BATAVIA – Multiple bands will play at a day-long music festival Aug. 11 in Batavia, featuring dual headliners for the youngest rockers and for seasoned fans as Ralph Covert brings his Disney-sponsored Ralph’s World and The Bad Examples to the riverside stage.
The free festival, presented by Music Matters School of Music in Batavia, will include an array of food vendors along with a Fun Zone with inflatables and an Art Zone for children, with assistance from River City Church in St. Charles.
The festival coincides with the impending August release of Covert’s latest album, “Welcome to Deadsville,” a richly introspective post-pop, acoustic work that includes a tribute to his late mother called “Fly Little Bird,” full of love, loss and remembrance.
“If it’s not a ‘Facebook feeling,’ we’re taught to look the other way and repress our emotions in many ways,” Covert stated in announcing the new recording. “Life contains a much richer palette of experiences than that, and I wanted to make an album that explored anger, grief, fear and depression, as well as happiness, love and joy.”
At the festival, the gifted lyricist will perform selections from his newest work and high-energy Bad Examples favorites including the band’s breakout hit “Not Dead Yet.”
Covert, who attended high school in Glen Ellyn, said he wrote his very first song, “Old Man Dan,” at the age of 8 or 9. It’s on one of his many Ralph’s World albums, the prolific composer told Kane Weekend Editor Renee Tomell. The following is an edited version of the rest of their conversation.
Renee Tomell: What does Ralph’s World have in store for younger audience members?
Ralph Covert: The full band Ralph’s World show. We’ll just be engaging the kids and parents [with] dancing, singing, silliness and rock and roll.
Tomell: How did Ralph’s World reach a wider audience so successfully and a video platform via the Disney Channel?
Covert: [A recording executive] asked me to make a kids record. I said no, [but told him] I could be talked into making a great record that kids love. He told me … you just cracked the code … I should be thinking about making a great record that kids incidentally happen to love. An indie label and an indie rock guy and we … got a major indie booking agent … [doing] 1 p.m. shows at Schubas and FitzGerald’s – at club after club around the country. It created a genre.
Tomell: What’s the concept behind your new “Welcome to Deadsville” album?
Covert: I’ve been writing and recording songs from a purely creative place. [I’m] fortunate as an artist to do that. As this collection of songs came together, I realized that there was a through-line and … the aha moment was the song “Welcome to Deadsville.” I had a … singular idea that … you could be in a bad place or a dark place. I had a visceral physical image in my head of that all of a sudden being a … physical place. Of stepping off a plane on [the] tarmac at that place.
Sardonically, humorously, the idea struck me – what if it was a tourist destination? All of a sudden, the lyric and melody started flowing like this tourist brochure: “Welcome to Deadsville.” The joke let me [see] how dark and dystopian it could be.
Tomell: How are other songs linked?
Covert: [The album is] a conversation about real life, gut-level issues. I think our society does a terrible job of embracing the conversation about 85 percent of the emotions we feel. There’s about … 15 percent we actually allow ourselves to acknowledge and talk about. In our society, the rest of the things we feel we’re taught they’re somehow … the dark emotions. But they’re [not] dark or bad, just feelings – ways our spirit, our body is communicating to us. But we’re taught to push them aside, to ignore them, that they’re somehow shameful. And by not listening to them, we end up all of us going to Deadsville. We all of us end up making choices to avoid those feelings that aren’t the best choices for us. Things end up … festering and affecting us as a result.
Tomell: Your story songs speak right to the heart.
Covert: This album is trying to have a conversation through the language of music and language of emotions. I’m grateful.
Tomell: Your longtime guitarist Tom O’Brien of St. Charles is a teacher at Music Matters and you had some input in the festival planning.
Covert: They’ve got a wonderful lineup of different bands covering a range of music. For The Bad Examples set in the evening, we are incorporating some members from some of the other bands. [When I was asked] to sing on stage with Off Broadway, I choked up. [Our sharing the stage is] the same gift, the same acknowledgement.
Tomell: How does it feel to have such a multigenerational range of fans in your audiences?
Covert: Amazing and wonderful.
A special album release show for “Welcome to Deadsville” will begin at 7 p.m. Aug.12 at SPACE in Evanston. And this fall, Covert will play the Austin City Limits Musical Festival in Texas, headlined by another songwriter, Paul McCartney.
“Welcome to Deadsville” will be available on CD and digitally at waterdogrecords.com and major streaming services, as well as online outlets and select record stores. To learn more, visit ralphsworld.com.
If you go
■ WHAT: Music Matters Summer Fest
■ WHEN: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 11, with Ralph’s World on stage at 3 p.m. and The Bad Examples at 8 p.m.
■ WHERE: Peg Bond Center at Batavia Riverwalk, off Houston Street and Island Avenue, Batavia
■ COST: Free, with donations welcome
■ INFO: musicmattersschool.com/festival