Pretty Much Paying Attention

The The first time Polly Hall ’04 and Andrew Barkan ’02 worked together, they were in a cramped studio space at Amherst, Barkan playing piano on a folk album that Hall was recording. Today, their workspace has expanded, as has the nature of their collaboration. From their home and studio in Santa Monica, Calif., the husband-andwife duo have composed catchy, quirky tunes for movies, advertising campaigns and children’s television, including Nickelodeon’s Wallykazam!.

But they spend most of their time recording and performing as the children’s music duo Andrew & Polly. They do live shows of their own material around Los Angeles, and they produce the monthly podcast Ear Snacks. Their new album, Odds & Ends, won a Parents’ Choice Award for its “generous helping of sunny warmth, gentle humor and truly expert musicianship.”

Andrew Barkan ’02 and Polly Hall ’04
Andrew Barkan ’02 and Polly Hall ’04

“We’re so lucky there’s a huge children’s music scene here in L.A.,” says Hall. “But there’s really one everywhere, because parents everywhere are looking for quality activities to do with their kids.” Hall and Barkan came to children’s entertainment while living in an echoey Victorian mansion in Providence, R.I. Hall had been waylaid by an illness after completing a graduate program in music and multimedia at Brown.

“Once I was able to sing again, we wanted to sing a lot,” she says. “And we had sung for my nieces before.”

“We felt like we had found this secret trick to chill them out,” finishes Barkan.

They filled their living room with recording equipment and put together their first record. Barkan and Hall pride themselves on making honest, intelligent music for kids and parents. Their closest genre, Hall says, is best known as “kindie,” a portmanteau that hints at kids and indie rock. “It’s not based on spectacle,” Barkan says. Their songs feature playful banter and give the feeling of Santa Monica sunshine and, sometimes, polished pop (on a cover of the Ghostbusters theme song, the hook is whistled, backed occasionally by xylophones and kazoos).

Odds & Ends
The married duo won a Parents’ Choice Award for their latest album’s “generous helping of sunny warmth, gentle humor and truly expert musicianship.”

Music has not been their only joint project. Their son, Izzy, made his debut in 2014. Now that she’s a mother, Hall has come to see their shows as “5 percent music and 95 percent developmental psychology.”

“You can’t play a song start to finish—let alone 10 songs start to finish—and expect a child to sit there and listen. You have to get the music in while you’re taking them from moment to moment,” Hall says. “Now, as parents, we look out in the audience, and we see these kids pretty much mostly paying attention, and parents pretty much not having to work to keep their children from exploding the rest of the universe.”

And as the pair now knows from experience, the show can be a gift to parents, too: “If somebody were to entertain Izzy completely for 45 minutes,”