Living room lullabies
What kind of band sings Scooby Doo, Peter Cottontail, Willie Nelson, and the Beatles? The answer might surprise you—or not
Father-son duo Tomas Flint, forty-three (years), and Maceo Marsh-Flint, forty-eight (months) take the cyber-stage twice a week. Donning sugary breakfast cereal reincarnated as pajamas, the band, the Robe Warriors, aims to brighten the days of other social distance fighters.
On top of their regular video uploads, Flint and Maceo have been participating in online concerts and benefits. “One was to benefit folks on the West Coast, called Feed the Local Need,” Flint says. The duo played a three-song set for the fundraiser, which raised 2,000 meals for hospital workers on the West Coast. The duo also participated in Small Screen Sessions, a digital concert series for the popular Instagram account Explore Rochester, which typically highlights the city’s unique components with a new local curator each week. “They have a really big audience, and they opened up their instagram to live local artists,” Flint explains. “There are some big names on there, too. Danielle Ponder was up after us, so technically you can say we opened for Danielle Ponder,” he laughs. Explore Rochester even has a “tip jar” function, where viewers can send some money directly to the artist. The Instagram account does not take a cut. “We made a couple bucks,” Flint laughs, “but that’s not why we’re doing this.”
For Flint, it’s important that Maceo understands the project’s bigger picture. “I’ve been playing music with him since he was a newborn, and we’ve always had conversations about how music can make you feel good, by singing and dancing. So he’s totally cognizant about the fact that things are hard for people right now, and this silver lining helps.” When it became clear the whole family would have to begin self-quarantine, Flint and his partner Kelli Marsh sat down to talk about expectations and priorities. “We said we’re gonna make sure we take time for ourselves, time for our individual relationships with our son, and time as a whole family,” Tom explains. It was from this agreement that the Robe Warriors’ humble beginnings emerged. “We were sitting there the first day watching Scooby Doo,” he reminisces, “and I said, ‘well, if we’re going to do something together then I’m going to figure out this tune.’’’ Maceo picked it up quickly, Flint says, and they posted the video on Facebook for their close friends. “The response was amazing,” he says. “We got a lot of people saying it made them smile, or that it was the silver lining to their self-quarantine.” According to Flint, his son has an uncanny ability to memorize lyrics. “We’ll decide on our next song, and I hear him humming and singing it all the time. That kind of stuff just blows my mind.” Once their first video made an impact for so many people, they went all-out: a backyard photoshoot, a logo (“Maceo insisted on some pink”), and a trip to the closet to enhance their varied and over-the-top wardrobe. “Some of my duds are older than Maceo,” Flint laughs. “We dress up a little bit for the videos, but we’re big fans of the cozy clothes. The robes, the socks, everything.”
Between the good looks, cuteness, and crazy getups it’s easy to overlook the change in scenery between uploads. “Performing in different rooms is actually very deliberate,” Flint says. “We’re thinking of doing an in-house quarantine world tour, so what that means now is to go to different parts of the house—just a mini tour—to play off the fact that we’re all stuck in the house.” The band is considering performances in more exotic backdrops, like the backyard or parking lot. “We’ll see where the quarantine world tour goes,” he says. “I’d like to do a poster for it, too.”
Although Flint—like Maceo—has been surrounded by music since he was born, he never had any formal training. “I went to a small catholic high school, and there was nothing in the way of theater, drama, music—nothing.” He didn’t pick up guitar until after college. “I didn’t even think about playing music until we started following Dave Matthews,” he says. That was around the time he moved to Rochester, and while he’s written original music and considered open mic nights, Flint opts for other forms of art to go public. “I think music is a little too vulnerable,” he ponders. “With photography I can hide behind the camera as a form of expression and communication.”
While Flint has put his photography career on hold for now, Maceo is missing out on his three days of preschool a week. “His teachers are fans, and all his classmates are writing to tell us how much they love the band, so that’s pretty cool for him,” Tom says. When not recording for quarantined fans, Flint spends his newfound freetime homeschooling Maceo, jogging, binging TV (he recommends Ozark and Peaky Blinders), and catching up with old friends. “Ironically, it’s a really good time to reconnect,” he says. “I saw a post on Facebook that said ‘in the rush to return to normal, let’s use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.’ So it’s been a lot of that.” Being present and getting closer to loved ones are some of Flint’s major focuses right now, along with trying not to feel like he should be more productive. “We’re in a big gray area right now. There’s no use putting too much pressure on yourself to be productive, because we have to define productivity differently right now,” he says. “Other than that though, enjoying things that I always say I’ll do if I have the time. Like starting a band with my son.”
The Robe Warrios are just getting started, and Flint is open to song requests and opportunities for other benefit events. The band is also on YouTube.
John Ernst is writer, designer, and nature lover based in Rochester, as well as (585)’s editor-at-large.