For Juno nominees Robyn Hardy and Lorraine Pond, children’s music is serious business.
“Basically [we’re] teaching the next generation of super music fans,” Pond says.
Known professionally as Bobs and LoLo, Hardy and Pond met as Girl Guides on Vancouver Island and have been making music together since high school. That said, Pond says she and Hardy “never dreamed that we would be kids’ entertainers…. Robin did a degree in linguistics and I did a degree in kinesiology, so we were about as far away from music as possible.”
It was through the course of their later careers (Robin as an elementary school teacher and Lorraine as an environmental educator at the Vancouver Aquarium) that they rediscovered “the value of using music as a teaching tool.”
Pond recalls: “We wrote five songs and then we kinds of stumbled into an opportunity to do a live show for a BC children’s hospital…it was a three-hour event and we sang those five songs over and over.” This inauspicious beginning led to their first album, the ocean-themed Sea Notes, followed by a second the year later. “A year after that,” Pond says, “I convinced Robin to quit our jobs –”
Hardy interjects: “I was like, ‘what?! I just got my first teaching job!”
In retrospect, Pond says, it was an ideal time to take the risk. “We were young, we didn’t have kids, didn’t have mortgages, we felt like [it was] the right time to do it. Our families were really supportive, and we haven’t looked back since.”
Since then, Bobs and LoLo have released six albums and been nominated for four Juno Awards, most recently for their album Dirty Feet, which competed for Children’s Album of the Year at the 2016 awards. They credit their success to entertaining yet educational songs that kids can relate to.
Each album begins with a “broader theme” that inspires the songs, Hardy explains. Pond adds, “We really love like having some sort of continuity in the album as a whole, as a story for kids.” Their debut album, for instance, focused on ocean animals, which Pond says felt “natural and fitting” for the Vancouver duo. “That kind of natural world theme has stayed true through all of our albums,” she explains.
Lyrically, they take inspiration from their own childhoods as well as their “entourage of pre-schoolers.” “A lot of our inspiration was from things we loved as kids, [or from] working with kids as teachers or educators,” Pond explains. Since becoming mothers themselves (Pond has two young children while Hardy has a toddler “and another on the way”), they have been able to draw inspiration from “our own kids and our relationships with them.”
Musically, they pride themselves on creative arrangements, a diversity of genres, and the use of “real studio musicians” in their recordings. “We don’t want to dumb it down for kids,” Pond explains. Hardy notes that they strive to incorporate multiple genres into their music: “Jazz, funk, blues, rock.”
“We wrote a rock song about rocks,” Pond adds.
The ultimate goal of children’s music, as they see it, goes beyond simple entertainment. “We have a philosophy of kind of inspiring kids to care,” Hardy explains.
So far, it’s been a winning formula. Much like Fred Penner before them, Bobs and LoLo have become icons to a generation of kids to whom they introduced “their first musical experiences.”
At last year’s Junior Junos, the duo was “starstruck” at the chance to perform alongside Penner. “He’s a legend for us,” Pond says.
Penner, of course, has found a second career playing pub shows for nostalgic college students. Is this something Bobs and LoLo see in their future?
“I don’t know – grandma versions of Bobs and LoLo playing those college pubs?” Pond replies. “Maybe?”
That said, Bobs and LoLo are entering what they describe as “the children’s music middle age.”
“When we first started out,” Pond says, “we didn’t have kids, [and] all the parents coming to the shows were older than us…so we were kind of still the cool big sister or favourite auntie, and then like, that gap started shifting. Now some of the moms coming to the shows are younger than us.”
So a college pub tour isn’t totally out of the cards just yet. In the near future, however, Bobs and LoLo will be focusing on writing their seventh album – in time for the 2017 Juno Awards.
Originally published on Music Vice as Interview: Bobs and LoLo and the World of Children’s Music; April 13, 2016