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In a Big Warehouse is more than the title of the Imagination Movers' new album of smartly crafted children's pop songs. The Warehouse holds the secret to the Movers themselves.
"The Warehouse has always been a metaphor for the human imagination, our ability to dream," says Rich Collins (also known as Imagination Mover Rich), one of the four founding members of the band. "It's a physical representation of the idea that anything is possible."
The Movers' own story provides a good example of the power of imagination. In 2003, four New Orleans friends – Collins, Scott Durbin, Dave Poche and Scott "Smitty" Smith – started gathering after their kids' bedtimes to write songs and brainstorm ideas about a children's television show. Two years later, they had become the latest sensation of their musical city, attracting parents and children alike with an eclectic pop sensibility and lyrical turns about healthy snacks and playing catch and conquering childhood fears of bedtime. Lines to the Movers' shows stretched down blocks.
When the levees broke after Hurricane Katrina, the far-reaching disaster turned the Movers' world upside down, but it didn’t put an end to their dream. Even while band members salvaged their belongings from flooded homes – and Smith reported to his day job as a fire fighter and first responder – they never stopped living according to the Movers' motto: "Reach high, think big, work hard, have fun!"
This motto has served the band well. Not even the Imagination Movers could have fully imagined the band’s current break-through success. Now filming their third season of their hit music-and-comedy series for Playhouse Disney, the Movers have sold more than 200,000 CDs and DVDs to date. Critical acclaim includes nods from Entertainment Weekly and the New York Times, which reported the Movers are "prized by many parents for non-condescending lyrics and music that evokes the Beastie Boys or Red Hot Chili Peppers." Parenting magazine praised the band’s "dash of rebellion" and songs that are "fresh and treacle-free." National television appearances include The View, Live with Regis & Kelly, and Good Morning America. In 2009, the Imagination Movers won a Daytime Emmy Award from The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for outstanding original song in the children's show/animation category.
For the Movers, it all starts with the songs. "Above all, we love following our muse and trying to write the best songs possible," says Collins. "We’re proud of the hooks and production on songs like "Butterfly," "Up, Up, Up," "Bounce" and "Getting Stronger." The band never sets out to target songs to specific age groups, Collins adds. Instead, a typical Movers set is "a collection of catchy pop/rock songs that we hope reflects our love and respect for the art form."
Movers songs are inspired by their kids at home (Collins has five children; Poche and Durbin each have two.) New music also includes songs that are inspired by characters and storylines in the Movers’ TV show. Often the show’s writers will ask for a song at a certain spot in the story, explains Poche. But the inspiration flows both ways. "Sometimes the music veers off in a different direction," Poche says. "We’ll ask the writers to adjust the script. Other times we’ll write a song with no script in mind.
These songs reveal a far-reaching musical sensibility, from hip-hop to country and numerous points in between. "Old funk, new wave, cool grooves, a little bit of punky stuff," Smitty says. "You listen to our music and you can pull a lot of that out." The title of the new album reflects the band"s shared love for the Scottish rockers Big Country, and the Movers surprised their audience at a recent main-stage appearance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival with a likely Jazz Fest first: a cover of a Big Country tune.
In addition to showcasing the Movers' music, the Playhouse Disney series has introduced international audiences (it airs in more than 55 countries and territories, in twelve languages) to the band members’ lively comedic talents. "We all love the classic comedy," Scott says. "Lots of people talk about the Monkees, which are an obvious reference for us. But really it’s Jerry Lewis, the Marx Brothers, Carol Burnett. Old-school fun."
Next up for the Movers: Get that fun back on the road. With the third season set to air in 2011 and the new album just on the shelves, the Movers are not just brainstorming – they’re going out barnstorming. The "In a Big Warehouse" tour kicks off in February and will visit more than 50 cities. Says Collins: "Our goal is to make many kids’ first concert experience also one of their parents’ most memorable experiences. We hope everyone leaves needing a nap!"
After the final encore, the Movers will return again to the Idea Warehouse, to plot the next adventure and solve the next Idea Emergency. While in the Warehouse, they might find themselves stranded on a deserted island, or tracking a unicorn. It’s a magical place indeed, equal parts Roald Dahl and Magic Kingdom. But perhaps most important for Mover Rich, Mover Scott, Mover Dave and Mover Smitty, the Warehouse is where they meet old friends and make new fans, where everyone can have some fun and figure things out. Because as the song goes, that’s what the Movers are all about.