SCREW RAFFI “Let’s be honest — a lot of kids’ music is kinda annoying,” says Bo Moore of the Thinkers. “No one really takes it seriously.”
Bo Moore is "a little Thinker-ed out." The Brighton-based songwriter — former frontman of Wonderful Spell and current head of indie-rock dudes Bozmo — has spent much of the past year touring the country's museums, children's hospitals, and libraries as one-half of the Thinkers, a duo (also featuring Matt "Moy" Saporito) that specializes in elaborate, slightly demented children's music.
Moore and Saporito met as freshmen roommates at Connecticut's Fairfield University, forming the Thinkers in 2005 — originally as a joke. "We used to just get together every now and then, improvise music, and make really silly stuff," Moore says enthusiastically as he fiddles on a keyboard in his Brighton home. "Moy had transferred to another college, so I didn't see him that often. Whenever we would get together, we started recording these wacky songs. We would just press record and go. For a long time, though, it was kind of a joke that only our friends knew about. Like, 'Oh, Bo and Moy are doing the fucking Thinkers again.' "
In fall 2009, they got serious with their silly. "We both started getting better at writing songs, and we started sending each other these really weird ones. It was like those really wacky songs that the Kinks do. And then we were like, 'Shit, man, we should call this a kids' album and get serious about the Thinkers! Wouldn't that be the ultimate joke if the Thinkers became real?' "
And it did. But calling their debut, Oh Zoooty!, a "kids' album" is a disservice to its fascinating musicianship and songwriting. Tracks like the hooky Flaming Lips-ish "The Bedtime Song" and the world-music-influenced "Call Up the Spirits" (featuring a "marimba bench" solo Moore recorded via laptop at Forest Hills Cemetery) are filled with colorful musical detours and lyrics pointing more toward the surreal (via the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine") than to the Wiggles. Culturally, there are countless filmmakers — like the folks at Pixar — who strive to make children's entertainment artful and deep. But how many good kids' albums do you have on your hard drive?
"Let's be honest — a lot of kids' music is kinda annoying," Moore says. "No one really takes it seriously. No one bothers writing good songs because, 'Oh, these are just for kids; I'll write a crappy song.' We just made cool songs, funny songs that everybody likes, and just made it be about a palm tree or breakfast or something."
On tour, they faced the most difficult crowds of their lives: rowdy groups of kindergarteners. "We toured as kids' musicians basically the entire summer," says Moore. "You have to drink tons of coffee. And kids are a tough audience. I was talking to a friend who said, "I've heard that kids are tougher than apathetic Brooklynites,' and I was like, 'Dude, they are!' "