It used to be that Caspar Babypants wrote songs and Kate Endle created the cover art and her own children’s books. Lately, though, the husband and wife team seem to be collaborating more.
Babypants (a.k.a. Presidents of the United States of America frontman Chris Ballew) and Endle have two books out this month from Sasquatch, My Woodland Wish ($16.99) and Bunny Rabbit in the Sunlight (board book, $9.99). Both Ballew and Endle worked on the words, then Endle illustrated the books in her signature collage style, and Ballew wrote music to the words, with links to download free MP3s on the book covers.
Both books are sweetly written and illustrated. A lovely match.
Meet Kate Endle and Caspar Babypants
This interview with Kate Endle and Chris Ballew was provided by Sasquatch Books.
Kate Endle grew up in Northeast Ohio and attended the Columbus College of Art and Design. Her illustrations can be found in magazines, greeting cards, children’s books, and home decor products. Original art and Kate Endle collage prints can be found at her online shop at KateEndle.com. She lives in Seattle.
Caspar Babypants is also known as Chris Ballew, twice Grammy-nominated lead singer and songwriter for the rock-and-roll band The Presidents of the United States of America. After years of tinkering with simple innocent tunes, Chris rediscovered folk and traditional music and focused his songwriting for little kids, which gave birth to Caspar Babypants. For music, info, and more on Caspar Babypants, go to BabypantsMusic.com. He lives in Seattle.
When collaborating on a song or a book, which specific talents do you each bring to the table?
Kate: Chris went to art school, so he has a trained eye and has some pretty good design advice for me when I need a second set of eyeballs. With Chris’s music, I believe that less is more, so I tend to suggest he pare things down every now and then. We greatly respect each other’s opinions so we value each other’s advice.
Caspar: Kate brings her experience with images and a desire to make things feel accurate and real so that the lyrics I write are as vivid as they can be for the listener. I bring a surreal vibe to the projects and try to keep the reality feeling dream-like and fantastical.
How do you hinder each other in the creative process?
Kate: I tend to get emotionally attached to the words or images I create. When Chris chimes in with constructive criticism, I sometimes turn into a four-year-old, dig my heals into the ground, and say “NO! MY IDEA! NO CHANGING!” Another annoying thing that I do is that I try to accurately measure who contributed what, and how much, in a collaborative project. Both of these traits can dam up the creative river.
Caspar: I really don’t feel like we hinder each other at all! Every time we see something differently, the discussion about that friction ends up making the work stronger and the process is positive.
In My Woodland Wish, a little girl wants to befriend the animals she sees in the woods. If you could spend a day with any type of animal, which would you choose?
Kate: That’s a hard choice! It’s a toss-up between a whale and an owl. However, if you’d asked me this question 30 years ago I would have definitely picked a unicorn.
Caspar: I would definitely spend the day with a bird. Flying up high and resting on the wind then diving super-fast toward a pond to take a drink and a bath. I kind of live that way already in my mind!
Your careers have both come a long way from where they started. What do you like best about playing/creating art for a mostly young audience now?
Kate: I love it when kids try and recreate my art or are inspired by it and then show me their work. When I was a kid I went through this phase where I copied EVERYTHING. After awhile, I started to worry that maybe I didn’t have any of my own ideas. What was really happening, though, was that I was training my brain for hand-eye coordination. So when I see little kids doing the same thing with my work, I get a kick out of knowing that my art is spinning the gears in their little baby kid heads.
Caspar: I love how honest and free little children are. I love to nurture randomness and innocent creativity in myself and being around little tots keeps me connected to that character of imagination.
Briefly describe your collaborative creative process.
Kate: Of the three books, each level of collaboration has been very different. “My Woodland Wish” just poured out of me one night as Chris and I were working on separate projects. I just sang the lyrics with the melody and he recorded it–pretty straight forward. However, when it came time to format the song into a picture book we had to rewrite about half of the lyrics so the song would read well as a story. Chris had already written “Augie to Zebra” and “Bunny Rabbit in the Sunlight” as songs. When I started to illustrate
the lyrics, some of the words were not super fun to illustrate. I began to rewrite the words so that they would be a bit more fun visually. In general, our collaborative work is pretty organic; I’m the seed planter, Chris gets things growing and we prune together. For example, Chris was recently tuning his ukulele to “My Dog Has Fleas.” As I walked through the house I started singing, “my flea has dogs…,” which conjured up this crazy image, for both of us, of this tiny little insect managing a menagerie of giant
Caspar: We come up with our best collaborative ideas in the woods. We just walk and something about the natural world around us makes images come clear in our minds, and we throw lines back and forth while I record bits of ideas on my phone. Later I work on the song and then bring it to Kate for revisions and feedback, and if it turns into a book then we stretch the lines together like taffy and make them feel right for illustrations. This usually lengthens the song considerably and it is super fun to riff on the theme
as we expand the tune. Then Kate takes over with the sketches and I offer feedback as needed until they are turned in for editing, then it is cutting-paper time and eventually we have a book!
Kate, do you listen to music while you work? If so, what do you listen to?
Kate: I listen to a wide variety of things. This is one of the best aspects of my job. I have pretty eclectic taste in music. I like Journey, Black Sabbath, Nina Simone–lots of indie music and lots a dark grungy loud stuff. I stream a lot of podcasts- Sound Opinions, Fresh Air, The Moth, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, etc. I also stream a lot of TV–American Pickers, Pawn Stars, Storage Wars, Hoarders, Intervention, The View, Man v. Food, House Hunters–the list goes on and on. Sometimes the best thing to listen to is the wind or the rain falling or the birds chirping; it detoxes my brain.