Monday, February 1, 2016

Pheaturing Phile Alum Alexis Babini

Rabbit. Welcome to the Phile, kids, for a Monday... it's February 1st. Happy Extremely Awkward Black History Month to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Okay, so, today I am gonna do something different which I will never do again. Today's guest Alexis Babini asked me if this entry if it could be an "exclusive" entry with just his interview? "This is so I can easily share it.... I have a few thousand followers across social media and would love if I could share it to them." he said. I thought long and hard about this and agreed that I would start off with his interview and do the rest of the stuff like monologue and everything afterwards. Yeah, I'm too nice. So, here we go... Ugh.

Today's pheatured guest is a Phile Alum whose latest single "Shut up and Kiss Me" is available on iTunes. He also founded a band called The Little Mermen that performs Disney songs. Please welcome back to the Phile... Alexis Babini.

Me: Alexis, welcome back to the Phile, man. How have you been?

Alexis: Doing great, thanks for having me back, Jason!

Me: So, you have been pretty busy, Alexis, since I had you here last. You played with Blues Traveler, Boz Scaggs, The Verve Pipe to name a few. is there a favorite band or musician you have opened for? Anybody you wish you could open for?

Alexis: I've opened for so many folks over the years... From Blues Traveler to Cody Simpson. I've been really lucky and learned a ton about the hard work it takes to put on a large scale show. While I can't wait to collaborate with more major-selling artists I have to admit I don't spend too much time wishing that I could open for people. In my ideal dream show I'm the headliner not the opener. That being said I saw in the news that Amy Schemer opened for Madonna last year... This was right around the time Amy started getting really well-known. What a powerhouse of a show that must have been! To me this was a very interesting concept: a rising comedian opening for a superstar music artist. So let's flip it and have me open for a famous comedian.

Me: You are opening for me right now in a way. Ha! Which comedian would you like to open for?

Alexis: I'd love to open for Louis C.K!

Me: You are from New York I believe, but where do you live now?

Alexis: I'm currently based in NYC.

Me: I love the song and video for "Shut Up and Kiss Me." Was that song written with somebody in mind?

Alexis: Thank you. Yes, it was.

Me: Okay, let's chat about your side project The Little Mermen... So, did you found this band, Alexis?

Alexis: Yes. The Little Mermen are a cover band that I perform with as the front man. We play classic Disney tunes reimagined as rock and roll. The Mermen and I have been selling out the small clubs of NYC. Here's a link to our video from last Halloween: Here's a link to our video that went viral thanks to us getting featured on BuzzFeed, MTV News, and Disney's blog:

Me: Who is in the band with you?

Alexis: I started this band with some close friends that I've played music with since I was a teenager. Two of the folks in the group actually played in my high school band back when I was just a little Babinibaby. I'm in a very lucky position because I went to music school with Berklee alumni that are now full time musicians in NYC. Some of whom play in the pit bands on popular Broadway shows. For example, one of the drummers I collaborated with on my last album is currently the drum sub for "The Lion King." So in addition to selling out shows we have special guests like this in store for the audience. This really takes the excitement factor to another next level.

Me: And who came up with the band name?

Alexis: This is something I can also take credit for... I had a few names bouncing around in my head... All puns... I remember The Lyin' Kings being one of them. Once I thought of The Little Mermen the rest was history!

Me: So, this band you play versions of Disney songs, right? What songs do you play?

Alexis: My new favorite is "Bare Necessities"... That song gets real bluesy. Other popular songs we have done include "Colors of The Wind" re-imagined as 80s rock. Our version of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" sounds it could be a hit for the band Weezer. Most cover bands strive to get their music sounding as close to the original recordings as possible but we have a different task at hand. My job is to take these songs, rearrange them for a band, then The Little Mermen and I transform it into a rock show while still being faithful to the original material. I got really excited when Ryan Adams covered the songs of Taylor Swift's "1989" in his style because that is pretty much the exact approach I'm taking to the Disney canon. I had a similar thought process when I heard that John Mayer had joined the Grateful Dead and is putting his own musical style on their catalogue of songs. 

Me: What has been the reaction from this band, Alexis? And where do you guys play?

Alexis: There are a few Disney meet up groups and popular blogs based in the city that have responded well to us. That has really helped us get the word out. It's been very vindicating to hear that the most loyal of all Disney fans have given us their seal of approval. Halloween is quickly becoming our biggest night of the year. For the second year in a row we packed a venue with folks singing along to every word while dressed as their favorite characters from the movies. Check out some pictures from last Halloween at Santos Party House here:

Me: I have worked for Disney for almost 28 years and can see you guys playing in one of the parks. Has anybody from the Disney corporation contacted or seen you guys?

Alexis: As far as playing the parks goes... That's something we've always talked about. I'm sure there's an opportunity there somewhere and if so I'd love to find out what it is. At the same time, I can see this idea possibly growing into a much larger concept. Did you know that there's a touring orchestra called the Symphony of Goddesses? They play live orchestral music from Nintendo's Zelda video games. They tour globally and the last time they were out here in New York City they sold out Madison Square Garden. As far as people coming from the Disney corporation: The Little Mermen and I were endorsed by Alan Menken, the musical theatre and film composer and pianist best known for his scores for films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. He came to one of our shows and was nice enough to come backstage and say hello! He's since commented on our Facebook saying, "Go Mermen!".

Me: So, are you a big Disney fan, Alexis? Do you come down to Disney World often? The next time you do we need to hang out!

Alexis: If the fact that I just told you I started a Disney themed cover band didn't tell you enough... YES, I am a huge Disney fan. I will be sure to look you up next time I'm down at Disney World.

Me: So, will The Little Mermen be recording an album?

Alexis: Not yet. But maybe one day if there seems to be a big demand for it. Right now it's really all about the live shows. Each show is it's own special event because we only do it a few times a year. The thing is if you want to sit and listen to Disney you're going to want to hear the songs you know from the movies. But if you want to experience Disney as an interactive rock and roll concert then you need to go see our show for yourself to believe it.

Me: Speaking of albums, you are working on a new one?

Alexis: Yes. I just completed a full EP of all new songs. The upcoming record was just mastered at Sterling Sound (same place that did the new Adele album!). The tracks were done by Joe Laporta known for his Grammy nominated work with Imagine Dragons and Foo Fighters. Joe also mastered David Bowie's last album "Black Star." Ethan Kaufman produced the EP. I met him back in the day doing a college tour with an artist named Ryan Cabrera. Ethan has gone on to work with some amazing artist including Avril Lavigne. He also produced an album for his band called Wild Party that made some waves in the festival circuit. No single has been released yet. But we just shot a music video that I plan to release when my TV appearance airs on TV Land's "Younger." It's really important to me that this all gets released at the right time... I think it helps on the PR side that I'm also on TV.

Me: What is the show about and who do you play?

Alexis: "Younger" is a romantic comedy set in NYC and written by Darren Starr (the creator of "Sex and The City")... I'm the lead banjo player in the featured bluegrass band on the show.

Me: Did you have to audition to get the part?

Alexis: I did not. This is partly in thanks to my relationship with the show's casting agency. Also this was partly because the banjo player from the first season just started doing a show on Broadway and they needed to fill that role fast! Just another example of: "Right place, right time."

Me: Is it a fun show to be in?

Alexis: I had a blast. I only shot for about three days. From what I'm told this is split up into two episodes and that should air in the coming weeks.

Me: Hillary Duff is in the show... what is she like to work with? I met her years ago when she was on "Lizzie McGuire" and they did a shoot at Epcot. She was really cool back then.

Alexis: Hillary Duff wasn't in the scenes that our band performs in. That might have been a blessing in disguise given that I toured with her ex Aaron Carter back in 2013.

Me: I have to ask you about Musicians on Call... I think this is very cool, man. Tell the readers what it is. How can anybody find out more about it?

Alexis: Musicians on Call is a charity I work with that brings live and recorded music to the bedsides of patients in healthcare facilities. I'm a frequent volunteer musician at their charity events. I was also the first musician they ever used to broadcast performances from their office into multiple hospitals. Musicians on Call has been growing in the past couple years as well. I was involved with one of their gala events that had performances from Nick Jonas, Kelly Clarkson, Jessie J, and Shawn Mendes. Right now they are partnering with Bruce Springsteen on ticket packages for his tour... they have a link on their website where you can bid for tickets and the proceeds go to charity!

Me: Okay, so, this year it's the 10th anniversary of the Phile, and I am asking my guests where they were 10 years ago... so, where were you and what were you doing?

Alexis: Let's see... 10 years ago I was still at Berklee College of Music. I had just finished my first batch of songs and played my first ever show as a songwriter with a backing band. A year later Berklee would give me their performing songwriter award which validated the idea maybe I was pretty good at this. Or at the very least I don't totally suck. So 10 years ago I was learning the ropes to get my dream job.

Me: Thanks so much for being on the Phile. Will you come back when the next CD comes out? 

Alexis: Anytime! Thanks again for having me.

Me: Ha! All the best, Alexis, take care, man.

Okay, now I got that outta the way let's talk about what is going on in the news. In an interview on the "Today" show this morning, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin denied blaming Obama for her son Track's post traumatic stress disorder, proving that her memory is about as bad as her political prowess. Seeming annoyed during the interview when she was asked about the statements she made after her son was arrested on domestic-violence charges, Palin said, "I never blamed President Obama. What did I say that is offensive? I don't regret any comment that I made because I didn't lay PTSD at the foot of the president." To refresh your (and her) memory, here is exactly what Palin said that day at the Donald Trump rally in Oklahoma: “It starts from the top... the question, though, that comes from our own president where they have to look at him and wonder, ‘Do you know what we go through? Do you know what we’re trying to do to secure America and to secure the freedoms that have been bequeathed us?’” She went on: “It makes me realize more than ever, it is now or never for the sake of America’s finest that we’ll have that commander-in-chief who will respect them and honor them." Hmmm. Not to be all "Gotcha!" but it sounds a lot like she's blaming President Obama for her son's PTSD. After the topic was broached on the "Today" show, Palin accused hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie of breaking a promise by bringing it up. The former Alaska governor said they'd invited her on the show to talk about politics and not about her kids. Lauer disagreed that the comments she made (in which she definitely connected President Obama to her son's PTSD) were off-limits, however, saying "there were no specific promises made about the content of the interview." While Palin maintains that she didn't blame the president for her son's issues, she did say that she thinks that Obama could do a lot more to prove that he respects troops. Specifically, "this level of disrespect for the United States military that is made manifest in getting budgets. In not trying to beef it up and let our military do the job that they are trying to do." Ohhh, okay. So, if the military just had more money, soldiers would not come home with PTSD, because, wait. No, that still doesn't make any sense. Oh, Sarah. You go on with your zany self.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are deeply committed to charitable causes around the world, but there's a limit to their compassion. When it comes to the plight of the homeless looking for mansions to pee on in Hollywood, they have no sympathy. Last week, the celebrity couple's security guards spotted somebody lurking in the bushes outside their Hollywood Hills home, so they called the cops. When the cops confronted the man, they realized he was no stalker out to snap photos of one of Brangelina's 80 children... he was just a poor homeless guy looking for a place to wiz. He was quickly released. Although it's easy to focus on the struggles of this unfortunate man who's fallen through the cracks of society, don't forget about the toll this incident must take on Pitt and Jolie themselves. Their home is their temple, and now it is forever tainted by the spectre of a stranger's fluids. They may even lose the will to adopt any more children, which would make the whole world poorer. All for a piddle.
Over the weekend, someone apparently tried to get even with Donald Trump by scrawling a black swastika on his Hollywood Walk of Fame star. The fact that they drew it backwards, likely on accident, means the graffitist might actually be an intellectual match for Trump himself. To date, Trump has asked for a ban on all Muslims traveling to the U.S. and called Latino immigrants "criminals" and "rapists." His rhetoric has resulted in comparisons to Hitler before, including one by Anne Frank's stepsister, Eva Schloss, just last week. Hollywood historians might note several other industry legends that deserve their own swastika-updated star, including John Wayne, who once told "Playboy," "I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility." Or Walt Disney, oft-rumored to hold racist views. But an actor named Austin Franklin, likely delighted to take a break from his day walking Hollywood Boulevard in a Batman costume, told the Wrap, "I've never seen this kind of hate put on a star before, not even Bill Cosby." As the Iowa caucuses begin tonight, Trump hopes to validate his inspirational campaign theme that everyone is a loser but him.
Republican State Senator Tom Patton of Strongsville, OH is getting backlash for comments he made on the America's Work Force radio show on January 18th. On the show, he questioned whether his main opponent for the seat, Jennifer Herold, would be able to handle the duties of a job in the state legislature due to her being a mom with young children. Surprisingly, this didn't go over well with some people, including Herold herself. “The gal that’s running against me is a 30-year-old, you know, mom, mother of two infants,” he said on the show. “I don’t know if anybody explained to her you have to spend three nights a week in Columbus. So, how does that work out for you? I waited until I was 48, until my kids were raised, and at least adults, before we took the opportunity to try.” Ah, nothing like a man calling an adult woman who he barely knows a "gal." Herold, whose "infants" are aged one and three, issued a written response to Patton. She said that her family took her decision to run very seriously and went on: “We realize the sacrifice that is involved in holding such a position. However, Tom Patton has crossed a line by trying to turn the fact that I am a mother of two children into a negative campaign issue. It’s insulting for my opponent to suggest that motherhood is a liability. In fact, my experience as a mom is perhaps my greatest strength." In a statement to the Cleveland "Plain Dealer" Patton apologized (kind of), saying his comments "appear to have been misunderstood" and that he "used a poor choice of words to express what [he knows] first-hand... raising young children and working is tough." 
Alright, so, did you low Lay's is coming out with a new potato chip flavor? 

That is fitting I think. Oh, I have to show you this... Gentlemen, the president of Croatia...

Nice, eh? You're welcome! Do you remember this poster for the Green Lantern movie? 

Well, Ryan Reynolds is gonna be in the Deadpool and they came out with this very clever movie poster...

Ingenius! So, Alexis and I talked about Disney and I had a great idea... Disney Princess Hot Dogs! Check this out!

The Pocahontas Dog. I think Disney should sell them in the park. What do you think, kids? Alright, and now for some people actually reading the Phile...

I wonder which entry they are looking at? Okay, I have been showing you some photos that show why presidential candidates really shouldn't pose with kids. Like this one of Carly Fiorina​ knowing how to approach young people.

"Stand back, I've got a spoon!" One other thing, yesterday I showed you a picture from eBay of an autographed pic of the heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch but was listed as Foghat. well, right next to it on eBay with the same seller is an actual autographed pic of Foghat.

Guess the seller is somewhat confused. Me too, actually. And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, here is...

Top Phive Startling Similarities Between The Iowa Caucus And Groundhog Day
5. Is an accurate predictor of what's to come.
4. Make the middle of nowhere seem like the center of the Universe.
3. Is a great American tradition well worth continuing.
2. Brings shadowy creatures out of their burrows and into the ugly light of day. 
And the number one similarity between the Iowa Caucus and Groundhog Day is...
1. Cable news will have insightful things to say about it.

There's a classroom decorated with most confusing observance of Black History Month I've seen yet.

Ay ay ay ay, canta y no llores para el mes de la historia Afroamericana. There are two choices here, one is terrible and the other is delightful. The first scenario is that the creator of this wall display is unaware of the differences between African Americans and stereotypical Mexicans. The second, more enjoyable scenario is that at this school, Black History Month lessons are delivered via educational mariachi band. Because who wouldn't remember the Harlem Renaissance better with finger-picked guitar riffs and the occasional high-pitched "Ah ha!" thrown in? One thing is for sure, though, those decal Mexicans look properly excited to learn an invaluable part of history.

Sir Terry Wogan 
August 3rd 1938 — January 31st 2016
Now his whole body is as stiff as his upper lip.

Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson ith a profethinal boxther.

I am all confused this entry thanks to Alexis. Haha. Okay, last month I showed you Mindphucks sent on by some of my readers and they were all pretty much too hard to figure out so this month I will be showing you some real easy ones. Here we go.

If you spot it, and I am sure you will, let me know. Okay, that about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Alexis Babini. The Phile will be back next Sunday with Phile Alumni Burning Jet Black. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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