Recent first-time dad and pop-punk enthusiast Casey Cole was tired of hearing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” every night when his daughter Sparrow went to sleep, so he did what any dad would do: He created punk rock lullaby remixes of his favorite records. Less than six months later, the project gained some major footing with bands reblogging, retweeting and liking every release Cole [left] and his partner, Peter Lockhart [right], put out. The two Indiana natives have teamed up to recreate their favorite bands’ songs and artwork through Sparrow Sleeps, including lullaby renditions of Blink-182, Jimmy Eat World, Senses Fail, Alkaline Trio, Taking Back Sunday and many more The duo have big plans for the future of Sparrow Sleeps, which might involve your favorite band.
How did you get the idea for punk rock lullabies?
CASEY COLE: I started it about 20 months ago when Sparrow was born. I was a first-time dad and had never been through [fatherhood] before. After about two weeks of hearing the same lullabies over and over again while trying to get Sparrow to fall asleep at 1:30, 2:30 or 3:30 in the morning, I thought, “I have some experience with composing; [I’ll] try to do some of my own lullabies.” I was listening to a lot of Saves The Day at the time and I ended up composing three different Saves The Day lullabies. I posted them online for some buds from Texas to see and [then] I went out to run some errands. When I got home two hours later, the AV Club had posted about it and we had 20,000 plays and I [thought], “This is cool, let’s keep making them.” Sparrow has been listening to these lullabies ever since. There’s around 200 of them so far.
I know MxPx, Saves The Day and the Early November have posted about you. Have you ever had an artist tell you they use the music for their babies?
COLE: Thrice was a big deal [when] we just launched our website back in May. Thrice was the first really big one that took off. [Riley from Thrice] posted about it on Twitter that he was really excited to use their lullabies for [his] own kids. That was surreal, I grew up listening to Thrice, so it’s kind of weird to see the tables turn. [The] bands we grew up listening to are now listening to our music.
Take me through the process of making a lullaby.
COLE: Usually, the albums Peter and I talk about, we [prepare a] game plan and see who we want to [cover] next. Once we figure it out, I sit down with a MIDI controller and map out songs. Once they’re done, I send them over to Peter to get his take on things. Sometimes he tells me they’re bad, sometimes he tells me they’re great. Then, he takes over and ends up making [the lullabies] look really good.
PETER LOCKHART: The fun part [is when] we put our brains together to come up with some sort of pun or play off of [the band’s] album title. Once we come up with that, Casey will jump in on composing and I’ll design the lullaby version—an homage to the original cover. It gives me a fun opportunity to exercise things that may not be a strong suit for me like illustration. It’s a playground for me every time we do a new release.
Do you have any intentions of collaborating somehow with some of the artists you’ve used to create like a baby Kidz Bop?
COLE: We’d love to! We wouldn’t be opposed to that. If any artist reads this article, hit us up if you want to. We’ve got tons of ideas that we’d love to implement, it’s just the matter of someone being a guinea pig and letting us go with it. Whether it be coloring books featuring the artists or song-related onesies, split 7-inches where the artists does a standard song on one side and we do the lullaby rendition on the other side; we’ve got tons of ideas that we’d love to do. Our name recognition is getting better with each release, but I think it’s still soon to get that weird.
I can imagine a Taking Back Sunday mobile that has little, spinning guitars.
COLE: The hard part is when you get into stuff like that, the management [side] has a lot to say about it. We’ve been blessed to work hand-in-hand with a lot of artists thus far, especially with us being such a new project. When you get into using the band’s name and likeness like that, that’s where the business side takes over.
Ideally, what’s the end goal? Do you want to have Sparrow Sleeps become a big deal or is it more just for your own enjoyment?
COLE: We’re being aggressive right now with the new website. Our release schedule is pretty aggressive through the end of this year to build name recognition. We’ve got a release dated for every two weeks through the end the year. We’ve already talked with a lot of artists [who] are onboard. We’ve got the release schedule mapped out and a lot of those releases have already been started. We’ve got some surprising names on those releases. There are some big names, there are some smaller names. It’s really cool when you check your email and you have emails from these guys that you listened to growing up or you listen to now and they’re excited to make some fun kids’ [music].
Any insight on what albums you’re going to remake next?
LOCKHART: I would really love to do a Get Up Kids release. That’s my favorite band of all time. That one would be really fun for me. This month we will be releasing the Starting Line by the end of June. Everything beyond that is kind of flexible. Like Casey said, we’re doing two to three releases a month, so we always try to be flexible with the artists; especially when it comes to booking tours and their own releases.
COLE: Say Anything, for instance, they were a blast to work with. Max [Bemis] popped his head in every once in a while, but most of the business side of things [had to do with] me working with [their manager]. It was so cool because [their manager] loved the idea from the get-go and Max was really into it too. You can see from social media that they’re really family-oriented. Max was popping his head in around 4 a.m. on Monday, but they were getting ready to go on tour within the next week and a half. They announced the tour on Monday and announced new merch on Tuesday, but they were still cool with squeezing us in on social media. That’s just an example. We don’t want to take money out of any [band’s] pocket that are about to release a new album or getting ready to hit the road. We don’t want to take away any attention from the artist. Our whole goal is to make the artist excited to be a part of something so weird.
Any dream bands out there that you’d love to collaborate with or cover?
COLE: I really want to do a Relient K lullaby album. That would be super-cool. Those [more popular] bands are impossible to find, but I’ve been a longtime Relient K fan. My name’s Casey and when I was middle school my nickname was Relient Casey.
What’s the most difficult part of making the albums?
COLE: I don’t know if there’s a difficult part; it’s kind of a crapshoot because you never know which songs are going to transpose well to this style. I’ve dealt with that recently where there’s a specific song [I’ve spent time on] for four nights; trying different ways of recomposing and it just wasn’t going to work. It’s funny because some of the most beautiful songs we’ve recreated [are on] the Senses Fail album. Those songs are pretty dark and heavy in their original composition. When we transposed them over to the glockenspiel and harp, there’s just this strange beauty about them. That was a fun surprise to see on the other side of things. As far as difficulty [goes], one of the hardest parts is getting ahold of the artists. This year, we decided we wanted to work hand in hand with the artists moving forward. In the beginning, it was just me sharing songs with my daughter. This year, after starting the website and moving forward, we only want to work on full releases where the artists are involved. The Early November was a part of it from the beginning. That’s been the hardest part; not necessary the hardest part, but sometimes those bands are elusive. They make themselves hard to find.
Any odd requests?
COLE: Yeah. We get a lot of smaller bands who want us to do whole albums of theirs that we’ve never heard of, which is cool that smaller bands have heard of us and are excited about the idea. We had somebody request a custom lullaby of the Receiving End Of Sirens, which was pretty neat. That ended up being an eight-minute version of “Planning A Prison Break.”
LOCKHART: I think anytime that something is posted on social media, there’s always someone that tries to find the craziest metal song they can.
I read that Sparrow is now a little over a year old. Has she moved on from the lullabies and if so, what’s her favorite album?
COLE: Absolutely, she’s been pretty rad from the get-go. She loves the Swellers. We put on “The Best I Ever Had” on YouTube and Sparrow will sit on my lap for a full three minutes and dance and smile. She loves I Am The Avalanche. Wolverines is probably one of her go-tos. Anytime she’s grumpy, those are her top two picks right there. The original versions don’t put her to sleep, though.
After listening to it, it seems like the lullabies works for adults. I was about to fall asleep to Saves The Day Can’t Lay Down. You might be contributing to people wanting to have babies just so they can listen to the lullabies.
COLE: We see that a lot on Twitter; I do at least. In the comments section especially like, “Oh my gosh, we have to have a baby now.” When I see it, I always retweet it and poke fun at them like, “These will be here for a while, there’s no hurry,” or “Be safe!” [Laughs.] There’s no reason to jump into bed. I think 99 percent of the comments online have been positive, which is pretty cool.