The four musical siblings of The Runaway Hamsters, aka TRHibe, are shown near Table Rock above Boise. They are, from left to right, Gabby, Isabella, Riley, and Abby. Isabella, the oldest, plays drums and is leader of the band. The other three are triplets. Abby plays keyboard and sings; Gabby plays bass, ukulele, guitar, harmonica, and sings; and Riley plays acoustic guitar and sings. (Photo by Jen Schow)
The Runaway Hamsters, aka TRHibe, are a Boise musical group of four Christian siblings from the Keen family. Isabella, 15, is the oldest sister and the others — Abby, Gabby and Riley — are triplets, age 13. Their mother is Barb Keen, who goes by the moniker Momma Hamster and who manages the group. The Hamsters play instruments; write, sing and record songs; perform live in concert throughout the U.S.; and appear on TV. They started performing together in 2011 to raise money for a friend with cancer, and they continue to help others through their music. They recently took time out of their schedule to answer the following questions over email.
Q. Where did you all attend school?
A. We are homeschooled, which lets us travel and do our music while also doing school even while on the road.
Q. How did you acquire your musicals skills?
A. Lessons. And we learned some instruments just by picking them up and playing. We all try to practice every day. “I think God blessed me with the gift of music!” Gabby says.
Q. Are you a musical family, and are your parents musical?
A. Yes and we really love that. Our parents both play, sing and write, and they performed in bands when they were younger and on worship teams at church. We all have fun jamming together.
Q. Why did you choose the name The Runaway Hamsters?
A. We had hamsters that used to escape from their cages and try to run away — we were like 5 and 7 years old when we made the name up. We are now also going by TRHibe (the TRH for The Runaway Hamsters and the “tribe” concept to show our appreciation for all the people who listen to our music and encourage us, and for the group of people we have become friends with in the music business).
Q. Is your style of music mostly country, or how would you classify it?
A. It has been mostly country and country pop, but we like all kinds of music. We try to write music that inspires others and delivers a positive message. We enjoy worship music, pop music and the real traditional roots of country.
Q. Your hashtag is #wehelpfriends. Give me an instance or two of how you’ve helped others.
A. Well, we have raised money for the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals in Boise, Los Angeles, and Nashville. We help other organizations too. A cool thing that happened to us is a nice man from Texas wanted to make a difference at a place “we” cared about (he thinks kids know better than him where to help). We helped him equip an entire music room at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles so the kids can actually play instruments while in the hospital.
Q. Do you all dance and, if so, how did you learn?
A. Yes, we all dance and have since we were about 3. We now dance with Artistic Dance Company, and the owner Jaime is awesome!
Q. In general, how did you come by your performance skills?
A. Well, we performed with Boise Rock School when we were younger. As we took bigger stages, we worked with our producer in Nashville and our co-writers, practicing for the performances. Both KTVB and Fox News did stories on us when we were young, and it opened doors and we have learned as we went along.
Q. Who is your audience, predominantly?
A. We think everyone. When we started out, we focused more on kids our age, and children still like our music. We play for many adult venues now too, and our writing has more mature messages. We have played at children’s hospitals, music festivals, camps, at the CMA Music Festival and the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, at Smart Women Smart Money conferences, and even in the air for Southwest Airlines.
Q. Do you want to do this as adults? Why or why not?
A. Gabby: Yes it’s my passion.
Riley: Yes, if it’s God’s plan.
Abby: Yes, and I will keep doing my photography, too.
Isabella: Yes, I love taking the stage!
Q. What ARE your plans for the future?
A. Gabby: Being a performer and listening to what my heart speaks.
Abby: Whatever God plans for me; when it’s the right time I will know.
Riley: Music, if that’s what God wants. If it’s something else He will let me know.
Isabella: I hope to keep leading our band and being a drummer!
Q. Can you give me a brief testimonial of how the Lord has led and organized this group?
A. Well, we were doing music when we found out our friend Matt had cancer. We raised money for his hospital through music and it started us down a road. That first step got some publicity, which opened other doors, and they have all had an element of helping others and being a positive influence. We have just kept going through those doors. We have had a couple opportunities that might have made us more famous or brought more money, but they didn’t feel right so we didn’t go there. We have people write us and say how a certain song or performance helped them get through a tough time, or how our smiles and hugs really was what they needed when we met. Those things keep us going.
Q. What has been the most rewarding part of your journey?
A. Isabella: Performing with my family.
Abby: Making friends all over the country.
Gabby: Traveling the country, getting to do cool things and loving others.
Riley: Making people smile and helping kids.
All of them: We have gotten to do some amazing things, like shoot a video on a farm where we got to hold all the little animals, which were rescue animals. We got to help make our own animated versions of Hamsters on our first video. We were blessed to be able to meet Dolly Parton, and we were in the audience for the Oak Ridge Boys in Boise and they called out our names so we could go backstage. Things like that have been pretty cool.
Q. Please include anything I might have left out.
A. Well, we hope we can make a difference and inspire others to help out too.
For more information, go to www.therunawayhamsters.com