Whether it’s playing bluegrass in homeless shelters or kids’ music in public libraries, Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing are going to do their darndest to get their audiences’ hands clapping and feet stomping.
“There’s a participatory culture in all of our performances,” Mailander said. “We like to break down the barriers between the performer and audience. It turns what’s normally a passive experience for the listener — like watching TV — into a more active one.”
He and Lansing, better known as kid-friendly folk duo The Okee Dokee Brothers, are serious about inspiring active experiences. They recently ventured down the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to St. Louis, paddling along in a canoe and camping on the riverbank — all just to write their next album. “It was beautiful,” Mailander said. “We’d write songs in the evenings and mornings, and paddle during the day. There were all kinds of beautiful birds — egrets and herons all along the way.”
The natural scenery will provide a backdrop to their Americana and bluegrass-inspired folk tunes for children on the next album, which Mailander said they hope to release by spring. For now, they’re playing songs like “The Naked Truth” and “Extraterrestrials” from their acclaimed 2010 album, “Take It Outside,” at libraries across the country. They play eight Metropolitan Library System locations between today and Friday.
“We believe kids deserve to listen to good music too,” Mailander said. For more information, visit metrolibrary.org. —Matt Carney
Photo by Alex Johnson