Letter on Punksong


In the Spring of 2014, Griffin Jennings and I talked after a composition recital about how we wanted to make music together. We’d just heard each other’s pieces performed, and being both excited by what we had heard and having no other plans that night, we grabbed our guitars and met in a practice room. It took us a couple of minutes before we locked on to something, and when we did, I asked him what he was playing. “Oh, it’s just a punk song I’ve been working on.”

Over the year and half since, that punk song has grown, and me and Griffin have developed one of the deepest friendships and richest working relationships I’ve ever known. We’ve spent a ridiculous number of hours together recording guitars, writing glockenspiel parts, and editing down the 212 tracks that make up this song. We’ve spent time in practice rooms, multiple dorm rooms, New York City, Washington DC, all trying to engage and explore the idea of creating, and creating together. And as we now get to look for the first time on the fruit of our labor, I’m struck by how much we’ve grown, and how lucky we are. I’ve never felt so comfortable or capable in a collaboration as I do now, and I’m filled with such excitement knowing where we plan to go and what we hope to achieve over the next year and beyond.

Before we do that, however, there’s still one thing we wanted to share closing out the Week of Punksong: Over the last number of weeks we’ve been covertly compiling endorsements for our song from Oberlin students, admin, and faculty, and are now prepared to share it with the world. Enjoy:

Also, we owe some thank yous:

Thank you so much to Amara Granderson, Margaret McCarthy, Mitchell Herrmann, Jeremy Poe, Andrew Pau, Tim Gemesi, Gabe Smith, Ethan Rode, Jasmine Anderson, Mobey Irizarry Lambright, Joo Won Park, Sarah Snider, Daniel Karcher, Hunter Brown, Kirk Pearson, Michael Orenstein, James Quintana, John Talbert, Ava Prince, and Conrad Sheriden for sharing your endorsements and being part of our video. You made me and Griff smile many times as we were recording/editing this thing. Also, this shit is marketing gold. No way are we not blowing up after this one.

On the musical production of Punksong itself, thank you to Ethan Cohen for playing drums, Gabriel Hawes for playing Glockenspiel, Elijah Fox-peck for secret autotune, and our incredible vocal mob of Khalid Taylor, Robby Baskin, Patrick Dunaj, Chelsea Ettlinger, Araxi Polony, Gabe Smith, Pablo Johnson, Maya Moskowitz, Henry Weissberg, Sammy Mellman, Luke Paschal, Cole Blouin, Ellie Tremayne, and Ethan Cohen for your deeply inspiring performance of sheep noises (1:37).

Thank you to everyone who came out to our Week of Punksong events, as well, particularly our release party last night. It was so nice to see everybody, and omg you guys liked the song that rocks.

It would also be wrong not to thank Isabelle Harari, who was present for nearly half of the recording sessions that led to this song, and has been an incredible support of the whole project since its inception.

Finally, I just wanted to say that it’s been amazing thinking on how Punksong has functioned not only as musical project, but also a social mechanism for bringing people together. It of course brought me and Griffin together, but looking back on the vocals-recording session with 16 people crammed into a south quad, our release party last night with many more people talking and dancing to the Bee Gees, or this ridiculous video we’ve just released, so many people have been a part of this process (look at all those tags above), and it’s my real hope that some tangential connections, empathy, or community has been formed that will outlast the song itself. That, in my mind, is the highest goal of music, and if even for moments we’ve touched it, I’m proud of what we’ve done.

Love to everyone,


I Would Die 4 U - With Lucy Dacus

At the beginning of June I spent a week with Lucy Dacus. We played a couple of shows together, heard Michelle Obama speak at Oberlin's commencement exercises, and camped through varying degrees of cold in an enduring and extremely blue tent. It was an absolute joy and highlight of the summer, and I thank Lucy immensely for being the inspiring, warm, talented individual she is. 

Somewhere along our travels, Lucy told me about a couple who had emailed her about a cover she'd released a long time ago with her friend Adam. The song was Prince's "I Would Die 4 U," and the couple had seen a video of Lucy and Adam playing it on Youtube. They liked it, apparently, so much so that they asked if any recorded version existed such that they could use it as their first dance. Lucy asked me if I'd be up for trying to record the cover, and I of course was very excited to do it.

We recorded it on a Sunday in one of Oberlin's classrooms. And I mixed it over the next couple of days in Oberlin's Slow Train Cafe and Lucy's kitchen in Richmond. It is small, and I very much hope you like it.

Much love to all,