Dude York are a trio of twentysomethings with service-industry jobs who call themselves America's band. Obviously, America's band needs to have a Christmas album. So several months ago, in the height of Seattle's summer, they recorded a nine-track holiday record in a windowless basement decked out with a tree and Christmas decorations.
Realizing they needed to shoot some cover art, bassist Claire England called the JCPenney photo studio at a nearby mall to see if they had any Christmas backgrounds. Since it was summer, they didn't. The closest they had were solid red and white backgrounds, but England, guitarist Peter Richards, and drummer Andrew Hall sat through an hour of traffic to do the photo shoot anyway.
Hall says he has "a really fond memory" of "carrying all of our Santas and all of our sports memorabilia out of the JCPenney of Southcenter Mall. I heard two people, not quite loud enough to call attention but loud enough that I heard it, say under their breath, 'What the fuck?' That was how I knew, as we walked back into the 85 degree heat... that we were on the right track."
The idea for Halftime for the Holidays, which comes out November 24 and which Dude York will play from on December 16 at the Crocodile, came to them around Christmas last year. Richards had a couple of Christmas tracks written for a different project. "We were like, 'It's great we have Christmas songs, but we have no Christmas shows,'" England says. "We'll have to wait one whole year to be able to do anything with these."
They shelved the idea and went on tour to promote their sophomore record, Sincerely. But once they were back from tour in April, Richards wrote "Long Distance Christmas," a jingle-bell-infused ballad about the pains of being away from loved ones.
Richards sent it to their management, only to be met with a list of criteria for what can and cannot be in a Christmas song.
"They sent me a long list of criteria back," Richards said. "It was like, 'It has to be overtly positive, you can't mention negative things and tether them to holidays, it's gotta be directly uplifting, and a bunch of other things that were just synonyms for 'it can't be interesting and there can't be a perspective that feels new.'"
Dude York didn't exactly listen to the requirements, but every song is enveloped in such strong power-pop melodies that you can't really tell. Music like this makes anything sound positive—even "Long Distance Christmas" found its way onto the record.
Halftime for the Holidays tackles the highs and lows of the holidays with Dude York's typical mix of bluntness, cheekiness, and cheesiness. "Hollywood Holiday" is a tongue-in-cheek ode to winters in Southern California. "Jingle Bells Rock" is an audible eye roll at the Christmas classic. "Takin' Care of Christmas" is a play on the Bachman-Turner Overdrive track.
And other songs delve into the lower points of Christmas, for instance "Break Up Holiday," which sums up the feeling of having to see a hometown ex when you go back to see your parents. The whole song is a fierce, guitar-powered jab.
And the title Halftime for the Holidays? All but two songs end in a half-time guitar solo.