Friday night, the NOLA Polar Express presents an indie rock Christmas. The bands reflect on the songs of the season.

Poster art for NOLA Polar Express

[NSFW] On Friday, The Howlin' Wolf hosts the NOLA Polar Express, a benefit to help make sure that children at Ocshner and Children's Hospital have a Merry Christmas. Local indie rock bands will play on the Wolf's main stage and in the Den, and since some of the bands will play their versions of Christmas songs, My Spilt Milk asked them about their background with Christmas music.

Rod Naquin, Toast Beards
What's your favorite Christmas recording? Why?
My favorite Christmas recording is Elvis' "Santa Claus is Back in Town" from his 1957 Christmas album. Nobody has a voice like the King, and he really blazes through this simple and kind of funny blues. The idea that Santa would be cruising around in a big black Cadillac is hilarious to me, and there's a blazing blues piano solo which makes it easier for us to translate to our style.
What's your first strong memory of recorded Christmas music?
My family had an old fake Christmas tree for years and years that needed to assembled every year, and the whole family would get together and do it. We'd put on some Christmas tunes by Benny Grunch & the Bunch and put together this crazy, skeletal 1980s tree. I'll never forget fussing with the branches and ornaments while they sang about a six-pack of Dixie!
What needs to be said about Christmas music?
I know it can be really trite and annoying, but there's some rad places we can take Christmas music as long as we don't take ourselves too seriously! I was always a fan of the Walkmen's "Christmas Party" recording because it doesn't take itself too seriously, and it's all about having a raucous good time. What else should we be doing for the holiday anyway?

Jonathan Pretus, The Breton Sound
What's your favorite Christmas recording? Why?
Has to be John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." The track has such an amazing feel to it, an ambiance that he didn't have in his other solo works. Phil Spector's production is just sublime. Hearing that song for the first time during the holidays is generally the first time I get that warm, fuzzy, Christmas-y feeling. They say Christmas is a time of peace, and maybe it's just the optimistic quasi-hippie in me, but the "war is over if you want it" line, at Christmas, feels like a real possibility. 
What's your first strong memory of recorded Christmas music?
My grandmother listening to Johnny Mathis sing "The Christmas Song." His voice just struck me. Even now, I love his voice. It always makes me think of my grandmother. He could sing the phone book, and it'd make me feel good. That, and my parents had this terrible disco Christmas album. It was one long, horrible medley.
What needs to be said about Christmas music?
The best way to beat the dog days of summer, right around the middle of August when it's just unbearable - turn the AC to 60, put on a sweater, and listen to Christmas music. It gets a bad rap because it just gets driven into your skull, but how can you not feel good when you listen to Christmas music?

Zach Lund
What's your favorite Christmas recording? Why?
My favorite Christmas song is "Christmas Blues" by G. Love off of the second Brushfire Christmas album. it's a great song with a badass stand-up bass grooving in it.
What's your first strong memory of recorded Christmas music?
I remember hearing "I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" on the radio and being really weirded out, same with that two front teeth song. Christmas music has always seemed a bit creepy to me.
What needs to be said about Christmas music?
Christmas music can be cool, but most of it is incredibly annoying. I dig getting in the Christmas spirit, but I don't like hearing Christmas music in every store the second after Thanksgiving is over.

Sam Bortugno, The Scorseses
What's your favorite Christmas recording? Why?
For the first question, I wouldn't say I have a favorite Christmas recording, but the first Christmas song I learned to play was Ode to Joy. That one sticks in my head over the others because I learned it very early on in my music career. 
What's your first strong memory of recorded Christmas music?
My first memory of Christmas music was a red cassette tape that was a mix of Christmas music. My parents would come in to my room Christmas Eve night and play the cassette tape while I went to sleep. It was always a reminder that Christmas was around the corner. 
What needs to be said about Christmas music?
Christmas music is essential to the feeling of Christmas. Whether you love or hate it, it still signifies Christmas and for that reason it is important.

Molly Portier, The Wooden Wings
What's your favorite Christmas recording? Why?
"Carol of the Bells" has always been a personal favorite of mine. The Wooden Wings got to cover and record our own version of it this holiday season which was really exciting for me!
What's your first strong memory of recorded Christmas music?
I'm one of those people that starts listening to Christmas music long before I should because I grow impatient. It brings me back to when I was really little and Christmas was one of the most magical times of the year (and still is). I mean, come on! A big man in a red suit comes down your chimney and leaves you presents? What kid doesn't find that incredibly fascinating? I don't think I can pinpoint one specific story. So many, so little time!
What needs to be said about Christmas music?
Christmas music is the one genre of music that truly brings people together. It's heart-warming, and families and friends create special memories to these songs. There's no better feeling than listening to the first Christmas song of the season to remind you how lucky you truly are during this wonderful time of year!

Sam McCabe, Bantam Foxes
What's your favorite Christmas recording?
"Run, Rudolph, Run" by Chuck Berry. Why? Because it combines my favorite Christmas movie with old school rock 'n' roll. It's impossible to go wrong with that combination.
What's your first strong memory of recorded Christmas music?
Dancing to some Christmas rock 'n' roll-type CD in the living room when I was about five years old while my mom put up Christmas decorations. It had the previously mentioned Chuck Berry track, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Hey Santa Claus" by the Moonglows, and a bunch of other songs I can't remember. I need to find that CD.
What needs to be said about Christmas music?
It needs some serious updates. The songs that are in the rotation on the Christmas stations are, without a doubt, getting old in both senses of the phrase. 

Noah Young, Naughty Professor
What's your favorite Christmas recording?
Afroman - Colt 45 Christmas
What's your first strong memory of recorded Christmas music?
Listening to Colt 45 Christmas with my parents when I was a wee one. 
What needs to be said about Christmas music?
Buy it: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/a-colt-45-christmas/id200465149

Afroman's Colt 45 Christmas is not part of a gift package of holiday CDs that one lucky My Spilt Milk reader will win. The package will include The Polyphonic Spree's Holidaydream, Holidays Rule, Tracey Thorn's Tinsel and Lights, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. To enter to win, subscribe on the home page to "Condensed Milk," My Spilt Milk's weekly email newsletter. If you're already a subscriber, you're already entered. Contest closes December 20 at 7 p.m. CST.