For 12 years, label head Zach Curd released free compilations of holiday music through Suburban Sprawl Music. But his recent decision to retire the label means there's no new mix this year. So, we emailed him and asked to make a final comp, selecting his favorite tracks from each release.
Thunderbirds Are Now!, "Christmas In Hollis" - 2002
The first compilation was made by the small group of core people involved with Suburban Sprawl at the time, basically made for our own enjoyment at that point. We distributed them as CD-Rs. 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.
The Morissettes, "Canadian Christmas" - 2003
Like the 2002 comp, I don't think we had made the 2003 edition available online yet. 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.
The Nephews Featuring Uncle Jerk, "My Uncle Ruined Christmas Again" - 2004
2004 might be my favorite comp. 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. This was the first year everything was available for free download. The Nephews are Dave Lawson, Eddie Baranek, and myself. Uncle Jerk is Augie Visocchi, who we somehow convinced to come over to Dave's and do a rap, in character, as a scummy uncle.
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.
The Paincakes, "I Believe In Santa" - 2005
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.
Chris Bathgate, "Auld Lang Syne" - 2006
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 totally 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. Shoutout to Bathgate. Nice guy.
Adam Kempa, "Santa Claus Blew Right Through Town" - 2007
2007 was insane, because right after we put the comp up online, it got a feature on Boing Boing (a popular blog for nerds). 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.
Blasé Splee, "Christmas Vacation" - 2008
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.
Mumpsy, "Left Alone On Christmas Day" - 2009
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 amount of database and encoding involved. Mumpsy was a band from Orlando, Fla., that randomly sent in a song, and I just love it. Really nicely done Elephant Six-ish pop. I wonder whatever happened to Mumpsy.
Fireworks, "Maybe This Christmas" - 2010
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.
Passalacqua & Doc Illingsworth, "A Very Frugal Xmas" - 2011
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 now count all three guys as friends now, which is a nice by-product of putting together these things.
The Kickstand Band, "Coming Back" - 2012
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.
Blaire Alise & The Bombshells, "Mistletoe" - 2013
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.