Touring, tots and tunes

17:00, May 08 2014
The Bats
ROCK TODDLERS: The Bats, Paul Kean and Kaye Woodward, took their daughter Rose on tour with them when they toured the United States with Radiohead.

Can you imagine your band taking a toddler with you on a tour with Radiohead? Ahead of Mother's Day, Vicki Anderson talks to national and international musical parents who are successfully combining touring with family life.

THE BATS - Kaye Woodward and Paul Kean

The Bats formed in Christchurch in 1982 and, over 30 years on, with the same lineup, are still going strong.

Husband and wife bandmates Kaye Woodward and Paul Kean know a bit about touring with small children.

"Rose did a lot of travelling with us," Woodward says. "From 3 months to 5 years old she did two European tours, two United States tours and lots of Australian and New Zealand tours."

Together with guitarist Robert "Bob" Scott and drummer Malcolm Grant, the Flying Nun band's tour of the US in 1993 included 14 dates supporting Radiohead.


"In 1992 we did three gigs in France with the Wedding Present and Television," Woodward recalls. "We would have done London. We recorded Silverbeet in Massachusetts in the United States when Rose was 3.

"When she was 4 we went again, for the tour with Radiohead so Rose got to meet them. They were really nice."

Rose's first experience on the road with The Bats was as a 3-month-old with mum and dad as part of a university orientation tour.

"She was born in November, we did an orientation tour of the North Island at the end of February," Woodward says.

"We had nannies - nieces, friends, sisters - who helped out. If we went overseas one of them came with us."

Other musician friends helped out, too. In Auckland, Barbara Ward, Chris Knox's partner, would often look after Rose. In Dunedin, Roy Colbert and his partner stepped up."

For overseas trips, Kean says a friend or family member would tag along as nanny.

"A free trip away with the band on tour, I think they might have thought it was going to be more glamorous than what it was," he says.

Woodward had a system that worked well.

"We would go to the gig just before we played then go straight back to the hotel afterwards so I was only ever away for a couple of hours.

"I was quite young, 25, when I had Rose, so I was between 25 and 30 when we were touring. I was breastfeeding for 18 months and it seemed to manage that she never woke up. I had the pumped milk in the fridge but it wasn't used once.

"Nothing terrible ever happened. I was very organised, I had it all managed so she was fed, left to sleep, off to the gig."

The Bats supported REM when they played at the Christchurch Town Hall in 1989 but Woodward missed REM's performance.

"I rang mum when I got off stage and she said ‘I think you'd better come back' so I had to go."

Kean laughs. "I guiltily stayed and watched REM," he says. "I gave them a CD which we heard got played on their tour through Europe."

As part of the Noisyland tour in 1993 with Straitjacket Fits and JPS Experience, The Bats travelled around Europe in a bus.

"It was horrible. Rose was 4, she was quite happy on the bus but I wasn't. That was part of the reason why we decided ‘no'. I can't do that with or without kids, I hated the whole bus thing," Woodward says.

"They were three bunks high either side of the aisle, no headroom. A vinyl folded curtain pulled across and clipped shut and you were basically in a coffin.

"In the end I slept at the back of the bus in the living room, TV room, where people were watching movies till 5am."

The tour was a successful one for the band.

"In the first few dates it was JPS Experience first, The Bats on in the middle and Straitjackets at the end," Kean says. "But when we finished playing the audience pretty much left. They switched it around and allowed us to play last, and in that situation people weren't coming in until we started playing. We'd been there before and I think the audience knew us."

The Bats then toured the US at the invitation of Belly, with Radiohead taking the middle slot. Woodward recalls seeing Radiohead in a tour bus and being put off.

"By the time the tour happened, Radiohead were bigger than Belly.

"I thought if a massive band like that was in a tour bus and this is our goal then no thanks."

It must be nice for Rose to be able to say now that she toured with Radiohead at the age of 3?

"They were nice to her, especially the two brothers, Jonny and Colin Greenwood, the guitarist and bass player. Tom Yorke took no notice. He kept to himself a lot, just shy.

"For the second United States tour with Radiohead, Bob's partner and their daughter, Brydie, 4, came along. She and Rose became great friends."

The Bats recorded their fourth album, Silverbeet, in Stoughton, Massachusetts in 1992.

"Recording with Rose with us was the biggest challenge. Playing a gig we could be with her all day, play the gig when she's in bed and be there in the morning so she didn't miss us," Woodward says.

"But recording took a long time, it was hours and hours of not being there."

Rose celebrated her third birthday during the recording of Silverbeet.

Kean says there was an offer to extend the tour with Radiohead but they declined.

"Stuff you Radiohead," Woodward jokes. "It was getting stressful and just not worth it so we went home."

Looking back, Woodward regrets not fighting the record company's decision not to help with childcare.

"They spent quite a lot of money on our albums, Fear of God and Silverbeet," she says. "They were happy to spend $100,000 on a producer but they would not give us any money towards a nanny or extra airfares for Rose which is what we really needed.

"It just wasn't easy. It got to a point where we had to choose."

The only occasion The Bats have done a gig without Kaye was in Australia when Rose got a bad ear infection. Kaye stayed with her in Sydney while the band travelled to Melbourne.

"It's the only gig I've missed in 30-something years," Woodward says.

When Rose turned 5, the extensive touring stopped.

"I wasn't the kind of mother to want her not to go to school. We had Annabel after that. I don't think you could do it with two children, to be honest."

Woodward says she tried to keep Rose in a routine as much as possible.

"She went to kindy. I was basically keeping her in as normal a pattern as possible which is what I thought was the best thing for her. I don't know if it made a difference or not."

The three of us are talking in the Last Word in New Regent St.

Paul and Kaye's youngest daughter, Annabel, is our waitress.

"Both Rose and Annabel are in hospitality, not music; Rose is living in Melbourne," Kean says.

As we are leaving the Last Word, Paul asks Annabel if she ever went on tour with them.

"There was that time we were all at the Big Day Out," she replies. "But it was just a coincidence I was there."

Woodward laughs and explains.

"The Bats played the first and last Big Day Out, we bumped into Annabel while we were there."

Rose Kean, now 25, has a few memories from her tour with Radiohead as a toddler.

"Mostly the snippets I get are hanging out at venues or their car parks," she says.

"Hanging out on the bus with Brydie, trying to build bridges with sheets across the aisle between our bunks and trying not to stand on people's limbs dangling out when climbing down are pretty vivid memories."

She remembers being annoyed when Shayne Carter of Straitjacket Fits banged his head on the bottom of a pool somewhere in America.

"Probably because I wasn't allowed to swim any more."

She also recalls one tour bus driver's "gross little nest bed".

Her dad explains that the tour bus driver crawled into the luggage hold under the bus and slept while the bands were supposedly out for the day in the hotel.

"We didn't have the hotel very often so the bus was our home and Rose ran up and down the aisle quite a lot disturbing the driver's sleep."

On May 23, The Bats will play a rare live gig at Wellington venue Puppies.

"We've got a few new songs to play," Woodward says.

Kean mock sighs: "We are supposed to be recording again."

It'll be a reunion of sorts. Rose is visiting from Melbourne for the gig and Bob Scott's daughter, Brydie, the friend she made on the Radiohead tour as a toddler, is flying down from Auckland.

"They are nostalgic about The Bats," Woodward laughs. "They are friends because of the band."

★ ★ ★


Elvis Costello and Diana Krall have twin 8-year-old sons, Dexter and Frank, and juggle each other's demanding international tour schedules around parenting.

"Last November I toured a solo tour and I played about 200 different songs at 10 shows," Costello says.

"It's been a recognition at this stage that I don't want to stand on an anthill and look backwards, I want to be in the moment with all this stuff at our disposal."

Jazz pianist and singer Krall has sold over 15 million albums worldwide. In 2004 Rolling Stone voted Costello No 80 on their list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Costello recently remixed and released the lost Johnny Cash song ,She Used To Love Me A Lot, and is currently working on two musicals with Burt Bacharach.

Whether performing with The Imposters as part of the Spinning Songbook shows or solo, for Costello right now touring is more of an imperative than recording, which can make co-ordinating homelife difficult.

Although individually they are in-demand international touring stars, Costello says they have a simple policy - one of them is always at home with their sons.

"Performing and touring is our job and our lads are understanding about us having to go away," Costello says. "We try to make sure one of us is with the boys while the other is on tour. The good side of it is the adventure you bring back home to share."

★ ★ ★


Christchurch-born musician Karoline Tamati, one third of Ladi6, is touring in Brazil with Ladi6's latest album, Automatic, produced with Julian Dyne and Tamati's partner and musical collaborator, Brent "Parks" Park. The tour also includes dates in Europe and the United States.

A finalist in the Best Pacific Female Artist, Best Pacific Urban Artist, Best Pacific Song, Best Pacific Music Video and Best Pacific Music Album at this year's Pacific Music Awards, Tamati says her music career would not be possible without the support of the community of family and friends who help with their 10-year-old son, Philli.

"Living as fulltime touring musician parents with a son to consider takes a lot of help from a community of family and friends whom without we would be lost," she wrote from Brazil this week.

"A lot of emails and sending out tour dates happens before we take him anywhere, we always need to establish a home and babysitters within whichever city we will be based out of for the length of tour/s."

It takes a lot of communication with their son, she says, and a lot of preparation for him to reacquaint himself prior to the trip with friends and family overseas he may not have seen for a while, via Skype, and Facebook.

"This is so that he feels like he knows them and is comfortable before we arrive. Our entire team knows that our son and his needs take priority over everything else so his needs are always organised first.

"It's always a huge effort but one I enjoy, because it keeps me in touch with friends, it allows me to feel grateful, it humbles me and it makes me appreciate and exposes me to the generosity and support of those that love and care abundantly for my son, and our family."

She describes Philli as a "great kid, easy going, funny and smart".

When Ladi6 was based in Berlin for six months, Philli picked up a new language.

"He has toured with us his whole life - so in some respects he's used to the life.

"I guess only time will tell what things adversely effect him within this transient life we live, but both Parks and I will always choose to take him with us than he be without us."

★ ★ ★


Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, the "Ginger Elvis", is at home in Palm Springs when we speak, with musician wife Brody Dalle, and their two young children, Camille and Orrin.

Dalle, the former frontwoman of The Distillers and Spinnerette, recorded her recently released debut solo album in California.

It features guest guitar from Nick Valensi of The Strokes.

Both he and Dalle are touring musicians, but Homme describes himself as a "father first".

"Brody and I are musicians, sure, but we are parents and that always comes first."

As part of a co-headlining tour with Nine Inch Nails, Homme and Dalle played in Christchurch in March.

Before they left, Homme had donated $15,000 to BeatBox, an initiative designed to create a low-cost dedicated rehearsal space for Christchurch musicians.

After nights spent in skin-tight leather pants rocking thousands of Kiwi fans on stage, as the family flew out of New Zealand, Dalle posted a picture of her son, Orrin Ryder, and his teddy bears, on Instagram with the words: "Bye New Zealand, you were so lovely."