Chances are you haven’t heard of the group Visiting Kids, and if you have, it is probably likely that you knew there was an association to Devo before you read about it. The two groups are intrinsically linked through family as Devo member and main songwriter, Mark Mothersbaugh, and his then-wife Nancye Ferguson started the group with Mark’s brother, Bob. Other members included Bob Mothersbaugh’s daughter, Alex, and Devo’s (fourth) drummer, David Kendrick.
Visiting Kids began when Nancye Ferguson’s artistic partner, Oscar Mitt, read her a crumpled New York Post article titled, ‘Visiting Kids Terrorize Home’. Thus began Ferguson’s bizarre art band.
They were a satirical and surreal take on something like the Patridge Family. “I started Visiting Kids with three little girls,” Ferguson said in an interview. Ferguson recruited three young girls to help her front the group: Scarlet, Autumn and Alex.
Because of their image, one would think that it is a group geared towards children. While there is an element of this, there is also something deeply perverse about the band. Songs like ‘Trilobites’, Microwave Babies’, and the self-deprecating ‘Nepotism’; at their core, they are absurd.
With these tracks, and especially the self-deprecating ‘Nepotism’, it is easy to see the direct connection the group has to Devo. They are simultaneously genuine and also a parody. I can’t help but get the impression that it is a mean prank that Ferguson and members of Devo played on the kids. To the children, it is a very real experience, one that will follow them for the rest of their lives, whereas for the parents, it is just good old fun.
Everything about Visiting Kids is contradictory: the face of the group are kids and their shrill, high-pitched voices piercing through the instrumentation of the rest of the band; the music is deceivingly straightforward with accented off-beat stops and bizarre art-rock leanings. They are simultaneously weird and future-thinking while slightly conservative in their considerations of the volume of their live shows.
Ferguson believes that audiences should be warned prior to entering a rock show, on the threats of loss of hearing. “At least when people buy cigarettes they know they have the possibility (of getting cancer), I just think that there isn’t a great awareness towards that yet,” Ferguson said about the risk of loss of hearing. “People are so used to hearing loud music and they don’t realise that they could possibly lose their hearing.”
Keyboard player, Monah Leah, commented, “They should sell earplugs the way they sell condoms in the bathroom.”
Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh had a direct hand in writing and producing the material for the group, while Nancye Ferguson took on lead vocal duties. Another member of Devo, Bob Casale, produced Visiting Kids’ only self-titled EP, which was released via their New Rose label and is now considered a rarity.
During their time, the group only performed at a handful of venues and shows including The Late Show. Below, you can watch a video of them playing their hilarious song, ‘Nepotism’.