"My aim is always to write meaningful songs," proclaims Tim Sutton, a veteran of the Ulster County music scene for damn-near 25 years. The list of bands he's fronted is long and strong, from his post-high school punk band La Vista Hotheads to the seminal New Paltz funk-rock troupe Lost in the Sauce to such equally celebrated acts as Wooden Rope to Suttle to Ratboy and, now, its juvenile-aimed arm Ratboy Jr., most in conjunction with his longtime collaborator and great friend drummer Matty Senzatimore—he, of course, of the sorely missed mid-`90s New Paltz outfit Hector's Nightmare. "And here I am playing in a bar and maybe someone will hear them and connect. But its so much cooler to write from a universal perspective, especially in regard to growing up," says Sutton. "Tell me when you were happier than when you'd grab a stick and run through the woods fighting trees thinking they're dragons? That stuff is all under the surface, all of our childlike tendencies."
Sutton is talking about the pair's bold transition from providing the soundtrack to many a SUNY student's drunken downtown New Paltz experience for over two decades to playing for the children of those very souls who would regularly see the duo and their various incarnations at such popular hangs as Snug Harbor, the Griffon, and Oasis Cafe through the years. As a father of two young sons and the media arts director at the Woodstock Day School, Sutton has a robust wellspring from which he and Senzatimore build on for their songs. And on their excellent third album, Hamster Pants (Not Your Daddy's Records), they make their strongest case for the sound they call "everyone music."
Recorded at No Parking Studio in Rosendale with Grammy-award winning producer Dean Jones, the album features a host of family and friends working in collaboration with Sutton and Senzatimore, including Tim's wife Catherine and son Elliott; jam-jazz keyboardist Marco Benevento; longtime bandmates in Lost in the Sauce and Hector's Nightmare Geoff Gersh and Jay Brunka on guitar and bass respectively; Jason Sarubbi of The Trapps; John Burdick of The Sweet Clementines; and the second- and third-grade classes of the Woodstock Day School. Together, they helped create an album filled with funny characters and the wise life lessons they bring to the listener, placing Ratboy Jr. in the realm of quality kiddie music on par with the likes of Pete Seeger, Shel Silverstein, and They Might Be Giants. According to Senzatimore, the trick to writing these kinds of songs isn't so much in the sonic structure but in its lyrical content. "The easy part is the music—we just do what we do as we've always done it," he explains. "The hard part is writing these songs and gearing them towards kids, but making them acceptable for parents so they aren't so dumbed down and stereotypical."
Ratboy Jr. is hosting a CD release party and BBQ on May 30 at the Rock & Rye Tavern in New Paltz, located on the grounds of the old Locust Tree golf course. It will be an all-inclusive affair taking place during the day so the whole family can come on down, be it rain or shine. For many of the adults in attendance, it will be their umpteenth time seeing Tim and Matty do their thing onstage. Yet for some of the real little ones who'll be in tow, it will be their very first concert experience. For Sutton, providing such an environment proves to be the ultimate success. "The best compliment we hear about our music is when people tell us they listened to it on a family road trip," he said. "The whole family is in their car and they're all psyched about it. We are trying to create an experience not only for kids, but the kids who cart them around as well." Ratboyjr.com.