A Tiger Made of Lightning dropped their latest song on August 9th. Frontman Michael O’Leary said that parents might especially like it, so we gave it a listen.
And we cried.
It’s not often punk rock makes you dissolve into this-is-the-cutest-thing-ever tears. But Mike wrote “Little Birds” for his two daughters, Fiona Wren (age 8) and Thora Lark (age 6). He told Scary Mommy he wanted his video to look like “a corny graduation-type video” complete with photo montage. “It’s supposed to look dopey,” he says. “A friend said it has ‘Trapper-Keeper energy.'”
So Mike, wearing a “Girl Dad” shirt, shreds his guitar, dances, and sometimes sings alongside pics of Thora and Fiona. He says “Little Birds” has been percolating since about 2015, when Thora was born, but it didn’t come together until this February. “I just listened to myself,” he says. “Just let it come out. I got out of my own way.”
The song’s not traditional punk rock material. But Mike told Scary Mommy that the subject was special to him, and so he felt confident it would find an audience. At … well, old enough to remember when Jimmy Eat World, MxPx, and Blink-182 ruled the pop punk scene, he says, “I know I’m not cool. I don’t need to be cool… I want to be true to myself.”
And “Little Birds” lays his heart bare: Mike loves his daughters more than anything.
So Where Does The Song Come From?
Mike says that “Little Birds” refers to his daughters’ middle names — Fiona Wren and Thora Lark. One of the first parts of the verse is, “I said she’s beautiful.” Want to totally melt? Mike says that lyric’s a homage to Andrew W.K’s “She is Beautiful” — a song he sings to Fiona and Thora every single night. “I never knew girls existed like you/ But now I do/ I’d really like to get to know you… She is beautiful/ The girl is beautiful.”
In the first part of “Little Birds,” Mike talks about his deep love for his girls. Then he moves into what he hopes for them: “Take care to take it all in stride… Know that I will catch you if you fall/ Trust me you’ve got this.” He told us that he wants them to know he’ll always be there for them as they “go explore a million things.”
Are you crying yet?!
Mike Adores His Girls
We hear a lot about how mamas/others feel about their daughters. But when we asked Mike about Thora and Fiona, he laughed. “Do you want to hear me talk all day?” he says. “They’re awesome.” He says his oldest, Fiona, is introspective and likes to create imaginary worlds; she has a great sense of humor and he’s super proud she loves Calvin and Hobbes.
Thora, on the other hand, is “a carbon copy of my wife.” He says she’s very creative: “Right now, she’s making things out of paper.” She recently constructed a taco, complete with filling. “She’s truly a Lark songbird,” he says. “She’ll lead a group of survivors in the zombie apocalypse and she will triumph.”
But he’s careful not to push his music on them. “I don’t want to be that guy,” Mike says. But he and his wife, Jamie (who he insisted we speak to as a co-parent — again, total melt!) say that they liked Queen for a while, Bring Me the Horizon, and IDLES. “They love The Darkness’s “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” he tells us. He and Jamie are also careful to play plenty of female singers for them. “They ask for Joan Jett, Cyndi Lauper…” Jamie says, “They think it’s cool a girl can play different instruments.”
Co-Parenting Is Super Important to Him
While his song “Little Birds” is a love letter to Fiona and Thora, Mike insisted we speak to Jamie as well. When he talks about her, it’s clear he’s deeply in love. She says, “I like this song because I think it’s a good embodiment of who Mike is as a singer and a therapist.”
One incident in particular makes him angry. While Thora was small, Mike and Jamie were in a check-out line, Jamie with Thora in an Ergo, Mike with Fiona in a stroller. “It was clear we were together,” he tells us. A man walked by, smiled at Mike, and said, “You’re such a good dad.”
But he ignored Jamie. Both parents were hopping mad. Clearly Mike sees himself as an equal partner in parenting — and so does Jamie.
Mike has his music — he’s the frontman for A Tiger Made of Lightning, which has two singles out already, “Little Birds” and “Exhausted,” and plans to release a five-song EP this fall. And take it from an old school punk girl: not only is “Little Birds” a tearjerker, it’s good. He sounds like one busy dude. But he and Jamie are careful to take time for interests outside of parenting.
“I took a birthing class,” she says, and in it, the leader asked them to make a list of their hobbies and support systems. It was something she’d never thought about in the context of having a kid. “[You have to] appreciate that one person can’t be everything for you,” she says. “You have to remember who you were before parenthood. We have a lot of privilege to be able to do that.” While Mike does music, she paddleboards, hikes, travels and writes.
The Takeaway from Mike’s Song
“We really try to validate who the kids are,” Jamie says, “and that really comes out.” They try to push positive parenting and love. “I want to leave something for them… that’s this is how I feel about you, this is what you need to know about the world. And no matter what happens, I got you.”
He’s definitely accomplished that with “Little Birds.” Fiona and Thora are lucky little girls, surrounded by love.
And if you’re not crying, you haven’t watched that video.
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