The Ditty Bops
In 2006, THE DITTY BOPS rode their bicycles over 4,700 miles from Los Angeles to New York City. They performed 40 concerts along the way, in an effort to promote clean air, cycling, and their new album Moon Over the Freeway. In the process, they raised both awareness and funds for two bicycle non-profits, Adventure Cycling and Pedals for Progress. Sponsors included the wind-powered brewery New Belgium, Clif Bar, and Adventure Cycling, and they used a biodiesel-fueled Dodge Sprinter to carry their gear while they rode.
Why tour on bike? Abby says, "If we could ride our bikes across the country and play music, we hope others would be inspired to ride their bikes more often." Amanda adds, "There is growing concern about gas prices right now, but we're more concerned about the environmental costs of using gas, like global warming and smog."
The duo continues their efforts to be car-free in their home of Los Angeles, and admit it isn't always easy. "Abby got hit by a car, we rode through a swarm of angry bees and still arrived to our tap class on time," says Amanda. Yet, overall, they say it's well worth it.
This year, The Ditty Bops have embarked on a tour to bring awareness to another issue that is close to their hearts.
"On the bicycle tour we rode by thousands of miles of corn and soybean fields - crops being grown as animal feed. It made us want to learn more about small family farms and to bring attention to the people who are feeding their local communities," Amanda recalls.
Their 2007 tour, through the farming communities of America, has a focus on the growing market of organic farming and the renewed interest in cuisine prepared with locally grown food. By targeting visits to co-ops, organic restaurants, health food stores, and organic dairy suppliers and vegetable growers, they hope to bring attention to the struggles and achievements of family farmers in the U.S. In addition to playing traditional shows, they have performed benefit concerts on farms to raise money for local farm organizations, The Growing Connection, and FARM AID - Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews' nonprofit.
Both Amanda and Abby worked at farmer's markets before getting into music, and Abby worked for a biodynamic farm at the Green Market of New York. "As touring musicians we're trying to incorporate elements of our lives back home into our life on the road," says Abby.
To coincide with their bicycle tour, they released their 2006 Bicycle Bikini Calendar. For 2007, you can find their Vegetable Bikini Calendar, which features organic recipes, farm fresh veggies, and, of course, bikinis. "We want to show how fun riding a bike can be and how it makes you slow down and see the world. You feel free - it's even better than a convertible!" says Amanda. Similarly, Abby adds, "Eating locally grown organic food is not only good for the environment, small farmers, and the local economy, but it also tastes better."
The Ditty Bops formed in 2003, and began to play around Los Angeles as a four-piece acoustic band, with Amanda on mandolin, dulcimer, and washboard and Abby on guitar and piano. The retro-flavored style of their music, which incorporates elements of Western swing, ragtime, gypsy-jazz, pop, and vaudeville-era musical theater, was beautifully captured on the duo's 2004 self-titled debut album for Warner Bros. Records, produced by Mitchell Froom (Suzanne Vega, Crowded House, Elvis Costello). Self-described, the band "is like Calamity Jane, Betty Boop, and Jessica Rabbit laughing in their rag top convertible as they drive through the mysterious streets of San Berdoo." You can listen to their music, read about their bike tour and farm tour, and learn more at their website www.thedittybops.com.