Kissing Party Kisses the Christmas Single Good Bye

Denver indie-pop band Kissing Party has a complicated relationship with the holidays. Although the group has released a Christmas single every year for the past six, it’s ending that tradition this year and instead updating 2013’s Winter in the Pub album, a collection of holiday songs, with the addition of three new tracks.

“They’re just Kissing Party songs with jingle bells on them,” jokes guitarist and singer Gregg Dolan. “It sums up this period of my life that’s over now.”

In fact, Kissing Party’s songs are sincere, innocent and energetic — and there’s not a drop of irony to be found on Winter in the Pub.

But it’s not exactly your typical holiday album, either. Instead, it encapsulates the exciting week before Christmas and the trips that Dolan takes home (to Cortland, Ohio) around the holidays to be with family and friends — though he notes that he won’t be making the trip home this season.

Along with Dolan, vocalist Deirdre Sage, drummer Shane Reid, guitarist Joe Hansen and bassist Lee Evans have been making music together for close to a decade. Dolan says the updated Winter in the Pub — whose release the band will celebrate with a show at the Skylark Lounge on December 17 — is Kissing Party’s best album to date, and it’s hard to disagree. Not only does the record include the trio of new tracks, but it also provides a snapshot of the band’s development over the years.

“It would be easy to write a ‘Fuck Christmas’ or ‘Fuck Santa’ song, but that’s not what was intended,” says Dolan. “[Each] year, I didn’t sit down and go, ‘Now I gotta write my Christmas song!’”

There’s something about December that messes with Dolan’s emotions — which makes it ripe for inspiring lyrical material. “It’s one of the worst and best times all year,” he explains. “It seems like everything is very intense during the last month of the year. In the past I loved it, because I would go home and see good people. I’m a drama queen, so it’s been a very dramatic month for as long as I can remember. [Our song] ‘Merry Christmas Darling (Maybe Next Year Things Will Change)’ is in the same vein as the Ramones’ ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).’ It’s just honest about how I feel. I’m happy and insanely depressed and [feel] every emotion during the winter.”

To Dolan’s way of thinking, there are bands — like the Ramones — that create good Christmas songs. But he isn’t quite on board with bands covering Christmas classics.

“I love the Kinks’ ‘Father Christmas,’ and that Ramones song I mentioned, and Darlene Love’s ‘Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home),’” says Dolan. “What I hate is these dickhead indie bands doing ‘Little Drummer Boy’ and shit and updating it and putting distortion on it. There’s no reason to re-release those songs that way. Weezer did that shit, too, with [Christmas With Weezer]. I don’t mind classic Christmas songs.”

Moreover, he believes that there’s a time and place for Christmas music: before December 25 and on the holiday itself.

“The worst is December 26, because if it plays even a day after Christmas, it’s disgusting,” Dolan says. “I was in this little Mexican restaurant in my home town, and the day after Christmas they were playing Christmas music. There’s something really awful about that. Another reason to make an album like this is pure fucking garbage commercial indie bands putting this stuff out that’s not original. In reality, probably a hundred people will hear this album, but the hope is that it would wipe out all that nonsense. Though it probably won’t.”

Kissing Party will celebrate the album release at 9 p.m. on Saturday, December 17, at Skylark Lounge, 140 South Broadway. Tickets are $5, and the show is 21+.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.