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The Father Figures: They drive carpool by day and rock out at night — yeah, they’re a dad band

  • Posters line the walls of a rehearsal space used by The Father Figures. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jeff Green on bass, rehearsing with The Father Figures. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Adam Zucker, left, and Steve Platt of The Father Figures. They’re both professors at UMass. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Steve Platt, drummer for The Father Figures. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jeff Green plucks his bass while practicing with The Father Figures at a rehearsal space in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Adam Zucker plays with The Father Figures at a rehearsal space in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Adam Zucker's Fender guitar —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Adam Zucker plays during a practice with The Father Figures. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Steve Platt works the pedal of his high-hat cymbal during a session with The Father Figures. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Adam Zucker during a practice with The Father Figures. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Adam Zucker sings during a recent Thursday-night rehearsal with The Father Figures. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A vintage Jimi Hendrix poster hangs in a rehearsal space used by The Father Figures. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Adam Zucker sings during a rehearsal with The Father Figures. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Adam Zucker’s guitar —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • An orange power cord runs from Jeff Green’s bass to his amplifier during a practice with The Father Figures at a rehearsal space in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hallway in the Easthampton rehearsal space used by the band The Father Figures —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Steve Platt plays with The Father Figures at a rehearsal space in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Adam Zucker sings during a rehearsal with The Father Figures. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Foot pedals rest at the feet of Adam Zucker during a practice with The Father Figures at a rehearsal space in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Max Germer, bassist for Winterpills, with son Miles. —COURTESY MAX GERMER

  • At right, Chandler Klose, of The Father Figures, and family —COURTESY CHANDLER KLOSE

  • “The nice thing about being this old is we’re all comfortable enough on our instruments to fudge our way through pretty much any song we’ve heard before,” says Father Figures drummer Steve Platt. “There’s nothing more fun than someone throwing out the first few bars of a Police song you haven’t touched in 20 years, and realizing you can still play it right through.” —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Adam Zucker, from left, Steve Platt and Jeff Green, of the band The Father Figures, practice at a rehearsal space in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • “The room’s got a great vibe, and it makes us feel cooler than we probably are,” says The Father Figurers’ drummer Steve Platt, a dad of two. “It’s got a bit of the feel of some guy with an awesome basement whose parents are always away and you can play as loud as you want there.” —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Adam Zucker of The Father Figures. “I have two daughters, seven and nine. They take my music playing as a basic fact of life,” he says. “And my wife is completely in favor of the whole endeavor. She knows how important it is to me.” —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jeff Green, bassist, plays with The Father Figures at a rehearsal space in Easthampton. “For a long time I talked about it as the musical equivalent of book club,” he says. “It sort of looked the same — we’d pick a couple of songs to learn and get together on a Thursday night, after all our kids were in bed, to play for a couple of hours.” —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Stickers decorate a mini fridge at a rehearsal space used by The Father Figures. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Adam Zucker, from left, Steve Platt and Jeff Green, of the band The Father Figures, practice at a rehearsal space in Easthampton. Guitarist Chandler Klose couldn’t make it because he was managing his 11-year-old’s sleepover.  —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



Friday, July 07, 2017

“The Dad Band.” It could be the latest buddy comedy starring Paul Rudd and friends as a group of fortysomething fathers who start a band and rock out in the ’burbs.

But this is not a Hollywood story: It’s a Valley one, starring your very own friends and neighbors. Or at least it stars mine. Not long ago, in Florence, I was hanging out in the backyard of my neighbor, Steve Platt, during his son’s fifth birthday party, when he told me about his own dad band, and how they negotiate playing with other groups. “Normal bands, they want to go on later — at the end of the lineup,” he said as his daughter and a bunch of boys chased each other with water-filled spray bottles. “But for us, we’re always jockeying to see who goes on earlier, because you’ve got to get home and get enough sleep before the kids need breakfast.”

Steve’s band is called The Father Figures, and it’s one of many dad-heavy bands in the Pioneer Valley, which also has been the stomping ground of more than a few dad-rockstars, such as Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth fame), Francis Black (of the Pixies), J Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr.) and Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco, whose management is based in Easthampton), thanks to a thriving music scene, including festivals like Green River and Wilco’s Solid Sound, and good schools to boot.

A decade ago, Moore and his then-wife Kim Gordon played a fundraising concert to benefit the Greenfield Center School, which their daughter, Coco, attended at the time. “Their presence in Northampton certified the area as a haven for alternative-rock luminaries in middle life,” wrote The New Yorker in 2013.

The couple has since split, but the tradition of Pioneer Valley parents rocking out lives on. Among other musicians balancing the demands of parenthood and band practice: drummer Brian Marchese (a father of a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter), who plays with The Fawns and Gentle Hen, along with bassist Max Germer, who also plays with Winterpills. Germer knows plenty of other parents in the Valley music scene (including local legends like sisters Nerissa and Katryna Nields) and even moved here in the mid ’90s because of it. But things changed when he and his wife had their son, Miles, 12 years ago. 

“When he was born, I took a half year off, which meant I missed playing on one record by The Fawns, and that drove me insane. If I don’t have a show every six weeks or so, my wife can attest I go nuts; I get really antsy,” says Germer, who now has a full-time job as a web designer for Yankee Candle. “When I moved here, I had no real thoughts about parenting or middle-aged rockers or anything… Having a kid has put things in perspective for me. I value every chance to play music and every recording that I make because I know I’m getting older, and it’s a younger person’s game. At some point, I’ll probably feel silly rocking out onstage — but I’m not there yet.”

Of course, not every band with dads as members is a “dad band,” a term that makes Germer “cringe a little bit,” he admits. And there are plenty of moms in bands, too: Andrew Goulet plays in the band Night School with his wife, Brandee Simone; they have a toddler-daughter together. “For both of us, a major challenge is simply finding the energy to practice and write new material after a long day,” he says.

But Adam Zucker, an English professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and The Father Figures’ lead singer, fully embraces the dad-band label. “I wear the badge proudly,” he recently wrote in an email. (Editor’s note: Most of these interviews were done by email, an easy form of communication for the dad-musicians.) “I mean, I’m a dad in a band... I cook dinner for my family every night; I drive people to and from playdates and do after-school stuff; I am 45 and I havegreying hair and have developed a taste for slightly expensive bourbon.” But, he adds, he also gets together with the guys once a week to “stick earplugs in and scream and stomp.”

The members of The Father Figures agree to an unspoken pact: They play for the sheer love of it, not for the glory. “ ‘Dad band’ to me means we’re playing because we enjoy it… and the band’s reason to be begins and ends there,” says bassist Jeff Green, an operations engineer at the Wikimedia Foundation and a dad of two. “For a long time, I talked about it as the musical equivalent of book club.” 

They don’t necessarily want to be the headlining act — after all, they have to be home at a reasonable hour to tuck the kids into bed or relieve the sitter. They don’t go on tour and are much more likely to be taking out the trash than trashing hotel rooms. They’ve come to terms with driving a family car, which conveniently shuttles both children and electric guitars. The Father Figures’ lead guitarist Chandler Klose, who has two kids, ages 11 and seven, drives a Honda Odyssey, “the ultimate rock transport machine, er, soccer-dad vehicle,” he jokes.

And they all are grateful for their supportive partners. Steve Platt’s wife, Francie Lin, a novelist, has gotten used to having a second drum set in the basement: the Yamaha kit Steve recently bought off Craigslist. “It’s totally a midlife crisis,” Francie says. “He described it that way. He said, ‘This is like my Harley Davidson.’ ” 

Perhaps most importantly, they don’t get too hung up on how they look or sound. “It’s a lot of joyful rocking out, embarrassment be damned. Which is a very, very useful attitude to have when you are a Dad of two pre-teen girls,” Adam says.

On a recent Thursday night, Adam and his crew showed up in short-sleeve shirts, shaggy facial hair and worn sneakers to jam in their Easthampton rehearsal space, decorated with posters for bands like Bad Religion, Primus and Pink Floyd.

“Rehearsal always goes well,” says Steve, 46, a professor of modern Chinese history at UMass. “Even if we play like crap it goes well because it’s just so much fun in and of itself.” When they do perform in public (their first gig was playing Chandler’s birthday party), they’re pretty lighthearted about it, sending out the occasional groan-inducing Facebook invite like one recently composed by Adam, who promised that an upcoming Father Figures’ show would feature “a wealth of Dadditude.” 

The Father Figures first started playing together last fall, but all four of the members are longtime music lovers — with varying levels of skill and experience. (“I am not very good at it,” Adam admits of his guitar playing.) Chandler, who now works as a director of the SiriusXM Data Warehouse, is one of the more experienced musicians in the group, having played guitar with the popular Boston band Life of Riley in the mid ’90s. 

A love of playing loud music bonds them together — but so do their day-to-day lives. Some of their kids have gone to school together. And Steve’s connection with Jeff goes way back — they were in a band together as students at Northampton High School. They both credit Chandler for getting them back together in 2015. “It was an ‘ah ha’ moment,” Jeff says. “I’m pretty sure it was when we made it most of the way through Rush’s ‘Red Barchetta’ that we were all cracking up about it and, at least for me, getting excited about the potential of this combo.”

And then Adam made four. He also is indirectly responsible for the band’s name, which arose during a discussion in his classroom about father figures in Shakespeare. While he doesn’t advertise to his students the fact that he’s in a band, they find out anyway, Adam says: “I told them I was in a new nameless Dad band. Of course, they got a kick out of the idea (or thought it was hilariously bad... I couldn’t really tell -- very Dad-like situation).”

Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of very Dad-like situations that can arise when you’re in a dad band. One just arose the other night when Chandler had to back out of a regular rehearsal because of a more pressing commitment at home. “I was managing an 11-year-old sleepover,” he explained, adding that it “wasn’t very involved other than grilling burgers and making sure no one got hurt and they turned the lights off at 10 p.m.”

His band mates emphasized that they’d never played without him before and might not sound their best in the video accompanying this article. But they didn’t dwell on their imperfections. And according to Steve Waksman, associate professor of music and American studies at Smith College, this kind of spirited, carefree attitude is part of the beauty of the dad band, which “can be seen as a perfectly natural outgrowth of the fact that a lot of men who have played music and been in bands throughout their young adulthood have decided not to leave their music behind as they ‘grow up.’ ”

While some might view dad bands as “a sign of just how much rock has become aligned with a certain form of upper middle class male nostalgia that sucks the life out of the music,” Waksman adds, he sees them as “a better, more democratic and inclusive form of such nostalgia than the trend to turn concerts and festivals into high-class vacation destinations. At least the guys playing in dad bands are rocking out for themselves.”

And maybe that’s their truest act of rebellion — they’re playing for themselves, not for their kids, reviving covers from their teenage years and even writing the occasional original song. “There’s one model which is the group of dads that plays kid-friendly rock music for birthday parties and whatnot, but we kind of went the opposite direction,” Steve says. “Playing together is more like unleashing our inner ’80s teenagers for a couple of hours each week. It’s escapist and fun, and I don’t think it would go over very well at a birthday party for kids. Certainly it would hurt their ears.”

That said, they are trying to broaden their set list with more danceable hits — and less Rush.

“At our last show, when we played a Prince song to a room full of dancing people — that was perfect,” Adam says. “Getting to sing and recreate songs I love with people I enjoy spending time with is pretty fabulous in and of itself. And, honestly, playing fast, singing loudly, and dancing around? That’s a pretty good workout! It’s like Pure Barre for Dads.”