June 20, 2014 in Features

Kids musicians keep it lively

Our Weekly Pick For Families

Eric Herman and the Thunder Puppies will perform Friday in Spokane Valley. They are, from left, Dave Pettey, Eric Herman Endres, Evee Endres, Javier Ruiz, Chris Baugh, Becca Endres and Ben Macy.
(Full-size photo)

When: 2 p.m. today

Where: Great Room at CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley

Admission: Free

Online: A free download of “The Elephant Song” is available through SoundCloud; go to http://bit.ly/1yevmUG. Listen to song samples from Eric Herman’s albums at www.erichermanmusic.com.

They might have been the Lawn Mowers.

The Thunder Puppies – the band behind the children’s musician known as Eric Herman, making its Spokane-area debut today – got their name from “several months of trying to come up with a band name,” said the lead singer, whose real name is Eric Herman Endres.

It became a running joke in his family and in the band, as they trotted out ideas inspired by daily events. Such as mowing the lawn.

The winning name reflects what the band delivers.

“Puppies are cute and lively,” Endres said, “but Thunder Puppies gives it this little bit of a rock ’n’ roll edge.”

Along with tunes for kids and families, the free Spokane Valley concert will incorporate comedy and plenty of audience interaction, Endres said: “I’ve been doing kids music 10 years now full-time. Very, very early on, I learned with that audience you need to keep them involved somehow.”

Based in West Richland, Washington, Endres – who’s previously toured with his “invisible band” – produced his own albums and gained fans through music videos posted on YouTube. His songs have been featured on PBS Kids and “The Today Show” and in the 2010 movie “Life as We Know It.”

His most recent album, “Party Animal,” mixes it up stylistically. “Up All Night,” about New Year’s Eve, is built on a funk rhythm. “Can We Buy a New Car (So I Can Have a Balloon)?” employs country twang and child logic: “It seems like one of those really sweet deals,” Endres sings. Imaginative lyrics, fast wordplay and straight-faced silliness round out the album.

They’ll also play songs from Endres’ first album recorded with the Thunder Puppies. All the songs on “Bubble Wrap,” due in 2015, were generated through ad-libbing, Endres said.

“It feels inspired,” he said.

Endres said U.S. children’s poet laureate Kenn Nesbitt, a Spokane resident, also has influenced his work. Nesbitt’s poems have inspired some songs, and the poet pitched in to help write others.

Among them, Nesbitt helped write “November First,” a song (with an animated video) that features lots of rhyming and action words – “I’m shakin’ like the bacon Dad is makin’ with his eggs” – and one Tom Cruise reference, possibly for the grownups.

Adrian Rogers

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