He Sang, She Sang
Bouncing Souls frontman Greg Attonito and singer-songwriter Shanti Wintergate bring their “kindie rock” collaboration to Philly
by Bill Donahue

Greg Attonito and Shanti Wintergate aren’t your typical American couple. He’s the frontman for the Bouncing Souls, the seminal New Brunswick, N.J.-based punk band with strong ties to the Philadelphia area. She’s a globetrotting singer-songwriter from the West Coast. As husband and wife, they have collaborated on a number of creative pursuits, but their partnership took a particularly kid-friendly turn in 2006, when they were invited to sing for a nephew’s second-grade class.

“The teacher knew we were musicians and asked us to come and play music for the class,” Wintergate recalls. “I was more excited than Greg was, and we didn’t really know what we were going to do. The night before, we decided we should go and … make up a song with the kids on the spot. So that’s what we proceeded to do.”

“We took everyone’s name and what they liked to do and put it into a rock song,” adds Attonito. “It ended up being 15 to 20 minutes long, and it was so much fun. For the last 10 kids, they were standing up and rocking out with their hands in the air. It was like the biggest rock show ever. I was, like, ‘Whoa. How can I do this more often?’”

That performance, essentially, was the first incarnation of Play Date, an award-winning duo that has become one of the most popular acts in a music genre known as kindie rock. “Since then we’ve done a lot more shows, and the impact is unbelievable,” says Wintergate. “We try to do them as much as we can.”

“Shanti is a natural with kids—completely comfortable and uninhibited,” Attonito says. “With me, although I’m in a punk band, I was pretty self-conscious and intimidated at first. I was used to a certain sort of social response at a rock show, so it took a little while for me to get comfortable. … Sometimes you see kids who are having their first live music experience, and their parents are surprised at how their kids are reacting. You have some kids who were so excited to come but they stand in the back and don’t move because they are sort of entranced. Then there are other kids who are reserved in regular life and just go crazy.”

Play Date will make its Philadelphia debut on July 24 for the 2nd Annual Kidchella Music Fest at Smith Memorial Playground in East Fairmount Park. Here, the duo will play favorites such as “Dance like a Monster” and “Rad,” as well as “Ninja Pajamas” and other new songs from their forthcoming album, “We All Shine,” which will have its official release that very same day.

“Philly is one of those places that is almost like a hometown because of all the Bouncing Souls fans there,” says Attonito. “I hope to see some excited Souls fans who are happy to bring their kids out. … The whole lineup [for Kidchella] is pretty fun, and we’ll be playing a bunch of new songs. Everything about that show has been coming together nicely.”

Although music is what brought the members of Play Date together, the collaboration grew out of a literary connection—specifically, “I Went for a Walk,” a children’s book from 2007 written by Wintergate and illustrated by Attonito. When they toured the country in support of the book’s release, they took their guitars along with them to make each appearance more interactive for the audience. When California-based Fun Fun Records came to them with an opportunity to release an album, they decided “this is it; there’s no excuse not to do it,” Attonito says.

Attonito and Wintergate, who now live about 100 miles north of Boise, Idaho, first met in a small town south of Bangalore, India. Attonito was there traveling with the Bouncing Souls and “had taken a break from the grind we had gotten on,” he says. After parting ways in India, they reconnected in California a few years later, and life hasn’t been the same since.

Apart from Play Date, Attonito and Wintergate keep busy with many creative pursuits—he with the Bouncing Souls (a new album is currently in the works) and the visual arts, she “experimenting with all kinds of music” for her solo songwriting career. When they’re together at home “in the mountains,” they spend time at the lake during nicer weather and snowboard in the winter.

At summer’s conclusion, Attonito and Wintergate intend to set out to play a select number of cities, hosting “Ninja Pajama Parties” in support of the first single off Play Date’s new album. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do something in the Philly area,” she says.

Photograph by David T. Kindler