While most of Lansing is scrambling for 11th-hour Christmas gifts, some local musicians are hustling to write last-minute Christmas songs.
“Musicians don’t need much encouragement to do something at the last possible second,” laughed Bermuda Mohawk founder Cale Sauter.
Yes, it’s a grand tradition for Sauter’s DIY Lansing record label Bermuda Mohawk, with help from GTG Records, to put out a Christmas music compilation entitled “Bermuda Snowhawk” (or “Snohawk,” depending on which year’s disc you’re looking at). And it’s accompanied by a live show. This year’s gig, featuring performances from several Snowhawk alumni, goes down Friday at the Avenue.
Sauter first opened the floor for submissions in 2006. He was joined two years later by GTG’s Tommy McCord, who would stand by with a rudimentary recording setup to get as many tracks on tape, in quick and only somewhat dirty fashion.
Sauter’s initial idea was to create a compilation dedicated to President’s Day, due to the vast overabundance of pre-existing Christmas-related compilations.
“Everyone had to write a song about an old president, or something,” Sauter said.
Unsurprisingly, Sauter’s vision failed to take off, due to President’s Day’s comparative unpopularity when stacked against the seasonal top dog, Christmas.
“We got four submissions,” Sauter said. Sauter had no choice but to dump another bucket into the already large pool of Christmas song collections. Sure enough, as soon as the call went out, submissions started flooding in.
“A bunch of people submitted tracks and, before I knew it, I had 22 songs for the first one,” Sauter said.
After McCord climbed into the sled in 2008, the compilation turned into a spirited collaboration between GTG and Bermuda Mohawk records.
“A year into being in Lansing, we crossed paths with Cale and learned about Bermuda. I saw from his post on Myspace that he was doing a Christmas comp and went from there,” McCord said.
Both labels consisted of similar fare: local punk bands cutting records with a distinct DIY aesthetic. But around 2010, Sauter and Bermuda Mohawk began focusing on releases from bands outside of Michigan, including far-reaching music scenes such as Japan. Meanwhile, GTG picked up the local slack.
“It’s hard and you lose your focus on a lot of the local stuff,” Sauter said. “GTG really revved up the local stuff around that time.”
Sauter jokes that despite his best efforts to call it quits with releasing “Bermuda Snowhawk” discs, the partnership with GTG kept the compilation rolling out year after year.
“Cale has tried to stop a couple times,” joked McCord. “Not necessarily ‘tried,’ but he was ready to say, ‘Well that was fun.”
One year, when Sauter made no preparations for the upcoming “Bermuda Snowhawk” release, McCord brought him a CD that was essentially ready to go. Sauter couldn’t refuse.
“What that really says, though, is that this thing completely took out a life of its own,” McCord said.
These days, putting together “Bermuda Snowhawk” is simple. The infamy of the compilation draws several dozen submissions to McCord and Sauter’s inboxes. If necessary, McCord still records bands, but the increased availability of home recording equipment has lessened his role.
This year’s disc, which you can pick up at the Avenue release party or listen to on www.bermudamohawk.bandcamp. com, features Cavalcade, CrookedSound, Blaine and His Keyboard, the Hunky Newcomers, the Plurals, Scary Women, Sleeping Timmy, Erotic Novels and several others.
As Sauter explained the process, “Just give us a track by mid-December and you’re on.”
Bermuda Snowhawk 2018 Release Party
Free (Bring Donations for Food Drive) 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 21 21+ Avenue Café 2021 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing www.bermudamohawk. bandcamp.com