For twelve years (2001-2013), we here at Suburban Sprawl Music gathered up heaping helpings of totally sweet holiday music from our extended circle of friends, and gave it all away for free online. If you're here looking for the 2014 edition of our annual holiday compilation, you've likely noticed that there isn't one - we're finally closing up shop.
If your holiday season just isn't complete without our weird bespoke internet holiday music, I have good news. Our fearless leader, Zach Curd, has put together a final trip down memory lane, highlighting one song from each of the 12 compilations and adding some delicious behind-the-scenes commentary.
Before you dig into Zach's timeline below, we want to thank you for stopping by each December and downloading all of our nutty holiday music. Our gratitude to all of the musicians who have contributed songs over the years is endless. Rest assured, we're going to continue keeping everything online for the sake of history.
The first comp was pulled together by the small group of core people involved with Suburban Sprawl at the time - it was basically made for our own enjoyment at that point. Distributed via CD-Rs with webstore orders and at shows. In my mind this was at the zenith of *Detroit Rock*, so I don't think anyone outside of us and our friends cared at all.
"Christmas In Hollis" is the only proper Thunderbirds contribution to these comps. Scott Allen's synth sounds like a dinosaur crying and it is relentless. Just a constant dinosaur cry throughout, which is hilarious.
This was the first year everything was available for free download too. The circle of contributors got a little bigger in 2003, but again, Detroit was still in Sire Records-mode, so no one really cared about this one either.
This is a song by a guy named Joe Ging (living in Arizona at the time), who was a friend of Fabian Halabou (The Silent Years). I'm including this because Joe did this song with his friend Nate, who sings the track. At the time Nate was in a band called The Format in Arizona. Many years later, Nate started the band Fun., and won Grammys and stuff. I love that the "We Are Young" guy is on here singing some jacked-up song about Canada.
2004 might be my favorite comp. There are lots of fun songs on this one. I'm picking this song because it kind of ushered in the "fake bands" (one-off collaborations between people) era, which became a popular thing for folks to do in subsequent years.
"The Nephews" are Dave Lawson, Eddie Baranek and myself. "Uncle Jerk" is Augie Vissochi, who we somehow convinced to come over to Dave's and do a rap, in character, as a scummy uncle. "Get away from the door" is such a spot-on weird uncle thing to say, so obviously Augie nailed it.
Also of-note is that 2004 had contributions from solidly "rock" people like Eddie, Augie, Tony DeNardo, and Scott Harrison, so I took that as evidence of Suburban Sprawl entering the Detroit cultural milieu. Motorcityrocks.com also wrote about it which seemed like a big deal at the time.
Up to 28 songs in 2005. Adam Kempa has taken over running things from our friend Erik, with Javelins being the flagship band of the "2nd era" of Suburban Sprawl. Those Transatlantics, El Boxeo, The Pop Project and The Recital were the other active bands at the time.
Recording The Paincakes song each year was excuse for some of us to get together and record a fake hardcore song with Erik (label founder) "singing." This was the only year I wasn't a Paincakes member (I probably had school or something?). Erik, Adam Kempa, Chris Ostafinski from The Recital, Ryan Allen, and Marty Smith from Thunderbirds. This is my favorite Paincakes track. Those guitar-monized chugs at the end are a delight. A delight.
Another solid year. We started seeing lots of downloads by 2006, with many Christmas Music blogs writing about it. Did you know Christmas Music blogs exist? They do. This was the first year we had a significant audience outside of Michigan.
I'm picking Chris Bathgate's version of "Auld Lang Syne" simply because it's gorgeous. While not a Christmas song, we had always advertised the comp as a "Holiday" album, so it fit in. Shoutout to Chris Bathgate. Nice guy.
2007 was insane because right after we put the comp up online, it got a feature on Boing Boing (popular blog for nerds), and our little site caved under the ensuing web traffic. A few hours later, things were back up and running and the comps found a very large audience across the world every year after that. Shoutout to Boing Boing.
Adam Kempa faithfully recorded versions of songs from The Ventures Christmas album most years, but sometimes he would take liberties with the songs. This one is a nice example of his Christmas-surf-skills.
2008 was a strong year, the first year of the Suburban Sprawl/Quack merger, and I was driving the label.
Blasé Splee went all-out for this song. It's really well done, and I never get sick of listening to it.
Increasing word-of-mouth among musicians resulted in a staggering amount of contributions by 2009. This is very petty, but I would say 2009 was the year putting these comps out officially became a pain in the ass due to the of the amount of database/encoding involved.
Often I would get all of the songs up in their proper places, metadata consistent, artwork uploaded etc, and some band would write and say, "Oh hey man we sent you the wrong mix of our masterpiece. Can you switch it out with THIS mp3?" Bands. Jesus.
Mumpsy was a band from Orlando, Florida that randomly sent in a song, and I just love it. Really nicely done Elephant Six-ish pop. I wonder whatever happened to Mumpsy.
When a bigger band would send in a song, word would eventually get around on that band's fan message boards/tumblrs, which were funny to read. Stuff like, "OMG FIREWORKS HAS A CHRISTMAS SONG ON THIS WEBSITE. Who knows who any of these other bands are though. They mostly suck."
I really love Dave Mackinder's singing voice and this song has some cool whistling.
If I was a fan, I would bug musicians I didn't know personally to do songs for the comp, which sometimes worked, and sometimes not. I contacted Passalacqua and they very graciously did a song. Doc Illingsworth's verse here is awesome. I can count all three guys as friends now, which is a nice by-product of putting together these things.
The Kickstand Band are the best band in Michigan. I'm such a fan that it really felt like an honor to be their label. I cannot say enough good things about them as musicians and people. They are on another level.
The last year of the comps! By 2013 we had noticed fewer contributions coming in. I'm glad we decided to end things on-top and not drag things out for another 20 years.
Quack shot a music video for Blaire Alise, and so that was the impetus for us asking her to send in a song. I'm really glad she sent this in. Just a nice track, with nice harmonies and a good energy. That is a very dad-ish thing to say but I am a dad now so that is how I roll without apology.