Tiny Masters of Today Rock With Karen O., Kimya Dawson — When They're Not in Middle School

Photo: George Chin / Retna

They’re only in middle school, but punkish Brooklyn band Tiny Masters of Today already have a CV most indie bands would die for, with a glowing recommendation from David Bowie and an Artrocker cover under their belt, plus a slew of indie A-listers making guest appearances on their new album, Bang Bang Boom Cake. The brother-sister duo — Ivan’s 13, Ada's 11 — found time between school day’s end and an evening jam session to mull over their newfound success.

So how did you guys find time to start a band?
I think how it started was that a friend and I were down in our basement and my sister came down and just started singing. We don’t watch a lot of TV on the weekdays. I guess we were just bored and had nothing else to do, so we formed a band.

Who writes the songs?
I come up with a guitar riff, and then Ada writes the lyrics. That’s usually how it starts.

You have all kinds of cool people on your new album. Do you have a favorite?
Yes. Kimya Dawson. She’s my hero. She’s the nicest person you’ll ever, ever encounter. I think she sent us a MySpace message saying we were really good or something and she was coming to New York, and so we met up with her and played a show with her. And then she ended up staying at our house and stuff. I’m going to marry her daughter.

Really?
Well, she’s a baby now, but yes. I had to ask Kimya, and she said yes.

I noticed that the drummer from Jon Spencer Blues Explosion also plays on the album. How’d that happen?
I think that’s actually the same thing as Kimya. He sent us a MySpace message saying he really wanted to produce our stuff, and then my Dad messaged him back and we met up with him for, like, pizza. My dad had to meet up with him to make sure he was the real Russell Simins.

That makes sense. What kinds of music are the other kids at school into? Same stuff as you?
NO. [Laughs.] They like High School Musical. 50 Cent? I dunno.

Interesting. So is Ada around? Can you put her on?
Ada: Hi!

Hi! So you’re in sixth grade now, right? How do you like it?
Well, it’s lot different, because it’s my first year in middle school. I personally think there are too many teachers. Because your teachers don’t care if your other teachers give you too much homework! They just give you more. It’s so inconsiderate! Middle school is kind of fun because it makes you feel older. It’s more like high school. You can do things by yourself.

Totally. You must spend a lot of time with your brother. Do you guys ever fight?
Well … we fight a lot. I mean, everybody fights. It’s only natural for siblings to fight about, you know, sibling stuff.

Like?
Well… [Silence.]

Okay, you don’t have to talk about that! Who came up with the name of the album, Bang Bang Boom Cake?
Actually, we did one of those things online where you put in a word or a name and it makes a sentence out of it. I can’t remember what word we put in, but it came back with "Bang Bang Boom Cake" and we were like, "Wow, cool."

You worked with Karen O. on the album. What was she like?
Well, of course when she came in, she did the song perfect the first time, after we’d done it like ten times. You hear so many stories about meeting movie stars and rock stars and stuff — you know, your idols and people you look up to — and then when you finally get to meet them, they’re really evil and mean. But she was really nice.

What do the kids at school think about your being in a band?
I don’t think a lot of people at my new school know about it, but I think the ones that do think it’s pretty cool. I don’t know if they would normally listen to the kind of music we play. It’s just the idea of being a kid and being in a band.

What other kinds of music do you listen to?
My favorite band is Belle and Sebastian.

I love them too. Have you ever seen them play?
I actually have. We saw them on the 4th on the July at this park downtown. They were really good. Do you remember when they called up the girl from the audience, and she didn’t even know the lyrics! Of course I was too short, but if I was taller and they called me up onstage, I could have sang the entire song.
—Sara Cardace

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