- ABOUT US
The Sugar Free Allstars introduce children to alternative rock in a family-friendly way that still gets everyone to bed on time.
By Ryan LaCroix
Published January/February 2013
When Oklahoma City rock duo Sugar Free Allstars played late-night sets in clubs a decade ago, their fans danced, sang along, and got into fights. Though they now play to a younger crowd, the dancing, the singing—even the scuffling—haven’t changed. If anything, the energy of every show has increased.
“Kids don’t have inhibitions, so they’re ready to go from the beginning,” says lead vocalist Chris Wiser of the band’s new listeners.
The transition from rock audiences to rooms full of toddlers was an easy one for drummer Rob Martin and Wiser, who plays a Hammond B-3 organ, saxophone, and keyboards. The duo formed in 2000, and after recording three albums, they noticed a couple of their songs were catching on with their fans’ children. In 2007, they released their first kids’ album, Dos Niños.
Wiser says a whole new world has opened up since then. Shows are earlier in the day, the pay is better, and fans are more engaged.
For Midwest City resident Eric Nauni, taking his eight-year-old son August Bibbs-Nauni to see the band has inspired a love of music.
“I know he is having as much fun as I am,” says Nauni. “We’ve recently started jamming together in our music room.”
The Allstars’ music—a blend of funk, soul, and rock tailored for young ears—is part of a movement known as kindie rock, a blend of indie rock and kids’ music. Acts like the Wiggles perform songs written for children—which often are anathema to parents—but kindie rock is for the whole family.
“The people who are making music for kids today were exposed to different styles of music in their youth,” says Stephanie Mayers, cofounder of the Brooklyn kids’ music festival KindieFest, which the Allstars played in 2010.
Though venues like KindieFest gave them a wider audience, the Allstars really took off when their song “Cooperate” landed on the compilation album All About Bullies… Big and Small, which won a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album in 2012. Wiser and Martin didn’t know how to react to the fact that they were now Grammy Award-winning musicians.
“We can’t mark this off the list, because it wasn’t on the list,” says Wiser. “It wasn’t even in the realm of possibilities.”
The Allstars’ possibilities—and fan base— have expanded along with their acclaim, and they will perform with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic in April. For Wiser and Martin, every show, and every new fan, is a chance to educate young ears about great music.
Get There: The Sugar Free Allstars will perform at 10:30 a.m. February 16 at Uptown Kids, 5840 North Classen Boulevard in Oklahoma City (405) 418-8881 or uptownkidsstyle.com. For more information, visit sugarfreeallstars.com.