Tagged: The Wiggles

Regurgitator’s Pogogo Show gets down with the kids

Most rock bands work very hard at being serious. Credibility and being cool is everything – but if you’re a rock-star parent, those things count for nothing when it’s time to go home. Then you might sing silly songs to your kids in between chores, or when you’re dropping them off at school, before it’s time to put on the mask again and going back on tour.

Regurgitator have never worked hard at being serious, and have recorded an entire album of the songs they sang to their kids. The result is Regurgitator’s Pogogo Show: The Really Really Really Really Boring Album, with Ben Ely’s 14-year-old daughter Dee Dee doing backing vocals and telling stories in between songs.

The result is anything but boring, and sounds, well, like a Regurgitator album. For kids. That is, without the swearing, but with lots of farting.

The classic Brisbane three-piece (Quan Yeomans, Ben Ely and Peter Kostic) are spread out these days, with Yeomans in Melbourne and Kostic in Sydney. But all have children, and so too do most of the band’s Generation X fans, who’d come to the gigs on a night off (or on a date night). The Pogogo Show could catch on – especially since it’s already branching out into live shows.

But, as Ely says in the backyard of his Brisbane home, this was no calculated Cockroaches-to-Wiggles type transformation. As much as it is a reflection of parenthood, it’s also an extension of his near 30-year friendship with Yeomans.

“You know that mate who you’re kind of a bit sillier with than other people?” he says. “Quan and I have this very juvenile relationship. When we get together we try and make each other laugh, and a lot of those Regurgitator songs come from that place. Making a record, we’d always find ourselves pulling back from being complete idiots, but doing a kid’s album, this is the project where it really feels true to our nature. We can just jump off that idiot cliff.”

Dee Dee – who was, naturally, named after the late Ramones bass player – took it more seriously. “We kind of wrote it together,” she says. “A lot of it was from childhood. And it was interesting, but it also taught me to be confident in being able to express myself through multiple mediums, and producing a record was just an easy way of getting some of these ideas out there.”

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun. Mr Butt, for example, was one of those songs that came from a school run years ago. “We were driving and we saw a cyclist and his pants were not where they should be,” Dee Dee says. “You could see a lot of crack, and Dad just started tapping on the steering wheel as he usually does and pointing…”

“And I said, pull your pants up Mr Butt!” Ely finishes. “And then we invented this character called Mr Butt, whose pants keep falling down.”

Later, Ely made a papier-mache Mr Butt for the children’s shows. “I thought it would take a couple of hours, and it took about a week. But creatively it’s fun. I guess what’s always appealed to us about being in a band is it’s not just guys in a room playing music; there’s so many other components.”

The album was recorded with children’s guitars and drums, tracked in a single afternoon in a Melbourne studio, and mixed the next day. Immediacy was everything. “Kids don’t think about things, they just act,” Ely says, possibly referring to himself. “They don’t think, ‘I’m going to draw a fire truck’, they just draw a fire truck. There’s not very many premeditated ideas.”

“And with a target audience of kids you can make it a bit more creative,” Dee Dee says. “You can also have fun with it, you don’t have to stick to a certain persona or visual effect.”

What about bringing The Pogogo Show to the small screen? Dee Dee is way ahead of Dad here. “I think with modern technology you’ll want to move it to multiple platforms to really take off, because not everyone’s going to be on ABC,” she tells him. “If you want to put it on YouTube, all that stuff, widen your horizons – like, I can help you!”

After all, why wouldn’t they want to take songs like Farting Is A Part Of Life to suburban homes around Australia? As Dee Dee says to Ben, “It’s not like you’ve got a reputation to uphold or anything.”

“There’s no reputation to lose,” he agrees.

First published in The Guardian, 2 February 2019

Singing in Gunggandji: the Wiggles at Yarrabah

In a classroom of excitable primary school children in Yarrabah – an Indigenous community that lies across Trinity Inlet, an hour’s drive south-east of Cairns – language and culture teacher Nathan Schrieber makes a grand entrance in traditional garb, using biraba, or clapsticks, to call the kids to attention.

“Are youse ready?” he asks. “Are you set? Then we’d better get some Wiggle action in here!”

And from a side entrance, in they come – Anthony (in blue), Lachy (purple), Emma (yellow) and Simon (red). Schrieber asks the children to make them welcome. With that, the Wiggles bursts into Rockabye Your Bear, a song the children have been learning for weeks in the local Gunggandji dialect.

Most of them already seem to know all the songs in English, as the band runs through a short set of hits. Emma leads the Whirlybird. Simon, of course, does Simon Says. Captain Feathersword charges in, and falls over. For the finale, everyone stands to Do The Propeller.

A short time later, the band returns and sings Rockabye Your Bear again, this time in Gunggandji, accompanied by Schrieber, his sister Elverina Johnson, elder Uncle Daniel Murgha and the children. It’s being filmed for the upcoming TV series Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle, which will stream in more than 190 countries. One of the kids cheekily asks Anthony if he likes fruit salad.

The Wiggles are here in Yarrabah at the behest of singer and the Queensland Music Festival artistic director, Katie Noonan, as an adjunct to the fourth annual Yarrabah Band Festival, which will be headlined on Saturday by Archie Roach and Jessica Cerro, better known as Montaigne.

There’s also the Yarrabah Brass Band, a crucial part of the Yarrabah story: a revived relic of its history as an Anglican mission. The brass band was first established in 1901 to accompany hymns (brass, unlike other instruments, being better able to withstand the sauna-like humidity of the tropics).

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The Wiggles and Katie Noonan with staff and students from Yarrabah State School and Nathan Schrieber (far right). Photo: Andrew Watson

The music stopped when the mission folded in the 1960s, but in 2013, QMF got the band back together and, despite its colonial heritage, it’s proven a popular initiative. Meanwhile, the Yarrabah Band Festival has become a platform for local artists, with nearly 20 bands – drawn from a community of roughly 2,500 people – competing on Friday night for the chance to join the headliners. One act will be selected by Noonan.

But even though the Wiggles aren’t performing at the main event on Saturday, they are, by some distance, the biggest stars to ever appear in Yarrabah. “From the day that we found out, the kids, you couldn’t contain them,” Schrieber says, adding that the children were sceptical. “They were jumping out of their skin. We told them, ‘The Wiggles are coming’, and they were like, ‘The real Wiggles? They’re coming here?’”

Mostly, he says, they knew more about them than he did. “They wanted to know about Emma and Lachy. Actually, they beat me, they were like, ‘Yeah, they’re married’. I didn’t know that.”

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Yellow Wiggle Emma with Katie Noonan and children from Yarrabah State School. Photo: Andrew Watson

Then Johnson came to him with the idea of translating Rockabye Your Bear for the kids to sing back to the band. “We just sat down one afternoon and translated it,” Schrieber says. “The funny thing is, in our language, we didn’t mean it to match, but it almost fits rhythmically, exactly the same. It’s amazing how these two separate languages and cultures have come together.”

It’s part of the Wiggles’ job to smile, but today the smiles are perhaps wider than usual. Like rock stars – one of the band’s sound technicians wears a T-shirt mocked up to mimic the Ramones’ famous logo, another depicts the band crossing “Wiggly Road” – the band don’t often get the chance to get this close to those they entertain. “I reckon we’ll remember this more than any entertainment centre gig,” Lachy says.

Simon adds: “Intimacy with the children is something you can’t recreate. It’s incredible being up on stage in front of 10,000 people, but just having a couple of hundred children there, singing and joining in with us is pretty wonderful.”

First published in The Guardian, 4 November 2016