It’s not just children and their parents who are fans of The Wiggles these days. The popular children’s band has been cultivating lifelong followers.
Having formed in Australia in 1990, the band often hears from early fans, now adults, bringing their own children in to see the group. It’s all “a bit scary,” according to Jeff Fatt, the Wiggle in purple known best for falling asleep during shows. But it’s not even that — the group has a teenage fan contingent, as well.
“It’s probably a funny sort of thing, but we also get teenagers coming up to us, because they’ve had such happy memories of The Wiggles growing up,” Fatt said from a tour stop in Kingston, Ontario, just minutes before taking the stage. “It becomes cool for them to like us again, because it’s so far left of center as a teenager. As a preschooler, you get to the age of 6 or 7 and it becomes uncool.”
The Wiggles ‘Go Bananas!’
Where: Palace Theatre, 19 Clinton Ave., Albany
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
How Much: $42, $32, $22, $12
More Info: 465-3334, www.palacealbany.com
But parents need not worry about teenagers being at the band’s Wednesday evening performance at the Palace Theatre. According to Fatt, it doesn’t happen that often.
“You might get one or two, but with that many children, they just stand there,” Fatt said, laughing. “But when it does happen, they do make themselves known.”
Big on touring
The Wiggles — Fatt on keyboards, guitarist and bassist Murray Cook (who wears red), multi-instrumentalist Anthony Field (blue) and new lead vocalist Sam Moran (yellow) — might just be one of the hardest working bands anywhere. With roughly seven to nine months out of each year reserved for touring, the group still finds time to release multiple DVDs and recordings each year, not to mention filming their TV show, which is syndicated in the U.S. through digital cable channel Sprout.
“It can be difficult on the go; we have families,” Fatt said of the non-stop schedule. “I’m unattached, so it’s more interesting to me.”
The Wiggles’ current touring cycle is in support of “Go Bananas!,” released early this year. Both the album and the show are focused on animals, with songs such as “The Lion is King” and “Monkey Man” featuring the group’s usual mix of sing-along fun and educational lyrics. And of course, favorite characters Dorothy the Dinosaur, Captain Feathersword, Wags the Dog and Henry the Octopus all make appearances as well.
When Fatt spoke with The Gazette, The Wiggles had been on the road for roughly three weeks on their North American tour. Touring is usually the highlight for the guys, as it allows them to interact with their fans.
“Probably the nicest aspect of that is that usually before the first show of the day, we get to meet children with special needs and disabilities,” Fatt said. “You just feel so great doing that. These children don’t get a lot of the opportunities that normal healthy children do, so it’s a wonderful feeling.”
The album is Moran’s third with the group, at least. He came aboard in 2006, replacing original lead vocalist Greg Page, who developed a chronic illness, orthostatic intolerance, which causes fatigue and loss of balance. Moran’s transition, according to Fatt, has been smooth so far.
“He’s become sort of like part of the furniture; people have really accepted him quite well,” Fatt said. “it is entirely different, because Sam has a different vocal quality; his register is different, the keys we choose are a bit different than what we had with Greg. I think Sam has more of an operatic style of singing.”
He also gets some help on “Go Bananas!” from an unlikely source — fellow Australian singer Kylie Minogue is guest vocalist on “Monkey Man.” She connected with the group through her involvement with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which the Wiggles also work with.
“She mentioned in an interview that her nephew is a big fan of The Wiggles, so we took her up on that,” Fatt said.
She also appears on the album’s accompanying video release, along with other guests, including Australian actor John Waters. The proceeds from the album and video all go to UNICEF, as well.
“She’s just a totally great person, really lovely, down to earth,” Fatt said. “You always think people that are very big stars, oh, they’re difficult to work with — no; she’s fantastic.”
The group’s songwriting process is a collaborative affair, with everyone contributing equally to lyrics and the music — which ranges from ’60s inspired pop such as what Fatt and Field played in their previous group The Cockroaches, to R&B, and even some funk.
“I think the music [is the most challenging part to write], more in the sense that you want to try and come up with something different than what you’ve done before,” said Fatt, who as the only member of the group without a background in early childhood education, focuses mostly on music composition, although he does dabble in the lyric-writing process, as well.
“Lyrically, you have to try to maintain the simplicity of what children will relate to, simple concepts. The danger is making things more complicated than they need to be; children are at home with repetition. What we write are pop songs or jingles, which is something that really appeals to children.”
As with any entertainer, The Wiggles must always keep their audience in mind.
“The difficulty is, I guess, in being an adult, you’re trying to come up with something more than you actually need,” Fatt said. “We’re always looking at who is our target. What is it to a child? You should always be asking yourself that question — will they understand what we’re singing, what we’re talking about?”