Julie Rustad goes to great lengths to keep her lead singer happy.
She only schedules her band’s gigs when he’s at his best and sharpest, so nothing between 2 and 3 p.m. Ever.
He cannot skip lunch. Ever.
“He’s definitely a temperamental front man,” jokes Julie’s bandmate and husband, Jon Rustad.
Sound like your typical, volatile rock star? Nah, just your average 4-year-old — who also happens to be the lead singer of his family’s rock band.
Syver, his mom and his dad make up The Nap Skippers. They sing some Beatles, some old-school kiddie tunes and some Syver originals, like “Cars and Trucks.”
The band started as a lark a few years ago — the Rustads thought it would be fun to play a few songs at Syver’s second birthday party. The little dude was hooked.
Soon, he was writing his own ditties such as “Cowboy Kitty.” His inspiration?
“My mind made it up, then it came out,” he explains, most matter-of-factly.
But, full disclosure: He does have a couple of cats at home that may have provided inspiration.
Long before they became parents, Jon, an animator, and Julie, an artist, played in their own bands. In fact, the two, and Amy Mendoza, a former bandmate of Julie’s, have their own grownup group called the HypnoGogs. But The Nap Skippers book more shows.
“There’s so many rock bands,” says Julie, a drummer. “The Nap Skippers is something unique — it’s family-friendly music.”
The trio’s played a few private events, but most of the shows tend to be for charity. Julie says when they play a fundraiser, they make a point of talking to Syver about how he’s helping others. Occasionally, though, they do get paid. One recent performance for a music-store sale netted Syver a $50 credit, which went toward an accordion and a kid-sized guitar.
“We’re trying to teach him that you can do what you love and also get paid, whether it’s paid in money or gratitude,” Julie says.
For the Rustads, the band is a great way to spend quality time together, everyone doing what they enjoy. Although, truth be told, practice is not exactly Syver’s favorite.
During one recent jam session, Jon hadn’t yet strummed any chords on his acoustic guitar for their typical 10-song set before Syver declared, “Let’s take a break, guys.”
After a few songs, including a high-energy version of “Everything is Awesome” from “The LEGO Movie,” Syver stops the music for a little standup.
“Knock knock!” he shouts into the mic.
“Who’s there?” comes the dutiful response.
“Police stop telling knock-knock jokes!” he yells back, then grins. “I crack everybody up.”
Can you tell his parents have been taking him to kid-friendly improv shows?
The kid definitely loves an audience — even when it’s made up of his fellow preschoolers.
For the past few years at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, Syver’s been right alongside Scott Zorn — everyone at the J calls him “Shabbat Scott” — for the regular Friday music program. Having a kid come up and play a guitar is nothing new, Zorn says. Children do it all the time.
“The difference is with Syver, he’s actually in tune,” says Zorn, who’s the Director of Children, Youth and Family Engagement. “Syver’s a star. He’s the one I look at and say, ‘That’s the guy who’s going to be famous and play at the Staples Center.’”
As long as he’s having fun, the Rustads plan to keep on rockin’.
“I think we’ll stop whenever he’s done enjoying it,” Julie says. “He loves to entertain. He just loves — loves — it. We don’t make him. He turns it on for shows.”
Oh, and about that name. That was Jon’s idea. And, while The Nap Skippers sure sounds cute and catchy, it isn’t exactly accurate — Syver still naps.