Musician Danny Weinkauf said that in a divisive world, he hopes his next studio album, “Words,” helps children understand the importance of coming together in a difficult time.
The Lynbrook resident, who also plays bass for the Grammy-winning rock band They Might Be Giants, said he plans to bring a new set of catchy and educational songs to children and families on Aug. 20, which will teach kids concepts like hyperbole and alliteration. “Words” is his sixth studio album with his side project, following “Dinosaurs and Metaphors,” “No School Today,” “Red Pants Band,” “Totally O-some!” and “Inside I Shine.”
The new album offers songs that explore the power of words, such as the title track, which was released as a single on July 2.
“The song itself is about the way that words, when used properly, can be encouraging and comforting and inspiring,” he said. “Instead of dividing people and hurting people, they can be used in lots of great ways.”
A music video, which features the work of 25 animators from six countries, has also been released with the title track. Despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and a limited budget, word of mouth enabled the music video to ultimately include a variety of animation styles, from plasticine to colored paper, created by animators from Honduras to India.
Weinkauf, who also made donations to charities chosen by the animators, explained that it was inspiring to see people from different parts of the globe working together and helping one another, especially amid the pandemic.
“The coming together of all these people who had never met and may never meet ever… I think part of it was the inspiration of the fact that Covid had made everybody feel so isolated, but it was really just this very wonderful experience,” Weinkauf said. “The spirit of collaboration and the generosity and selflessness of the whole thing was really kind of amazing and unexpected.”
Weinkauf, a Grammy award-winning composer, has played bass guitar for TMBG since the late 1990s. He has written and produced music for shows such as “Malcolm in the Middle” “Sex and the City,” “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” “Resident Life,” “Jon and Kate + 8” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” as well as ESPN, the History Channel, MTV, Travel Net, Food Net, the National Geographic Channel, Direct TV, Disney and many others.
Weinkauf said that when TMBG had to stop touring in the pandemic, he accepted a job as a physical therapist at Valley Stream School District 13. He said he has a license in physical therapy and learned of the position from his friend, who stepped down to home school his children. During this time, he found his inspiration for the new album.
“Every day I was entering classrooms and seeing the children watching videos and the educational content that was going on, so that inspired me,” Weinkauf said. “I thought about what would be some useful topics, and the combination of that and the way that words were being thrown around in the media . . . made me think, ‘You know, words don’t always have to be so divisive and negative. They can give people strength. An uplifting speech or poem or something can really move someone and inspire them.’”
When performing the children’s songs live, Weinkauf plays with the Red Pants Band, comprising Tina Kenny Jones and Russ Jones on a variety of instruments, and Steve Plesnarski on drums. Kenny Jones also sang on some of the new album’s songs, as did Weinkauf’s wife, Michelle, and son, Kai.
In addition to providing vocals, Kenny Jones wrote a song for the album, collaborating with Weinkauf remotely during the pandemic. While she typically would visit Weinkauf’s home studio to work on his songs, the musicians were still able to adjust and put the album together.
“It ended up being a lot of him sending me things remotely, and then me singing it in my home studio and sending stuff back to him. So, it definitely wasn't without its challenges, but I'm still really excited with what we came out with,” Kenny Jones said.
Weinkauf and the Red Pants Band will soon perform live for the first time since before the pandemic, with their next show scheduled for Aug. 4 at the Long Island Children’s Museum. While the Lynbrook musician has not been able to tour with his usual bands for some time, he said that performing at events like weddings in recent months has reaffirmed his belief in the power of live music.
“Whether [playing] a wedding or a live show or something, you can tell that the people just really, really want to have a good time now and aren’t afraid to show it,” Weinkauf explained. “I haven’t played with the Red Pants Band members since well before Covid hit, so it’s like a reunion of sorts. We’re all very excited to be playing live.”
For more information, or to purchase “Words,” visit dannyweinkauf.com.