Although the band playing Triumvirate Theatre on Friday night is called No Small Children, the members want to be very clear that children are allowed.
After all, all three of them are public school teachers by profession. They’re spending the day with students in Nikiski on Friday as well, playing in classrooms and having conversations with the kids.
Band members Lisa Pimentel, Nicola Berlinsky and Joanie Pimentel try not to take their musical venture too seriously and try to take it in stride when things go wrong. When they formed the band in Los Angeles in 2012, they picked up instruments they weren’t terribly familiar with and started booking shows in the city’s neighborhoods — ultimately, they played about 55 shows within a three-month period, Berlinsky said.
Things can and did go wrong on stage, but they try to roll with the mistakes, Lisa Pimentel said.
“None of us really played the instruments were playing professionally before (starting the band),” she said. “Joanie hadn’t really played bass, I played electric guitar, Nicola was transforming genres. The more practice you have, the more comfortable you are on stage … now we’ve gotten really comfortable and confident because we practice so much.”
That’s part of the act — they try to keep it genuine and interactive, to engage the audience. Berlinsky said the band members recognize that the audience members have to put effort into physically coming to a show rather than just listening to their music and want to make each show a good time for them.
“Why do people leave their house?” she said. “Part of it is to have a great time and to be uplifted and to feel connected. So our shows, we really are aware of inviting everybody into the party and making it a great time for everybody. That’s pretty universal, everywhere we go.”
The band got its start when Berlinsky and Lisa Pimentel met during recess duty at the elementary school where Berlinsky teaches fourth grade and Lisa Pimentel teaches music. It was just the two of them at first playing the shows, and Joanie Pimentel moved to LA in October 2013, joined the band and also began teaching music. The band’s music features bold aesthetic and punk-inspired rhythms, dealing with a variety of both heavy and light topics. Their music videos display a distinct sense of humor, as in a careening scene in a bar set to the song, “Drunk Creepy Guy” or the outlandish redux of classic silent movie “Trip to the Moon” in the music video for “Big Steps,” which has the band members donning gold body suits and fighting aliens on the moon.
Other times, they’ve opened for biker-aesthetic band Texas Hippie Coalition in Denver with all three of them wearing prom dresses on stage. That time, they just stepped up and let the music speak for them to a crowd of people who’d come out for a biker band.
Overcoming being stereotyped as a “girl band” or “girls with guitars” is something they’re conscious of, Lisa Pimentel said, but they’re not particularly setting out to do anything. And sometimes the best way to knock down the stereotype is to just turn up the volume on both the music and their performance, she said.
“The way we approach it is we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” she said. “Things happen all the time — people say things and they don’t mean it in any malice, they just don’t know. We just try to make it (make sense) that, ‘Oh, that guy didn’t mean it, but maybe by the end of this he’ll feel differently.’”
They do most of their promotion and gear-lifting themselves, though they do have an executive producer — Bob Marlette, who also worked with bands including Black Sabbath and Rob Zombie. Last year, they got a publicity bump when their remake of the theme from “Ghostbusters” was featured in the film’s remake. Another of their songs was picked up on the soundtrack for the Netflix series “Santa Clarita Diet,” which premiered in February 2017.
They came to Alaska on invitation from Joe Rizzo, longtime president of Triumvirate Theatre, after he heard them on a National Public Radio program. Their concerts in Kenai and Nikiski are meant to support public education — which, as elementary school teachers, is a cause they happily stand behind, Berlinsky said — but they’ve also added a concert at Alice’s Champagne Palace in Homer on Saturday night. The proceeds after expenses from the show at Triumvirate, which starts at 7 p.m., will go to support the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Their visit is in part funded through the Alaska State Council on the Arts.
They’ve kept away from record deals, though, preferring to work on their own. In Los Angeles, building personal connections within the industry is easier when “you’re rubbing elbows with everyone,” Lisa Pimentel said.
At the same time, they do their best to keep their musical career out of the classroom while using each one’s experience to inform the other.
“We really think of them as parallel careers,” Joanie Pimentel said. “We don’t think of teaching as a day job and we don’t think of music as a hobby. They are truly parallel careers … It does require some balancing, honestly. You have to be very disciplined, you have to be really organized and both teaching and performing really feed each other.”
Berlinsky they tried to keep their act relatively under wraps at first, but soon the students started finding out about it. After their song came out on Ghostbusters, the secret was out, she said. Kids started showing up to class wearing their band’s T-shirts, she added.
The faculty has been really supportive of their shows, which they’re grateful for, Joanie Pimentel added.
“They feel that we’re authentic to the idea of trying new experiences and making yourself vulnerable and all that,” Berlinsky said. “We’ll share stories from being on stage, like ‘This went wrong and this is how I handled it,’ or, ‘I’m trying to improve in this area, this is what my stumbling block is and this is how I’m breaking down my work.’ They’re like oh yeah — that feels genuine to them.”
No Small Children will play an assembly at Nikiski Middle-High School at 1:30 p.m. Friday and at Triumvirate Theatre in North Kenai at 7 p.m. Friday. Tickets are available on Ticketleap through Triumvirate Theatre’s website.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.