Interview with The Ditty Bops: the Greenest Musical Act on the Planet


Last month, Mike introduced us all to the Ditty Bops and their fabulous Grammy-nominated popup album. The Ditties have a deceptively innocent sound that combines gorgeous harmonies with a fierce environmental message. Their live shows are part kids’ variety show and part musical circus, mixing in genres as diverse as acoustic folk, bluegrass, and jazz. They’re both absolutely beautiful and hip, but devoid of any annoying hipster ennui. They have an inherent sweetness that makes them approachable. The shows are highly interactive pieces of art with puppets, story telling, costumes, props, and plenty of politics.

The title song of their new album, Summer Rains, has a lazy Hawaiian twang and notes as light as air, but the message is a heavy one about global warming. Their environmental cred is serious. The pair once toured the United States by bicycle and were instrumental in pushing San Francisco’s plastic bag ban. They married one another last fall. Congratulations Abby and Amanda! We recently we caught up with the Ditty duo and asked them a few questions about their music and their lives together.

PhotobucketTell us how you went about concepting and designing the album and the process for actually getting it made.

We love popup books and wanted to make a popup CD. We thought since we are already producing this independent of a record label, and since most CD art bores us, and many people download songs from iTunes or illegally, we thought if we made some beautiful packaging art to go along with the music it would give people a good reason to buy it.

First we contacted a handful of paper engineers. There aren’t that many but we found someone in Los Angeles, Renee Jablo. We worked with her and our graphic designer, Rick Whitmore in designing the vision that we had. Finding green printers who can assemble popups is not easy.  But we did find someone to do it in California. It is much more expensive than doing it in China or Korea, which is where most popups are assembled, but it was important to us.

PhotobucketWho are your musical inspirations and why?

Abby: Inspiration changes for me moment to moment – the radical street art of Skateboarders, a book I pulled from the shelf at a new age bookstore, my childhood stuffed animals, the mystique of 1930s movie stars.

Things that were once inspiring can go flat. I think it’s wonderful and essential to really be honest about what excites you.


PhotobucketHow long have you been playing music together and how did the partnership start?

We are lovers in life and life is our art project. 10 years ago our partnership began. We play music and create all sorts of spontaneous art in between.

PhotobucketWhat was your best gig ever?

Abby: The best gig ever was when I walked top-free for 5 miles through the streets of Los Angeles. It was truth to me. It was beautiful. I had enough of seeing men hiking my favorite trails on 95-degree days without shirts. One day I counted 12 shirtless men in one hour. That was it. I took my shirt off and walked. Amanda was with me and it was the best gig so far. It was also painfully revealing, not just in that my naked breasts were exposed to the world, that part was empowering beyond belief, but in the way our society says our women are free but we are chained. It was a transformative experience. I was singing and screaming life.

Photobucket I’ve heard that you have lived in LA without a car. Can you give readers tips for getting around LA (or any city) without driving?

Amanda: We live in West Hollywood”¦centrally located, if you can say that about LA. We live in an area where there is a lot within walking distance so it is obviously a lot easier to get by without a car than for people who work far from their residence. We now have a car again. Abby was smacked by a car in November and broke her knee. She is walking again but we are not commuting as much by bicycle.

Photobucket You turned your driveway into an edible garden. What’s growing there right now?

We have marjoram, thyme, rosemary, parsley, three kinds of sage, oregano, Swiss chard, baby lettuces, strawberries, edible flowers for garnishing salads, a tangerine tree that had five little fruits this winter, a lime tree that had one lime, and a lot of succulents.

PhotobucketBecause I write about food and I know you think it’s important, I want to know what 3 edibles are always in your refrigerator.

We love yogurt. We always eat it. We were getting this really great raw goat yogurt from a raw foods club in Venice. Raw almond butter we love. We use it in desserts and also on celery as a snack. And we have sprouted toast with avocado. We always have a lot of people coming and going from our place and they love avocado on sprouted toast so we gotta have it for them.

Listen and buy here.

Images: Norman Jean Roy, Sachi Kato, courtesy of The Ditty Bops

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.