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BAYSTATE

by Michelle Xiarhos Curran

September 02, 2007

BAYSTATE
Sharon, Massachusetts is about as suburban as suburban can get. Widely known as one of the top Bay State communities in which to raise children, the town of 18,000 residents, located midway between Boston and Providence, can hardly be considered a birthplace of rock.

But beyond the myriad of white picket fences, SUV's and youth soccer teams there lives a musical sleeping giant. And it comes in the form of a group of female 40- something's, mostly moms, who have been taking the local music scene by storm. HRT - Hormone Replacement Therapy - is a rock band made up of five women, who truly believe that it's never too late to realize your dreams, even if that dream is to become major players in the rock & roll scene.

If you thought you read wrong, think again. The band has indeed named itself after a treatment that soothes the bothersome symptoms of menopause.

"It started off as a joke. It really did," said HRT's drummer, Tammy Robbins, one of the founding members of the group. "Then, we discovered we were more than a joke and we were better than that."

But the name stuck. And now band members often joke that it could even carry them on through the evolution of their musical careers. In 20 years, you might just see "Hip Replacement Therapy" headlining a club near you.

Besides Robbins, HRT, a band that merges classic rock with other musical genres such as alternative and pop, is made up of keyboardist and lead vocalist Lisa Yves, guitarist Marlane Pinkowitz, guitarist and saxophonist Emily Grogan and bassist Marian Latanision. Together, the five friends are defying rock & roll convention and redefining what it means to be 40 and a parent.

"We want to be the poster women for '40 is the new 20,'" said Robbins.

HRT formed quite by accident in 2004 when Robbins and Pinkowitz visited Yves' music studio in the basement of her Sharon home. Yves and Pinkowitz had been taking the spin class Robbins taught in Canton. Yves was a 25-year jazz musician and songwriter. Pinkowitz knew three chords on the guitar and had been an avid concertgoer. Robbins, though she had always enjoyed music, had never picked up an instrument in her life. But when Yves and Pinkowitz began playing The McCoys' 1965 hit Hang on Sloopy, they dared Robbins, who had taken a seat at Yves' drum set, to give it a try.

"It was really just three really good friends screwing around," Pinkowitz said. But somehow, it all worked.

The rest, as they say, is history. Instead of meeting for coffee or shopping, the trio would get together and rehearse. Robbins bought a drum set. Marlane took guitar lessons. They began writing their own songs and attracting fans. In 2006, Latanision and Grogan, both longtime musicians, joined the group.

To date, HRT has preformed at numerous South Shore venues, music festivals, and conquered the younger set at places like Bill's Bar and TT The Bear's in Boston. Over the last year, the women have made more than a few local television appearances and gained national exposure when they were featured on NBC's The Today Show in February. HRT is also the subject of a Canadian reality series called Rocker Moms, which is scheduled to air in the States sometime in the next year.

"To me, it's all a surprise," said Robbins about the band's recent success.

Though most of the women of HRT are moms (Latanision is the only member with no children), they say that their role as parents rarely interferes with their musical aspirations. They rehearse over 20 hours per week while their children - who range in age from 7 to 13 - are in school. And they perform live several times a month.

"The three or four nights a month we gig, it's like going out to dinner on a Saturday night," said Robbins.

That's not to say that there aren't challenges involved with playing the dual role of mom and rocker. Besides rehearsing and gigging, there is also the responsibility of managing the business aspect of HRT - booking shows, marketing and managing the band's Web site and Myspace page, a fulltime job in and of itself.

"The most challenging thing is trying to separate the two," said Yves, who at one point put aside her musical aspirations to raise her family. "Everybody in my family understands."

"I still coach my daughter's soccer team on Saturdays," said Robbins. "And I've done it on three hours sleep."

But can these rockers be considered your typical suburban moms?

"I love driving my kids to all their playdates and activities," said Yves. But, she adds, "I'm far from typical."

"Maybe HRT will help redefine the suburban mom," she continues.

And while much of the press HRT has received has revolved around the fact that they are moms and in their 40s, the women hope to someday shed that image and to be known simply for their music.

"We don't want 15 minutes of reality show fame," said Pinkowitz. "Our number one goal is to be a great rock band."

"We would not be happy being a gimmick," said Robbins. "That's why we're slugging it out, in all these music venues."

"The band and I, we never talk about our kids," said Yves, though they might sometimes dole out parenting advice. "We have a lot of other things that influence us and make us interesting people."

But members say that if their story is what attracts the attention at first, that's just fine with them. "Then, we want to blow them away," said Pinkowitz.

And even though, as Robbins puts it, HRT has done things sort of backwards - marriage, children, and then forming a rock band - they would have it no other way. Not only do they not have the problems - most notably drugs and egos - that younger bands might have, they also add that their families have played a major role in their motivation and success.

"When you have kids, that's your life. And for a while it should be," said Pinkowitz. "We're all doing this because our kids and our family lives are great. I would never give up the life that I have here in Sharon."

"I'm really proud that I'm a mom. We all are," said Yves, who wants to have something of her own, but added, "I want my kids to see me doing something great."

"The fact that we're moms is inspiring and we don't want to give that up," said Robbins.

When HRT first stared making music, being mothers seriously shaped their songwriting. Lyrics revolved largely around subjects like longing for a nanny and frustrating dealings with children and other parents.

"We reached a point where we were like, 'you know what, we want to be more serious,'" said Yves.

"Our songs are becoming a lot more philosophical in nature," said Robbins.

Today, HRT is tackling subjects such as the difficulties of life, regret, and fate.

"We don't write love songs," said Robbins, when asked about their music. "We're not those single 20-somethings pining away for someone we can never have."

And, Robbins adds, "My husband is my best friend. I don't need to write a song about it."

Speaking of husbands, what do the families of the HRT women think of all their recent success? While Robbins' spouse was skeptical in the beginning, she said the husbands couldn't be more supportive. "They're at every gig," she said.

And though the kids don't often get to see their moms play live, band members say they too are proud of their rocker moms.

"Our kids absolutely love it," said Robbins. "All the kids are really into it."

"I think they're pretty shocked and surprised and thrilled," said Yves.

Though Pinkowitz said they haven't seen the type of success that has changed their day-to-day lives all that much yet, in five years, the members of HRT see themselves as a touring band, playing festivals, maybe even corporate gigs. They envision themselves with a manager. They glimpse a record deal. They foresee Oprah and Letterman. For now though, the band is still evolving, perfecting their live performance and preparing to release an album in the near future. HRT is taking the month of September off to write new music.

"We believe in what we're doing," said Robbins. "We believe in the chemistry between us."

But do they see themselves as role models?

"I've actually always been a role model to people I meet," said Yves. "I'm definitely of the mindset that you shouldn't put your dreams aside."

Band members also say that fans have told them they've been an inspiration for following those dreams.

"It's really neat when people tell me we've inspired them. I never thought I would inspire anyone," said Pinkowitz. And, she adds, "Men have been just as vocal as women about the influence we've had on them."

"We're showing and inspiring people how to live life when you're 40 and you're a mother," she said.

"Who says you can stop evolving at 40?" Robbins asks.

Michelle Xiarhos Curran is a freelance writer from Newburyport.

quick HRT facts


HRT is short for Hormone Replacement Therapy, a treatment for menopause

Band formed in 2004

Four out of the five band members are proud moms to two kids each, ranging in ages from 7 to 13

Vocalist and guitarist Emily Grogan was nominated for a 2005 Boston Music Award for best local female vocalist and in 2006 for the Boston Phoenix Best Music Poll singer/songwriter category

Lisa Yves, a graduate of NYU's School of Music with a major in vocal jazz performance, recorded a highly acclaimed series of jazz CDs for kids

Guitarist Marlane Pinkowitz knew three chords on the guitar before joining HRT

Drummer Tammy Robbins had never played an instrument until 2004

Bassist Marian Latanision was once lead vocalist for rock group Astral Park (previously Universal Joint), which disbanded in 1999

HRT gained national exposure, when they appeared on NBC's The Today Show on Feb. 15, 2007

HRT on the web



www.hrtrocks.com

www.myspace.com/hrtrocks

Find out more about HRT members, at these sites:

Emily Grogan


www.emilygrogan.com

www.myspace.com/emilygrogan

Tammy Robbins


www.myspace.com/hrtdrummer

Lisa Yves


www.jazzforkids.net

Marian Latanision


www.myspace.com/hrtmazzie

Marlane Pinkowitz


www.myspace.com/marlanep

Watch episodes of Canadian reality series Rocker Moms, www.slice.ca

UPCOMING PERFORMANCES


Oct. 7: Rocktoberfest in Harvard Square, Cambridge

Oct. 12: The Church (formerly The Linwood), Boston (Liz Borden CD release party)

Nov. 30: Firefly's (Dante's), Marlborough

excerpts from HRT songs


Caffeine Freak

As the sun is rising and I'm still half asleep
My head spins slowly and I can barely see my feet
I panic and I'm out of breath, haven't slept in years
I see that empty filter and cry me brown tears.

Livin' the Life

I didn't sign up for this
thought I'd be livin' the life
and it constantly reminds me
everyday I drive down your street
I live another memory
Should have left it all behind me.
Not livin' the life
I thought I'd be livin'
sometimes I wish I could disappear
Not livin' the dream
thought I'd be forgiven
What happened to me
How the hell did I end up here?
When we got together that night
I thought it would be all right
Didn't think it would end like this
and now it won't go away
Can't leave but don't want to stay
I want to live not just exist

Tequila

It's such a fine complex liquor
and sip it slowly please
it makes me feel so good inside
and life becomes a breeze
tequila drinkin' woman
some say it's a sin
tequila drinkin' woman
let me dive right in

Full Circle

The tides of fate they drag me under
The sands of time are blinding me
The wind of change sweep me off my feet
And I wonder am I free

Bitter and Sweet

Cause I'm bitter, but I'm sweet
Gonna parachute down and land on my feet
Cause I'm bitter and I'm sweet
Gonna celebrate there's no defeat




by Michelle Xiarhos Curran , Bay State

updated: 9 years ago