Punk Talks battles holiday blues with Jingle Yay!
Punk Talks battles holiday blues with Jingle Yay!
The holiday season can bring loads of warmth, happiness, and love for many, and is considered “the most wonderful time of the year” for a reason! Unfortunately, this is not always the case for others for a variety of reasons, and help is often overshadowed by the red, green, and white lens of December. Regardless of how the holidays treat you, it’s safe to say that you’ve got some pretty kickass people in your corner and I don’t just mean your friends and/or family. This is where I introduce the awesomeness that is Punk Talks!
Punk Talks is an organization that provides free mental health assistance to just about anyone involved in the music industry; if you’re into music, Punk Talks is the place for you! In addition to helping music lovers like us, Punk Talks’ founder Sheridan Allen travels around the country to educate others about the importance of mental health and self-care, a practice so overlooked that it is sometimes considered to be taboo.
Allen created this organization in the midst of a “quarter-life crisis,” according to the Cincinnati-based founder.
“I just started to think about the stressors of college and how so many musicians in DIY and emo are in school, or were balancing school with music and touring,” said Allen. “I felt like these bands had been supporting and comforting and encouraging me for my entire life, now it was time for me to provide that support to them.”
Founded just short of two years ago, Punk Talks has done a great deal in its lifetime to help industry professionals, artists, and music fans alike; the latest of which came in the form of a holiday compilation entitled Jingle Yay! Within this ten-song record, you’ll find covers and brand new songs from some cool artists who support and are involved with Punk Talks. Although Jingle Yay! started out as an idea for the next “big project,” it quickly turned into a sold-out must-have within the emo/DIY/music-loving scene!
“The main idea was to have a fundraiser for touring, marketing, and other events, but booking shows can be tough work and difficult to coordinate, especially because I am in school full-time AND working full-time,” recalled Allen. “This was the easiest way to bring some really talented mental health advocates together to help support further services in music!”
The initial thought behind Jingle Yay! was to create a moment for Allen and her father to share. Although they often don’t see eye-to-eye, Christmas is something they both love, and what better way to connect than with music? It’s important to note that Jingle Yay! isn’t just full of classic Christmas songs that we’ve all heard for a month straight at this point. There are songs for every type of celebrator, if you will, whether you observe the holidays or not! Remakes of classic tunes and original compositions mean that there’s something for everyone.
“I have had the absolutely bonkers opportunity to work with some truly incredible musicians during my two years with Punk Talks, especially during this last year,” said Allen. “I really tried to reach out to bands with members that are especially devoted to mental health treatment and awareness within our community and I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to do that.”
And that she did. I mean, have you seen that track listing?!
“I learned about Punk Talks when one of my friends, Jessica Knight, shared about it on social media, and I was instantly on board,” commented Julien Baker (6131 Records), who contributed an original song to Jingle Yay! “I sent a link to some of my friends who are also full-time touring musicians because I thought it was something salient to their lives that could benefit them; one of those people was Cameron Boucher of Sorority Noise, who responded that Sheridan was already one of his close friends, and through that connection we got linked up and Sheridan contacted me about contributing a song to the compilation.”
As soon as Baker found out the record was going to be holiday themed, she reached into her collection of unreleased songs and works-in-progress, and pulled out “Decorated Lawns.”
“I already had this song, ‘Decorated Lawns,’ recorded from a year or so ago that I wrote loosely about the holiday season, but never had an appropriate way to release it,” said Baker. “When Sheridan came to me with the idea, it seemed like a perfectly beneficial way to release it and foment a positive cause; I was excited that it got to come out in that way.”
There’s no doubt that you’ve seen Baker’s name out and about, but if you haven’t given her an honest listen, now is the time. “Decorated Lawns” is an unapologetically honest song about stuff that hurts to talk about, especially around the holiday season.
Not all songs on Jingle Yay! are as painfully real as Baker’s contribution, though. Museum Mouth (Equal Vision/Rory Records Records) officially turned “Winter Wonderland” an emo classic and honestly, that’s what I’m here for.
“Sheridan and I have been friends for a little bit now, but even before that I was a fan of Punk Talks and the work she was doing to help folks in the scene,” said drummer and vocalist Karl Kuehn. “When she asked if we wanted to contribute a song to a holiday themed winter comp the answer was an obvious HELL YEA.”
The Carolina three-piece chose to cover “Winter Wonderland,” and, according to Kuehn, wanted to cover it from memory, much to [his] bandmates’ dismay.
“Growing up I remember my mom and grandma playing that song on repeat all throughout the month of December,” recalled Kuehn. “Having heard it SO MANY times I definitely thought I knew how it went… but turns out it’s not a waltz and there are 65,000 verses. Our version IS a waltz and only has three.”
A common thread among each contributor I spoke with was the resounding “YES” in response to Allen’s offer to be part of Jingle Yay!
“I want to just say that we are very happy to be a part of this. Sheridan asked me directly if TWIABP wanted to contribute a song to the Jingle Yay! compilation, and I was OBVIOUSLY all for it!” said Josh Cyr, bassist for indie outfit The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die (Epitaph/Topshelf Records).
The band already had a recording of “What Child is This” on deck, which was recorded for the AV Club’s Holiday Undercover series in 2013. The hauntingly beautiful melody of the song drove TWIABP to make it their own and, in the words of Cyr, “make it sound kind of spooky!” Who doesn’t love a spooky Christmas song?
In the name of changing popular holiday tunes, Jersey’s own Sistine decided to take it a step further and contribute an instrumental version of “Silent Night.” My friends, this is not a version you will have heard in church this year (unless you go to a super punk church, then okay yeah, maybe you did.) Not only is Sistine’s take on the traditional carol is breathtakingly beautiful, but it also somehow gets me hyped.
“We decided to make it instrumental for a few reasons: to make something that has a voice on its own without necessarily being our voices, the content of the song didn’t really fit the style of singing we would’ve tried, and we just didn’t want to ruin the tone of it all with our bad singing,” commented Matt Bastos. “After dropping our debut EP, Right Now, I’m Numb Inside, we were itching to release something different for the Holidays. ‘Silent Night’ was really a natural pick for us; it’s a beautiful composition that we really felt like we could take a hold of and make something unique with it.”
Similar to Baker’s story, Allen’s request came to Sistine at the perfect moment as the band had the cover compilation-ready!
The decision to be part of Jingle Yay! seemed like a no-brainer for everyone, and there’s something to be said about that. Whether they met Allen through a friend of a friend or social media, her pure heart has made an impact on many. What makes the entire project even more special is that many artists were already involved with Punk Talks prior to the release of Jingle Yay! From supporting the cause to actively seeking assistance, the artists all have their own stories of why Punk Talks is important to them, each just as touching as the other.
“I wanted to get involved with and support Punk Talks because of my personal investment in changing the social climate surrounding mental-health,” stated Julien Baker. “I think it is incredibly important to begin to destigmatize the conversation around mental health needs, treatment and diagnosis, and to make support systems and resources more accessible to those who need it. The approach that Punk Talks has taken to dealing with these needs specifically inside the context of touring musicians is not only immediately beneficial to those within that subculture, but also propels a larger dialogue about removing taboos from the discussion of mental-health in general culture as well.”
There is still a looming, not-so-great stigma surrounding mental health and the legitimacy of self-care. You can fight it with your bare hands, or you can give yourself a break and reach out for help. With Punk Talks, you have the ability to surround yourself with gentler people and loving hearts.
“I think having a resource like Punk Talks is invaluable, honestly,” said Karl Kuehn. “I could go on and on about how Sheridan has helped me, or about how sweet, smart, funny, and approachable she is but I won’t–I will say… that if you ever feel like reaching out DO IT! And if you’re afraid for any reason? You don’t have to be. I couldn’t think of a better, more kind person to be on your side.”
Contrary to what many believe, artists, and even those around you, are not completely immune to internal struggles. They aren’t carrying some invisible armor that you weren’t given.
“Not many people think that their favorite musicians, filmmakers, and photographers can struggle with depression, anxiety, disorders, etc.,” said Matt Bastos. “Unfortunately, most of these artists can feel a sort of pressure to keep all those struggles hidden away, to keep their art on the forefront.”
The Punk Talks slogan speaks for itself: You don’t have to be sad to make great music. That’s why a large focus of the organization is put towards helping bands.
“It is just so important for musicians and people in the music industry to have access to resources like Punk Talks, especially since mental health is still largely stigmatized, and probably will only continue to grow more stigmatized in the next four years,” stated Josh Cyr. “In the last year, TWIABP has been through some changes which were very difficult to deal with, and it would have been much more difficult to get through if Sheridan and Punk Talks weren’t around to offer their ears and hearts to us.”
Now that Christmas has rolled off our shoulders, it’s important, now more than ever, to take a chance on something genuine. Practice self-care in the smallest of ways if that’s all you have time for.
“Take a bath (or a nap or a shower or some other refreshing and relaxing activity), listen to some hype-jams or feel-good music, and take an inventory of what makes you glad to be alive,” offered Allen. “Gratitude is the best weapon against depression, in my experience!”
Allen even sent over an article written by a social worker full of extra tips for taking care of yourself during the the holidays, which you can find here. It’s a three-minute read with some long-term benefits, friends, so while you listen to Jingle Yay! for the umpteenth time, take a glance at it!
Speaking of listening to the album countless times, I asked Sheridan what her favorite track on Jingle Yay! was and to be quite honest, how mean of me! It’s so tough to put your foot down and say, “you know what, this is the best song,” especially when they’re all so unique.
I went out on a limb and told her my favorite was “Decorated Lawns,” and her response was nothing short of relatable.
“Of COURSE, Julien’s track was so meaningful to me for so many reasons,” said Allen. “Not only is Julien my absolute favorite songwriter currently, it meant so much to me that this incredible musician took time out of her crazy-busy life to record a song for this project! It was extremely humbling and I am so grateful to Julien for her work in music and her dedication to social justice.”
Ugh. I love talking about good music with good people. On a more serious note, I can confidently say I can not and will not pick one favorite track. Especially when Cam’s version of “Blue Christmas” starts off the album.
“Other than that, it’s really hard to pick a favorite because they were all so excellent! I reallllly loved what The Obsessives did with ‘Femme Fatale’ and Joshua Powell’s cover of ‘Do You Hear What I Hear.’ It was strange and exciting and very humbling to hear my friends put out such incredible songs for our cause.”
If you’re interested in purchasing one of the few copies of Jingle Yay! that are left, you can visit their bandcamp and make it yours for only $8! Your bucks are only helping you and the artists your love live a healthier lifestyle full of great music. In these trying times, Punk Talks is a wonderful resource.
You can buy Jingle Yay! for only $8 here. Once this batch sells out, they’re gone forever!
Want to know Karl, Matt, Josh, and Julien’s favorite song from Jingle Yay!?
Karl Kuehn of Museum Mouth: My favorite song changes constantly, but I’m in love with The Obsessives cover of “Femme Fatale” currently.
Matt Bastos of Sistine: The whole compilation is great, but I gotta say I really love Joshua Powell’s cover of “Do You Hear What I Hear.” He’s got such a beautiful and sensitive voice. Marc’s favorite is “Decorated Lawns” by the fantastic Julien Baker, and Brian really enjoyed what Ricky Sampson from Foxing did with “Christmas Ain’t Like Christmas Anymore.”
Josh Cyr of TWIABP: Sistine’s rendition of “Silent Night” is absolutely beautiful. I have always really liked that song, and that intro is just so wonderful. The whole structure is great…I just really like what they did with it.
Julien Baker: I think that my favorite track might be Ricky Sampson’s “Christmas Ain’t Like Christmas Anymore”! Though it is difficult to choose considering all of the artists brought such interesting and personal arrangements to the comp.