ask the darndest questions. Those questions can also be some of the most profound. Like Ask Away, Woody Guthrie has a kid’s song he wrote about children asking questions. One of his lyrics asks, “Why’s there no pennies for ice cream.” In this vein, Justin asks, “Why do people all grow old, why do leaves die in the cold, why are some stories never told.” Sometimes it takes a kid’s-eye-view to ask the biggest questions.
Singin’ for Me Supper–Joe, coming from Irish descent, has visited his “homeland” a few times to gain inspiration from the pub singalongs and late-night music jams. On one such visit to Galway he heard the tune “All for Me Grog” being sung to the rhythm of slamming beer mugs. Since the tune is about sacrificing your life and wife all for drinking, Joe decided to change the words and salvage a great melody for the kiddies. They received an authentic Irish blessing of approval from Máirtín de Cógáin (from County Cork) as he joined their singing and played his bodhrán (traditional Irish drum). The song also features Ben Jaber (John Williams Orchestra/San Diego Symphony) on tin whistle.
Seasons in a Day–This album spans from morning (disc 1) to night (disc 2). In the span of a day, there are natural rhythms that take us through various routines, moods, colors and temperatures. Justin says, “Singing songs that match up with those daily cycles can be a life-giving ritual. Rhythmic steps on a morning stroll; syncopated raindrops in the afternoon; clanging in the kitchen; the rocking chair’s lullaby. These are all times for singing, and each song is a reminder to be present through the different Seasons in a Day.” It’s a fitting song to recap the album and rounds out the end of the “Night” disc.
MM: You initially had this slated for a Summer release so what was the process of moving it forward like?
ODB: I tell ya…it was really interesting. About 34 emails and a Facebook post! After all that, felt pretty good to move it forward. The fans seemed happy about it and people need some hopeful tunes right about now.
MM: How do you envision the music videos for these songs looking? Can you give us a sneak-peeks as to what you are thinking thematically and visually?
ODB: We’ll commemorate Pete Seeger’s legacy with the filming of our music video for the sea shanty “Sally – O” aboard his Clearwater Sloop Sailboat on the Hudson River in New York (video is slated to be released on June 19, 2020 – now July 19, 2020). We came out with this one for Hope Machine already. Justin made it with his journal and his computer and you can see that on YouTube here. And we’ll have a fan-sourced/friend-sourced music video out May 1st – a compilation of videos sent it to us of people (and dogs) singing the responses to If You Want A Song.
MM: What can audiences expect from your live shows?
ODB: Participation, mediocre jokes, some poetic lyrics, visuals from our adventure trips, harmonies, stomping, and a lot of dancing!
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