“I definitely learned by doing. I’ve written a lot of songs–just for fun, for myself, or for bands–over the course of the last twelve or so years. And the one hurdle that I’ve found is that I overthink things when it comes to the lyrics. Like, I gotta keep in mind that my audience ranges from two to four years old.”
With the birth of his daughter Sparrow, Casey Cole started using children’s music to help her go to sleep. Over time, he noticed that the music his family was listening to was getting a little repetitive. Taking inspiration from the struggles that young Sparrow faces, Casey began making renditions of pop punk songs with a lullaby twist.
“I’d been listening to Saves The Day right before Sparrow was born, and it just seemed like the logical thing to do was start with that,” Casey explains. “So I started making music box renditions of Saves The Day songs, and I put a couple of them up online,” he details.
Casey didn’t expect the outcome that he was about to receive when he posted his songs up on a bandcamp page. “I went out grocery shopping or running an errand–I don’t remember what exactly I was doing–and, when I came home, there were over ten thousand plays,” he reminisces. “The A.V. Club had posted about it, and I was just like, ‘Okay, maybe this makes sense… Maybe there’s a market for pop punk parents that want to put their kids to bed to songs I like too.”’ That’s when it started unofficially,” he continues.
Running with the idea of making pop punk music geared toward kids, he composed and produced more lullaby albums based off of his favorite artists, ranging from Brand New to Taking Back Sunday. When Sparrow started learning how to crawl, Casey took a small hiatus from his newfound hobby. “It’s kinda hard to sit at a computer and hash stuff out when there’s a baby running around,” he laughs.
Around spring of last year, Peter Lockhart joined Sparrow Sleeps. On top of working with bands in the past, he also had a background in the industry side of things. The duo had been in contact for many years prior, and they had been looking to work together. “It was the beginning of last year when we started talking seriously about bringing him on board to the Sparrow Sleeps stuff because I’d been doing it on my own for so long,” Casey confirms. “He is so good at graphic design; that’s what he does. We talked it out, and he started mocking up album art for these lullaby albums… The rest is history. I think, at this point, he probably works harder than I do,” Casey jokes.
Through these singles and albums, Sparrow Sleeps has had the chance to collaborate with bands like Cartel and Paramore. In the beginning, reaching out to people they wanted to work with was easy, but the challenge was getting back that very first response from a band. “You need someone to jump off first and say, ‘Hey, yeah, this sounds like a cool idea,’” Casey admits. “When you explain it to these artists, it’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re doing kids’ songs, but they’re pop punk songs. You think you’d wanna sing on one?’ I’m guessing most of them were initially confused. Once Cartel started getting involved, it was a much easier conversation to have. It was easier when we could show other bands what these songs are supposed to sound like. Hopefully that makes it easier to branch out and work with new artists for the second record. Maybe we can get some cool names on board for that one too,” he comments.
Recently, Sparrow Sleeps released Sparrow and Friends Start A Band!, their first full album consisting of original songs. When brainstorming ideas for the album, Casey and Peter’s goal involved bringing something to audiences that they could personally relate to. Essentially, a lot of the process involved looking through the parents’ perspectives. “I’ve never really thought about changing the pop punk game and introducing it to children at an early age,” Casey acknowledges. “I was more thinking about it from a parental perspective. We wanted to give the parents something to listen to while their kids learned–something that wasn’t Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood or Yo Gabba Gabba!, or songs that they’ve probably heard a million times over and over again in their cars. We wanted them to realize that it’s not that different from putting on an All Time Low album,” he articulates.
Check out the rest of the feature in our upcoming issue–coming soon!
WORDS: ELIZABETH LOO