Meet the Electric Toothbrush Sisters, St. Louis’ Favorite New Father-Daughter Band
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The electric toothbrush nurses are everywhere.
For the past twelve months, the local father-daughter duo, Stay At Home Fest, has played St. Louis Public Radio’s House Show series, an I Watched Music On the Internet series, and is now preparing to host an anti-fascist concert series to be played by Patrick Haggerdy of Lavender Country fame. They released a full-length volume and a self-titled volume, and recently released the song “Ring-a-Ding-Ding (Spring Song),” which this author considers to be the best song ever written about spring.
After pausing a lesson (the two rehearsing a rousing rendition of Ramones’ “Beat on the Brat”), front person and eight-year-old Nina Von Trone Zengerling joined their father and bandmate Nick Zengerling (von Bug) on Chaser, Catholic Guilt and maximum effort, just to name a few of his dozen or so projects) and her mother Sarah Trone in her front yard for an interview.
Electric toothbrush nurses started because of the pandemic. Nick explains, “Children had to stay home so we had a daily music lesson as part of our day. Math, science, reading, music and poetry. Nina started reading poetry and practicing writing. ”
“And onomatopoeia were one of my poetry tasks”, Nina interferes. “It was pretty hard.” Onomatopoeia, she explains, are words that sound like things: “Birds chirp, chickens roar.” (It’s worth noting that Nina’s own chicken and close friend Bianca strutted around her farm for the duration of this interview.) Nick set about setting Nina’s poem to music, the first official song of the Electric Toothbrush Sisters – aptly named “Onomatopoeia Song” – was born.
Regarding the mechanics of songwriting, Nina explains that it’s mostly about rhyming things with other things. Like in the spring song [“Ring A Ding Ding”] – The grass is green, the flowers are in bloom and you can go outside and take nice walks. So you just find things to rhyme with! ”
Other Electric Toothbrush Sisters lyrics are based on Nina’s life experiences. The song “Dumpster Fire,” for example, was born out of a traumatic event that many St. Louisans can identify with. “Nina was hit by that dumpster fire she saw in her friend’s alley,” says Nick.
“I couldn’t sleep,” interjects Nina. “All I saw when I closed my eyes was fire.”
“So I said that writing a song about her fear could help her get over it,” says Nick. “So she rode her bike in little circles in an empty parking lot and told me all the things she remembered when she saw the dumpster fire.” The songwriting tactic worked and Nina overcame her fear.
“Sad parks” also came from Nina’s life when parks and playgrounds were suddenly banned for children everywhere. “I was in the car and saw a playground [wrapped in caution tape] and said: “This park looks so sad!” she explains.
“Do you know what you did there?” Nina’s mother Sarah asks. “Personification!” Sarah ticks off the other types of imagery with the authority of a parent who has guided their child through home study for the past year: “personification, parables, metaphors, idioms and exaggeration.” Nina shrugs her shoulders.
Of course, as any musician who writes from experience can tell you, practicing can be difficult when it comes to personal relationships. When asked whether Nick really is a “Mean Mean Poppa”, Nina laughs: “No!”
“Oh, [Nick] is a real enforcer, he really sets the law here, ”jokes Sarah.
“Actually,” giggles Nina, “you are both bad boys. I am the good one. ”
It is natural that membership in a family band comes with arguments and even disagreements about who the bad guys are, but in this case the couple are remarkably compromising and use creative differences to make songs better. “We tell ourselves what should be different and then we agree on what would make it better,” says Nina.
“Really, [Nick] teaches Nina to be disciplined and to work for the things that are important to her. You practice and you practice, ”says Sarah.
“Sometimes practicing is difficult,” says Nick.
“Nina likes to move,” Sarah explains that it can sometimes be difficult for her daughter to sit still.
Indeed, Nina loves to dance. Her favorite dance music includes songs by Taylor Swift, ABBA, Katy Perry, and Jojo Siwa. Her personal style matches the polished, candy-covered music she prefers – for our interview, she wears a side ponytail in a baby blue scrunchie and a fleece sweater with a sparkling rainbow colored unicorn on her chest, worn over red plaid leggings.
When asked about her fashion choice, she replies: “Mom helps me, but I usually help myself. I like it when my clothes burst! Pop means color. I don’t like non-color. Black clothes: stupid! “She makes a sour face.
While almost all of Nina’s performances were broadcast live from her family’s living room, she felt at home on a professional stage for the bonkers of Electric Toothbrush Sisters during the Sinkhole-sponsored I Saw Music On the Internet series. “It’s a little scary to go to another place,” she explains. “It feels weird playing songs in front of strangers, but I’m fine with that.”
“We had to wear ear monitors and there were so many cameras!” Says Nick. “I was more nervous than you.”
“Yeah, Dad doesn’t really know how to play the keyboard, so he kind of screwed it up and forgot a solo,” says Nina with a grin.
“I cut it absent-mindedly,” laughs Nick. “And then she looked at me and said, ‘That’s ten dollars from your wages!'”
“This show was like being in a disco ball,” says Sarah. “It’s like a secret world in a nondescript warehouse.”
“I wish I could live there!” Exclaims Nina. Since she is aesthetically attracted to glitter, sparkling stones, and other bright things, it’s no surprise that the light display was the main reason Nina agreed to play the show.
“We only play when Nina says yes,” says Nick. “It’s a lot with school in class. It is difficult. It’s really up to her. I ask her and she decides which shows we play. ”
“I hope we don’t go on tour,” says Nina. “Well, unless we have a hot tub in the back of the truck.”
“What about a stepping stone?” Asks Nick.
“OK, a springboard with a hot tub!” Nina answers.
In raising musically-minded children, Nick shares some advice with other parents: “If your children seem to like music, find out what you can do to help. Listen to loads of music – we hear so much music in our home. And buy a cheap keyboard. There are so many cheap or free instruments everywhere, if you look that way. ”
“Or if you can’t afford an instrument, you can make one with your mouth or with your body,” adds Nina. “You could clap or snap.”
“Or you can whistle!” Says Nick. “How is your pipe going?” Nina responds with a determined, but unsuccessful, breezy attempt. “Well, not so good,” he laughs. “Well, you can turn anything into a drum. The whole world is a drum! ”
Nina demonstrates by knocking on a couple of pots on her porch.
“She happens to live in a house with a lot of music and instruments,” says Nick. “But it’s not something you want to force on a child like get your child to take piano lessons.”
When asked if the readers should know something that we haven’t discussed yet, Nina offers some wisdom: “Save the bees! Grow flowers, take a walk instead of driving, and eat organic food! Bees help make the most of our food – they help the world have color! We’d die without her and the world would look like lava! ”
“Maybe we should write a doomsday song,” added Nick.
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Before the world turns to lava, check out the Electric Toothbrush Sisters online for the Anti-Fascist Concert Series on Lavender Country’s Facebook page or on the Youtube channel on April 10th at 1:00 p.m. You can also listen to their music at any time in the band camp – that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
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