If I were to describe Jason Trachtenburg’s music in one word, “boring” would never come close.
Living in Brooklyn with his equivalently artistic and gifted wife Tina Pina (known as Mother Pigeon) as well as remaining closely in touch with his 27-year-old daughter Rachel, Trachtenburg combines the whimsical and eccentric with the introspective and sincere – a theatrical and oh so charming approach to heartfelt lyricism.
For several years now, Trachtenburg has engrossed himself in various music projects, forming bands like Pancakes With Cheese, The Terriers, and The Pendulum Swings, while remaining most acknowledged for his role as “The Dad” in the long running Off-Broadway and Indie-rock act The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players (that he formed with his family… Tina operating the slides and Rachel playing harmonica and drums). On top of that, he’s found time to produce a couple musicals – his first being “Dr. Glassheart – Modern-Day Medical Musical Comedy”; and his current project “Me and Lee – The Musical,” which is based around the auto-biography of Teen Science Superstar, Judyth Vary Baker.
One of Trachtenburg’s most recent releases, “Searching For My Center For Awhile, Butterfly,” fittingly testifies to his illustrious quirky exterior. The track describes the feeling of unfulfillment brought on by living in a state of monotony, “searching for some meaning throughout all this in-betweening,” if only to grasp a refined sense of purpose come wintertime. All the while, Trachtenburg sings a light-hearted, charismatic melody that makes for a more than pleased impression upon delivery.
The single extends into a “Day of the Dead” themed music video collaboration with Mother Pigeon, where she, along with a few of her colourful alter egos, stand in a cemetery surrounding Trachtenburg as he sings into a fish-eye lens. It’s a magical type of atmosphere drawn on a bright and prismatic landscape.
We had the privilege of further getting to know Trachtenburg through some questions on his single and current life.
You’ve had – and are still having – quite a run with various music groups and projects. What has been your favorite endeavor so far?
Thank you for asking! I’ve started six bands in as many genres since 1998. My favorite is the Pendulum Swings Comedy Big Band. We’ve been described as “Sinatra on Acid.” (Of course, Frank would never experiment that way, but it was full-on swing big-band with 8 horns and charted sheet music.)
You and your family have each immersed yourselves in a life built around music. What is it like living in such a music-driven and artistic household?
We started a family pop band (The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players) out of necessity. We didn’t want our daughter, age 6 at the time, to be stuck with a babysitter…and we needed a drummer. I was just a regular songwriter before that, (circa 1999.) My wife (Tina Pina aka Mother Pigeon) is a well-known visual artist and our daughter Rachel (now 27 years old) picked up on both sides of the equation.
“I’m not sure if it indeed turned out that way in the end, but hopefully it will be a big hit on the planet Jupiter sometime around 5,000 years from now.”
How do your wife and daughter influence you in your work, and how do you believe you do the same for them?
I’m influenced by my wife and daughter (Tina and Rachel) in that there is no differential between our “real-life” and our “show-biz” life. These two realities are the same, and what you see is what you get. In other words, a good night’s sleep and the highest levels of nutrition ARE THE SHOW!!! Both Tina and Rachel work relentlessly on their projects and I find that inspiring. (I usually go in 10 minute spurts!) Hopefully I set, by example, the ways to interact with others on a project, and show how to share the process and make everyone feel included. Also, I bring the best snacks to the video shoots! (Everyone should take note of that!)
If you were to listen to your music for the first time as an outsider, what would you think your initial perception would be?
Wo! That guy’s got a weird voice and probably should take his vocal warm-ups a little more seriously….(slight pause)..hmmmmm…eesssh..what’s up with that chord progression?? I bet he thinks he’s The Beatles, or something. Ummm….did he really just rhyme “Show and Tell” with “Co-Intell.” Hmmm…What’s Co-Intell??? Maybe I should look that up….(slight delay) WHAT?????? The FBI assassinated Martin Luther King Jr.???
Focusing now on your single “Searching for My Center For Awhile, Butterfly,” can you explain the backstory of why and how this song was created?
I’ve never done as many rewrites EVER for a song as I did with this one. (There were 10 different attempts to get this going…and then we changed it again at the last minute.) The melody appeared in a dream along with the first verse, and I put it back together again. The original concept was “the feel-good hit of the winter” but we changed it to something less self-serving by proclaiming that this song will make us “feel much better in the winter.”
Can you also go into further detail on how the track’s music video relates to the song itself?
The theme is winter and The Day of The Dead. Winter represents a dying of sorts, so we filmed the video (directed by Dylan Mars Greenberg) in an old cemetery in Queens, New York. The theme was conceptualized by Mother Pigeon (aka my wife Tina Pina, of Mexican descent) where there is a celebration of honoring your dead loved ones. The costumes and props (also, all created by Mother Pigeon) were designed and made to honor our city’s birds (the Pigeons) for their beauty. Tina is the head priestess of the Pigeon Religion. In the video, you will see ceremonial traditional, and non-traditional, practices.
“We didn’t want our daughter, age six at the time, to be stuck with a babysitter…and we needed a drummer.”
What separates it from the rest of your discography?
We wanted to make a more electro-pop song than what I’m usually known for.
I asked our music producer (Vincent Cacchione) to make something that sounds like Grimes. I wanted to attract the attention of Elon Musk. (just kidding.) I’m not sure if it indeed turned out that way in the end, but hopefully it will be a big hit on the planet Jupiter sometime around 5,000 years from now.
If you could, what movie soundtrack or musical would you choose for your single to be included on?
Hmmmm…I love musicals so this is a tough one. I will say this: I’ve written 2 musicals over the past 7 years. (They can both be found on YouTube with a little finessing) The first one, Dr. Glassheart, is a modern-day medical musical about a knuckle-headed doctor getting involved in back-room shenanigans with the President of the USA. (I wrote this in 2013.) My second musical, Me and Lee – The Musical is the true story of Judyth Vary Baker (teen science-superstar and secret girlfriend of Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963.) (I wrote this in 2018.)
Are there any future projects we can look forward to for this year?
Thanks for asking! My two main projects this year will be a recording of as many songs as possible with music producer and drummer extraordinaire Adam Amram here in Brooklyn. Also, I’m creating an online series on YouTube called Tales From The Co-op which consists of one minute episodes about my adventures as being a high-ranking member in good standing at Manhattan’s only store-front food co-op, The 4th St. Food Co-op. Hilarity ensues, and we give plenty of useful health and wellness tips.
Photo by Diana Cervantes