Bryan Phelps is a stay-at-home-dad by day, and rock star/bartender at night. An Indiana native, Phelps as been around the Champaign-Urbana music scene for more than 15 years, playing in bands including the Good Patch, Lucky Mulholland, and the Chemicals. He and his wife, Jolee, have twin boys, Isaak and Judah, who will be in first grade this new school year. Bryan is an active volunteer at his child’s school, being involved in the PTA as well as the classroom. “I am nominating him because he is all that a man, a dad, should be,” wrote Jolee in her nomination. “He supports me as a mother and my career, while providing our twins with a strong role model, and a diverse upbringing.” In 2014, Bryan and Jolee debuted their latest musical adventure, Kittens Incorporated.
See why we think Bryan Phelps is a Chambana dad to know.
Q: What do you cherish most about being a stay-at-home Dad?
That I’m the one who’s there. From a splendid or paltry breakfast to lights out I’m the one who’s there. Working the roku, doling out band-aids, lunch, library, Sholem, pick-ups and drop-offs; it’s me. And I love that. It doesn’t seem like a big deal now but when they’re 26 they’ll remember stuff and it’ll be my face on a ton of memories. I’m lucky, though, in that Jolee’s job has extraordinary flexibility and she gets to participate in a lot of what we do. Our family excels as a team.
Q: Have you found other SAHD in Champaign-Urbana, and how do you network with them? I’m sure there are others out there looking!
I’ve encountered a handful of other SAHDs but it’s not something I’ve sought out. Sadly, networking isn’t really in my DNA, but the ones that I have met are as devoted to it as I am. I’ve yet to meet one who regrets it or feels disgruntled about their role.
Q: You are active at your sons’ school, Dr. Howard. What did you learn about the school and the impact of volunteers last year?
I’ve learned that education is hard. A lot of kids have truly troubled houses that they leave every morning and the teachers are expected to pull off miracles 8-10 times a day. Most of them are in it because they believe in it; a few are just spent. It could be that the school of choice system has some flaws. I was told that of all three kindergarten classes I was the only parent who was volunteering with any regularity. I don’t know if it’s that way in other Unit 4 schools. I was only there for two times a week but what I got to witness is kids who didn’t know letters from numbers at the beginning of the year read to me full books by the end of the year. And that was way awesome. I’ll be there again this coming year.
Q: What are you looking forward to about getting back to school this fall?
Well, fall generally means cooler temps and I’m all for that. And maybe I can form an exercise routine again. But school-wise Dr. Howard has been doing some renovations and updates so I’m looking forward to seeing those. I’m excited to see how big the kids I got to know last year have gotten. And the general optimism that every new grade begins with. For being the oldest school in the district Dr. Howard will have a lot of new components; like a new principal and a new librarian. My guys are excited for it so full steam ahead.
Q: You’ve been involved in the Champaign-Urbana music scene for 15 years. Who’s your favorite C-U band and why?
This is remarkably difficult. So many of my friends are in bands, and not the same bands. My first favorite chambana band was Sarge. My best man, Larry Gates, has led Lorenzo Goetz and Curb Service. I miss the Beauty Shop. And then there’s the Chemicals. I loved them before I knew them and definitely before I joined them. Justin (Gee) has no ego about it. He just wants to play rock and roll and I relate to that. Of the more recent wave of bands it’s hard to not like Bookmobile!
Q: What is your latest musical venture, and what do your kids think about it?
My wife Jolee and I have a project called Kittens Incorporated. We call what we do “breeze pop” and we feel that’s pretty spot on. Imagine Belle & Sebastian singing “girl from impanema” and you’re in the ballpark. We’ve been at it for about a year now and we’re starting to get some traction. We’ve been duo-ing it with me on a small classical guitar and her singing. After starting a family, lonely sad songs were no longer what I was about, so I’m in charge of song structure and Jolee’s in charge of lyrics. We’ve just brought in an upright bassist, Crystal Rebone, and things are taking shape. We should be making a full length record pretty soon with Andy Herald and Matt Wenzel, a couple solid Urbana guys. You can hear us on bandcamp and like us on the ol’ Facebook.
The dudes have been great about it. They were surprised when we told them not every mom and dad had a band. At first they were very supportive and would let us know what songs they liked. But they’re growing tired of our “gentle” music and would prefer louder rock music now. I never should’ve played them Rancid.
Q: It’s date night in Champaign-Urbana. Where do you go?
If it’s a date date night, and not a “mommy and daddy have a show” night, we’re probably going to Dancing Dog or Sushi Kame. Then we’ll either check out what’s going on at the Iron Post or Mike-n-Molly’s. But more likely we’re just going back to our couch and Netflixing it up.
Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
Most people don’t know that I’m somewhat deaf in my right ear. It hasn’t been debilitating in any way, but it’s an obscure fact about Bryan Phelps. And I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan. People who already know me would know that, but that would be a pretty small sample size of the greater Chambana community.
Bryan Phelps was nominated to be a Chambana dad to know. Nominate a mom or dad to know — it’s easy!