Losing sense of time
Unicorns, rainbows and the shape of punk to come with Greg and Shanti
Sacramento, CA 95814
Greg Attonito has the heart of a child. While much of the East Coast punk scene touted a hardcore tough-guy image in during the late ’80s, he and his band the Bouncing Souls covered “I Want Candy” and wrote songs about your mom. So it only makes sense that he and his wife, singer/author Shanti Wintergate, write books for children. SN&R was able to catch up with the couple via speakerphone in Wintergate’s mountain home in Idaho to talk about their book and their plans for playing coffee shops along the West Coast. Get ready, kids.
You two have come through Sac a lot in the past few years. What keeps you coming back?
Attonito: Our friend Kevin Seconds got us out here, in 2000. We played our first show at True Love Coffeehouse and it was a lot of fun, so we kept doing it.
Wintergate: I also had never been to Sacramento before we had played our first show at True Love, and it’s a really pretty city! It’s got a lot of trees, and the buildings are really nice.
You’ve played countless shows with the Bouncing Souls, but had you ever played an unplugged acoustic set of your solo material?
Attonito: That was actually my first solo performance ever.
That’s awesome. Is playing with Shanti or by yourself a lot different than playing with the band?
Attonito: I’ve spent the past 20 years singing for a punk band, which is a position that, while important, doesn’t necessarily always rely on the perfection of my singing. You get caught up in the moment onstage, and there’s a full band behind and, yeah, the crowd is singing, too. But when I’m performing acoustic or with Shanti, I have to think about my performance as a singer a lot more—hitting the right notes and worrying about the harmonies.
The best shows I’ve found are the ones you lose all sense of time, you find yourself walking out of the show thinking, “Wow, the last few hours just went by, and I forgot about everything,” and that’s what I try to do when I perform.
Which do you prefer?
Attonito: Well, right now, it’s more challenging play the unplugged shows, so it’s a little bit more fun and interesting. Shanti has more experience in the acoustic setting, so it helps having someone who’s good by your side.
Wintergate: Come on, you’re good. (Laughs.) Also, it’s different when you play a song you wrote with a full band and when you’re playing in that unplugged atmosphere, because it puts a whole new perspective on that song.
There’s videos of you guys playing for children while promoting your book I Went for a Walk. How did releasing a children’s book come about?
Attonito: Shanti had been working on I Went for a Walk for a few years, and when she was done I drew some illustrations for it. We put the book out ourselves, and we just thought, “What’s the best way to get this book out to children?” We decided that we’d just go on a tour and promote it just like a band would promote a new record. So we stopped at schools, bookstores, libraries, and we’d read the book for the kids and play a few songs.
DIY children’s literature. Nice.
Wintergate: Exactly. It’s so great playing for them, because they’re just so excited that you’re even there. When they see that you wrote the book and you’re there talking to them, it makes a huge difference. And that’s what I think is so important for kids to hear, is “You can do it.” Just hearing that from someone makes a huge difference. I feel like so many kids never hear that. I feel like it’s a good inspiration for them because it makes it more real. They see us and see that we’re just people, too.
That’s good you’re teaching them these ideas now. Who knows what punk might become by the time these kids grow up?
Wintergate: Unicorns and rainbows! That’s what’s going to be punk 10 years from now. Wait. That might be what’s punk now. (Laughs.)