Sparrow Sleeps, who made their start with lullaby covers of famous pop punk albums, transitioned into their own full-length album this fall. Frontmen Casey Cole and Peter Lockheart released their first original EP Sparrow and Friends Start a Band!, an all-encompassing album aimed at preschool age kids. You can check out the review Talk Nerdy With Us was able to do here.
The members of Sparrow Sleeps were kind enough to answer a few questions for us about nerding out over the bands featured on the album, their writing process, and how their music progresses with the kids listening in.
Sparrow and Friends Start a Band! is an album full of exciting features and the pop punk sound is very strong. Was there anyone in particular that you guys were starstruck over?
Casey – Honestly, all of the names that were a part of this album are unbelievable. I grew up listening to MXPX on the bus in middle school. I booked Hit the Lights in my tiny town before they blew up (this was over ten years ago). I had shirts from Copeland, The Early November, The Get Up Kids, and Cartel that I wore all the time in high-school/college. So a lot of these features are dudes that helped shape who I am back when I was most impressionable.
Peter – The guest vocalists on this album are artists who shaped my love for music starting back middle school. Having my personal favorite artist, Matt Pryor, involved was crazy for me, but the lineup for this whole album is still pretty surreal in general.
The sound of this album is incredibly full and just as complex as the pop punk big kids would listen to. Were there any growing pains accompanied with the transition your music has made?
C – It’s like comparing apples and oranges. The lullaby process is transposing songs that are already written onto softer instruments with a goal of sleep. Sparrow and Friends was just us writing music we like with a goal of teaching kids while keeping parent’s interest. If anything, any difficulty in the writing process centered on self-doubt, constantly asking ourselves “Is this really a good idea? Are kids even going to like this?”
P – I think Casey and I both had moments while writing these songs where we had to stop and call ourselves out for overthinking it. The more fun we had with it, the easier it was to write lyrics.
How has your writing and composing process changed this time around? Did you have any help from any of your special guests?
C – This was essentially our first time writing together as a duo since this is our first attempt at original tunes. It was unorthodox in many ways. Peter and I live a little less than an hour apart, so a lot of demos were done on my end, then shipped off via e-mail for criticism and new parts/ideas from his end. Kind of like The Postal Service. We’d cram as much productivity as we could during our sessions up at ABG Recording Studio, and then we’d ship off the instrumental songs to our guest vocalists to record at their leisure on their end. There were two instances where the vocalists took liberties on the lyrics and switched things/added parts, and that was probably the most exciting part… Getting the vocals back and hearing everything come together for the first time after months of writing, recording, and waiting.
P – We work really well together as a remote duo, but I think the magic really happened when we would get together to write. Being able to have those little moments in person where something finally clicks or starts to flow out naturally is what got us both really excited to knock out the songs and get into the studio.
This album teaches the lessons that all preschool age kids are learning but in a much more exciting way. Have you two ever gone in and introduced the songs into a preschool environment to gauge their reception? Would you mind teachers using the songs as a teaching tool this school year?
C – We didn’t have a focus group of pre-schoolers (though that’s a great idea for the next album). However, Sparrow has been here listening to everything as it developed, and she definitely lights up when the songs come on. Her personal favorites are “I Want To Play!” and “Holding Hands.” We listen to “While the Sparrows Nest” every night at bedtime, and the first 20-ish times we went through that routine, she would open her eyes and smile really big when Aaron sings “under the stars while the sparrows nest…” and say “HE SAID MY NAME!”
P – Not at all. We’ve actually had quite a few pre-school teachers and special ed teachers reach out to tell us that they’ve been playing the lullaby releases in their classroom. I’d be just as happy to hear that teachers were playing the “Start a Band” album in their classroom as well.
Throughout the transition, have you had any flashbacks to how you both viewed music at this age or what music meant to you?
C – Not necessarily flashbacks for me. I grew up on Raffi and Ray Stevens. But one thing this whole experience has done has opened my eyes up to the children’s music genre as a whole; not just the songs and shows on Sprout and Disney Jr, but the other children’s artists out there. There are so many seasoned veterans in this genre (Lisa Loeb, Laurie Berkner), and while they aren’t my cup of tea, Sparrow loves them. And then I find myself checking the children’s music charts and listening to the Grammy nominees, and it’s just kind of cool looking at these acts as peers now.
P – I don’t really remember having a connection to music at that age. I think the special thing about this album is that pop-punker parents may be more inclined to get their kids excited about the music since they can relate to it more than most of the other options out there.
I can only imagine that new parents that grew up with the pop-punk bands you’ve covered and have features from on Start a Band! are comforted to know that the bands they loved growing up are facing similar parental hurdles. Have you gotten feedback from them?
C – We get the occasional e-mails from people excited about our lullaby releases. We also still get emails and tweets with photos of sleeping babies, which is awesome. And I’ve met some really cool parents through the project that I’ve kept in contact with over the years (shout out to Derek and little Ava Juliette). The general consensus when we hear from pop-punk parents is that they enjoy what we do and understand what we’re out to accomplish. Then there are the 14-16 year olds in the comments on YouTube and Soundcloud telling us that the lullabies suck.
Over the past few decades, there have been some studies that say music can have a huge impact on early childhood development. Will you be keeping this in mind when creating future albums?
C – Sparrow learns a great deal through song. I think most kids do. We plan on hitting tons of other topics relevant to kindergarten preparation.
P – Absolutely. The lyrics for the album were directly impacted by the topics the we see Sparrow and my nieces and nephew face.
It seems like Sparrow Sleeps is growing up alongside Casey’s daughter Sparrow. Are we going to see this parallel growth continue as she gets older or will you start passing down the records that inspired the conception of Sparrow Sleeps?
C – So cool getting this question. That is exactly what is happening at the moment. Sparrow has outgrown the lullabies a bit, and the natural progression was to start creating songs for her new age group. Our challenge was finding away to do so without veering too far away from what we’ve been doing, and hopefully, Sparrow and Friends can be the natural progression for other pop-punk parents after their infant grows into size four diapers.
As for the trend to continue, time will tell. I’m sure it will seem weird writing songs for 3-5 year olds if Sparrow is in fourth grade. Maybe that’s when we try to talk Jordan from New Found Glory into singing on a Sparrow and Friends album about memorizing your multiplication tables?
P – I’m sure that to some degree that will continue, but at a point, it’ll just be time to hand your kid “Through Being Cool” and “Something To Write Home About.”