Bands at Lick Expand: Helen Keller Birthday Party

Loie Plautz ‘15 and Daniel Holtzman ‘17 are part of a new band started in February, called Helen Keller Birthday Party. They write all their own music and were featured in their debut performance as a band in the Student Council Showcase at Lick this year. The Hyphen staff spoke with the two musicians about their beginning, the name of their band, and their plans for the future.

photo courtesy of the HKBP Facebook page

photo courtesy of the HKBP Facebook page

Where do you get the name Helen Keller Birthday Party?

Loie: We wanted a name that was provocative, but also silly–

Daniel: –to match our style.

L: And Helen Keller Birthday Party was– well, not offensive, but it could be.

D: It’s not not-offensive.

How would you describe your sound or genre?

L: It’s an anti-folk experience, acoustic-punk comedy.

D: It’s kind of like if you took a ghost-themed improv scene, injected a lot of sexual angst, ageism, and some inside-cultural references.

L: All of that mixed with some mediocre guitar playing, that’s Helen Keller Birthday Party.

D: It’s got power to it.

Do either of you have backgrounds in music leading up to this?

L: I’ve played guitar since before freshman year, and I’ve been writing music all through high school. Three years ago, Daniel and I met in an improv class. I think more of our music inspiration comes from improv than it does from music. After improv class one day, we were playing guitar together and making up words, and we just realized that it was super fun and that’s what we wanted to do.

D: I played in some other bands before, I had never written music before. Our songwriting process is really similar to our improv process, we’ll have a name or title, like an improv scene where you would have a suggestion, we keep some things in and hopefully it turns into something– sometimes it doesn’t.

L: Yeah. Sometimes it’s awful.

What kinds of people would like your music?

L: Well, I think probably witches… hags… outcasts…

D: People who like fun.

L: Hipsters who are willing to be self-depracating.

D: If anyone is open to a Helen Keller Birthday Party, they will like Helen Keller Birthday Party. As weird as some of our songs our, they have a certain genuine core to them. Except in one of our songs, we rhyme “spaghetti” three times in one song.

You said during the Student Council Showcase that “Emancipate” is your favorite song you’ve written. Why was that, and is it still your favorite?

L: I would say that’s my favorite song to play with other people. My actual favorite song is probably “Hag Song” or “Post-Puberty” because I am proud of the lyrics in those songs, I feel like they show how our music has grown.

D: “Emancipate” really just flowed, it was one of the first songs we wrote as a band.

L: One time, we were talking about the song, and you said something that totally encaptured it, you were saying that the word “emancipate” is obviously a very loaded word, it doesn’t just mean “free,” it has a lot of cultural implications. Our use of it is so ironic, because this song is about such trivial things– emancipating your record player, for instance.

D: We’re almost poking fun at ourselves. A lot of our songs are really self-deprecating.

How can people access your music?

L: All of our demos are on our SoundCloud page. Now, we have a bass and drums player. Hopefully we’ll put it on iTunes or maybe Band Camp.

D: We’re not really sure yet. We’re looking for shows right now, we’re doing a radio show called “Daniel Dave’s Radio Show.”

What do you hope the future holds for Helen Keller Birthday Party?

L: We’re mostly doing this to have fun, we’re looking forward to our album coming out. There’s a local artist doing the cover art, and Bix Archer is making some “merch” for us.

D: If you like our Facebook page, you’ll be able to follow us and where we are headed.

Is there anything else you would like your listeners and fans to know?

L: I think the most important thing I’ve learned is just to make stuff, and not worry if it’s good or if people will like it. I think as soon as we let that go, we had more fun, and people had more fun listening to it.

D: What’s important is that we’re playing music that we would actually listen to– we do listen to it, we’re very narcissistic.

L: And emancipate yourself.

D: And emancipate the trees.


Listen to their songs on SoundCloud: 

Helen Keller Birthday Party on Facebook:

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About Zoe Harris

Zoe Harris, a senior, is celebrating her third year as co-managing editor of the Hyphen and as a reporter for the Paper Tiger. She is a leader of the literary magazine club, Lit Mag, and has written far too many weird poems. Zoe loves writing by Junot Díaz, David Sedaris, Mary Oliver, and Richard Siken, and the Harry Potter character she most closely identifies with is Luna Lovegood. She loves the Hyphen dearly and hopes readers do, too.

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