As he sat surrounded by instruments in the basement studio of his Lynbrook home, They Might Be Giants bassist Danny Weinkauf addressed the origins of his side project, Danny Weinkauf & The Red Pants Band.
“While I was playing with They Might Be Giants, I just happened to have a pair of red pants,” Weinkauf recalled. “Some of the fans would make comments like, ‘Hey Danny wore his red pants tonight,’ or ‘he didn’t,’ and then people, if I didn’t wear them, they were getting disappointed.”
When it came time to etch out his own solo career, he knew exactly what to do in order to avoid future disappointments. Weinkauf, who is the singer, songwriter, guitarist and piano player for the RPB, decided that he, his bass player Tina Kenny Jones and drummer Steve Plesnarski would don red pants every time they hit the stage.
The band dropped its self-titled album of children’s songs on July 5. Weinkauf said singles from the album such as “Only One You,” “Picky Eaters” and “My Magic Helicopter” have received heavy rotation on the Sirius XM radio station Kids Place Live, which is dedicated to children’s songs, and he’s received positive feedback on the album.
Weinkauf released his previous solo record, “No School Today” in 2014 and it was ranked No. 6 on the Fids and Kamily year-end top 20 poll, which is voted on by experts in the realm of children’s music. He’s developed quite a following outside of TMBG.
“When we came out with the first record, no one knew the material really,” Weinkauf said. “This time around, there were people in the audience actually requesting songs and singing along to the music, so it was just nice that they even recognized the songs and knew the songs.”
When it comes to the writing process, Weinkauf said his influences range from The Beatles to music he heard on Sesame Street when he was younger. He added he doesn’t necessarily write children’s music. Instrumentally, he plays songs that could be geared toward adults and then just adds children-themed lyrics on top of them.
“Let me just write music that I like and then have the lyrics be kid-friendly,” Weinkauf said. “So that maybe the parents when they’re listening to it in the car or something, they won’t get sick of it. Maybe they’ll actually like it and want to play it for their kids.”
Weinkauf grew up in Lynbrook and attended Lynbrook High School, where his children, Kai, 17, and Lena, 14, currently go to school. He said Kai and his wife, Michelle, are both tremendous singers and have appeared on a few of his tracks.
His family also serves as inspiration. Weinkauf said his daughter’s conversations with his wife’s 94-year-old grandmother leading up to the presidential election inspired him to write a song called “I’m a Girl, Step Aside,” as an ode to powerful women. “It’s kind of like a girl power song,” he explained.
Aside from his work with RPB and TMBG, Weinkauf keeps busy by writing music for television shows, commercials and web series. Most recently, he wrote scores for the CW Network’s web series “JoJo Head,” which follows Los Angeles-based comedian Johanna Stein and is filmed from the perspective of a camera strapped on her head. TMBG are also known for writing the theme song of the FOX TV series “Malcolm in the Middle,” which first hit the airwaves in 2000.
Weinkauf said he is constantly coming up with ideas and he has enough material for another album. As for TMBG, the band recently performed its annual free fan appreciation show at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and will return to the studio to record in the spring.
“I feel like if I’m making music every day, I have a good life,” Weinkauf said. “Whether I’m making any money at it or getting rich or whatever, it doesn’t matter. As long as I can afford to do it, I have a place to do it and I’m doing it, then that’s kind of the goal.”