“Snow! We want snow, we want snow, snow, snow!” goes the chorus of the appropriately-titled “Snow Snow Snow” from philanthropic pop supergroup Band of Merrymakers. Catchy? Undoubtedly. Anthemic? Yep. But even more important, despite coming from a handful of adults — in this case Fitz of Fitz and The Tantrums, Mark McGrath, Natasha Bedingfield, Owl City, and Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra — it captures the childish delight of getting in the holiday spirit. (And in the snow.)
According to the band, that’s the point. Griffin, who has written and produced for the likes of Taylor Swift, Sugarland, and James Blunt, and Sam Hollander, who’s done the same for One Direction, The Fray, and Pentatonix, asked themselves last winter, “What happened to those amazing, copyright Christmas songs that you want to play again and again?,” says Griffin.
Hollander echoes the thought: “If you look at it, every year the Christmas records drop and I just feel like it’s one extended Happy Meal. There are a lot of people just cashing a check and phoning it in. This was made out of a completely different goal. It was a labor of love.”
So they wrote “Must Be Christmas” and began approaching their friends to join in. Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum, Tyler Glenn of Neon Tress, Fitz, Nick Hexum of 311, Smallpools, The Mowglis, 3oh!3 said yes. They released the single and it took off, so much so that when they decided to start on an album Sony Music Masterworks wanted in. They needed more songs — and more friends.
“I was at a meeting at Soho house and they kind of hijacked my meeting,” British pop powerhouse Natasha Bedingfield remembers with a laugh of getting her invite. “They were like, ‘We know it’s going to sound crazy but hear us out.’ And then they told me about this great idea to make Christmas songs in July.”
In some capacity and arrangement, the group that, in the end features 3OH!3, Alex & Sierra, Andrew McMahon (Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness), Bebe Rexha, Kelley, Christina Perri, Dan Wilson (Semisonic), David Hodges (Evanescence), David Ryan Harris, Firekid, Jason Wade (Lifehouse), Mark McGrath (Sugar Ray), Fitz, Bedingfield, Hexum, Owl City, Sinclair, Smallpools, Streetcorner Symphony, The Grand Southern, The Mowglis, and Glenn met over the past year to write and record Welcome To Our Christmas Party, an 11-track album of seven original songs and four covers.
“Kevin, Natasha, and I sat down and wrote beginning in April and May,” Hollander says of the process. “And every month we made it a plan to get together and carve out songs. As the weather got warmer, it almost seemed even more ludicrous.” Alex Kinsey of Alex & Sierra in particular endured the Christmas in July workload. “It was super hot,” he remembers of recording “Jingle Bells” and “Oh Holy Night.” “We were jumping on the trampoline and then going in and singing ‘Oh Holy Night’ [laughs].”
Which is not to say these aren’t good songs — they are. In some cases, like Bedingfield’s “Wishlist,” which you’ll soon hear on radio, they are excellent songs. “We’re all songwriters,” Bedingfield says. “[And] that was the goal: to write actually good songs. Just kind of boiling it down, when you’re writing a song about Christmas you’re thinking about what Christmas is really about, that’s what we were trying to capture.”
The Band of Merrymakers, for all its fun, is also coated in good. A donation is being made to MusiCares from each album sold. “We wanted to bring some mirth back to the world,” Hollander says. “You can’t really overstate the effect they have in musicians’ lives,” Griffin says of the non-profit that provides resources to members of the music community in financial, health, or personal duress. “Musicians don’t have 401Ks, they don’t have health care — it’s a great organization to be involved with.”
Today, EW is excited to share the video for “Snow Snow Snow.” The clip, replete with ugly Christmas sweaters, amazing Santa suits, and a cameo from Andrew Keegan is streaming below.