“Opt Out” – 2012

In 2012 we released “Opt Out”, a seven song album that was unlike anything we’d done before. You can listen here:

(Handmade cover by our longtime friend and talented artist Jeff Stogis.)

Between 2010 and 2012 we were going strong as a four-piece band:

Drew deWaard (Bass/Vocals)
Dina Simone (Guitar/Vocals/Bass/Etc, Etc)
Jeff Goluszka (Drums/Percussion)
Justin Birchard (Vocals/Guitar/Misc)

We were playing multiple shows a month in Chicago and throughout the Midwest. We frequented Michigan, Wisconsin, and got the chance to play at legendary Chicago venues like Schubas, Double Door, Bottom Lounge, Quenchers, and Martyrs.

As usual– we were also playing a lot of house shows and DIY gigs, typically in basements, backyards, apartments, and garages. If we thought there would be people there, we rarely said “No” to an opportunity to play live.

Things were going splendidly:

In December of 2010 we started writing the songs for “Opt Out“. Then in the spring of 2011, we rented a cabin for a week so that we could focus on the songs in complete isolation. We’d taken a similar approach while writing Seas Drain Into Space and thought it’d be fun to try again.

We packed up our gear and drove our “trusty” van to a spot that Jeff scouted out near the border of Iowa.

Getting the van “ready” to go…
Getting the gear ready to go…

Our destination was an isolated property on the shoreline of Rock River in Rock Island, IL. Perfectly quiet. Ample nature. Homey vibes.

We lounged around and checked out the river for an our or two. Then we got to work and rearranged the whole cabin.

The first night we didn’t get much writing done. We mostly just enjoyed the atmosphere. There were stuffed fish, birds, and other impressive taxidermy projects mounted throughout the house. Occasionally they attacked, but mostly they were friendly.

Many tears of laughter were shed on this trip. We were having a blast. But also… we were on a mission. We were determined to finish writing as many songs as we could during this rare, creative, get-away.

Throughout the week we had multiple rehearsals a day, and wrote late into the night. When we came out on the other side, we had a collection of shiny new songs. We couldn’t wait to start recording.

At the end of the trip, we headed back to our house/studio West Chicago. Progress happened quickly in the following weeks, the album was taking shape and starting to feel real.

After tracking the first single “October“, we decided to take a break and focus on recording a music video. Our good friend Chad Headley directed and produced the film with help from Chris Shern.


Andrew Birchard, Sarah Hein, Anne Winters, Alex Zago, and MANY others helped us make it happen.

The video shoot was intense. Chad’s vision was ambitious. But he pulled it off! It required a lot of planning, the shots and the scenes were precise.


An additional challenge was that all of the shooting needed to happen in the darkness of night. So for three straight evenings we stayed up all night and filmed.

We gathered as many friends and fans as we could to play extras. We all dressed up like zombies and had so much fun.

This video is one of the proudest moments in our history as a band. A perfect moment moment in time. You can check it out here:

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Opt Out” was mostly finished by May of 2012. But we still needed to finish a few key sections. We had a tour planned to promote the album in the fall… MEANING: we were on the clock.

Pressure was building.

With only a few days before the tour, we accomplished our goal and finished all of the recording, mixing, and mastering. However, the rest of the plan did not go how we envisioned…

Drew was beginning to focus more on his career. Understandably, he didn’t have as much time to dedicate to shows and the “usual band stuff”. Before the tour, and before the album was officially released– we made the decision to part ways.

Similarly, Dina was having a lot of success with her other bands. She was trying to juggle a lot of different projects and circumstances. Our rehearsal schedule and touring plans were becoming more difficult to coordinate. In the Fall, a few days before our tour, we decided to part ways with her as well.

Our time with Drew and Dina was glorious. And I can’t emphasize enough the incredible musicianship, creativity, friendship, and love they brought to my life and to Facing Winter.

It was difficult to say goodbye to Drew and Dina. For me, saying “goodbye” to bandmates is just as emotional and gut-wrenching as saying “goodbye” to a long-time romantic partner.

But life and music go on. Jeff and I kept at it. We weren’t going to give up on the album and we weren’t going to give up on the tour.

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Cancelling the tour wasn’t an option in our minds. So a few days before our departure date– We put in crazy hours at the studio. We stayed up all night binging on coffee, tacos, weed, and pizza. And at the end of it we had ANOTHER new album. This one was called “Origins”. It had one brand new original song, and the rest were acoustic versions of previously released songs.

This will be a story for another time.

More music coming soon! Please stay tuned and thank you for your support.

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facingwinter (at) gmail

“Gifts from Gravity” – 2010


Hello again. And thank you for coming back!

2009 & 2010 were special but difficult. These songs reflect that. Please check out Gifts from Gravity here:


In 2009 Liam, Jeff, and I were 28 years old.

Justin
Jeff
Liam

We knew that to achieve our goals, we needed to be diligent. This meant rehearsing, playing shows, writing, recording, studying, adapting, and promoting EVERY DAY.

And so that’s what we did. It was difficult, but we had fun doing it.

These years were a mix of joy, devastation, laughter, defeat, silliness, sadness, victory, and heartbreak.

The music industry was changing rapidly. Long-time partnerships were fading. New partnerships were beginning. Nothing was certain. Everything was wild.

Our day jobs were in flux. Money was tight. We primarily survived on ramen, PBR, cheap weed, and good intentions. When we weren’t doing “band stuff”, we were usually playing old video games or tossing a frisbee. We’d frequently take long, loud, “night-walks” in the nearby forest preserves with our friends. On these romps we’d stare at the stars, listen to coyotes, and laugh our asses off while trying to unravel the mysteries of our day-to-day lives.


During this time we purchased our first BAND VAN.

It was a glorious monstrosity. An old-school, 90’s conversion van. We drove it to every show and on every tour. It served us well for many years, and we loved it completely.

(massive thank you to Mike Storms for finding it and repairing it many, many times)

The van was big enough that we could pile all of our equipment AND bring 4-6 friends with us to every show:

In 2009 & 2010, Facing Winter played more than 100 shows in a wide variety of locations. We played acoustic shows, electric shows, house shows, breweries, open mics, rock clubs, coffee shops, back yards, apartments, and festivals. We went on multiple mini-tours and frequently performed out of state. For the first time, we also got to play some of our dream venues like Schubas and Double Door in Chicago.

We were having a great time, and new doors were opening. We had ample love, passion, inspiration, and support. But privately, there was a lot more happening.

For bands (and humans in-general), attrition is a real thing. The stress and pressure were piling up. We were starting to feel it. We were pushing beyond the limits of what our health would allow.

It was becoming unsustainable.

I was struggling with my mental health, and there were many times I wasn’t sure I’d make it through. The idea of suicide had become an unwelcome but frequent visitor in my stream-of-conscious.

Thankfully, I was in the right place at the right time with the right people. I got the help and support I needed.

The music and the lyrics from Gifts from Gravity helped me process what we were going through. Without these songs, and without the love from my friends and family, I would not have made it here.

If you are struggling, please call or text 988. Or if a listening ear would help, feel free to reach out at facingwinter (at) gmail.

Unfortunately, as the months passed, Jeff, Liam, and I’s combined plans, goals, and struggles were becoming incompatible. We loved each other, and we loved Facing Winter. But it wasn’t working anymore. And so together we made a very difficult decision…

Liam would step away from the band. His final show with us was a house show on August 22nd, 2009.

None of us knew what the future would hold. But all of us (including Liam) knew that the story of Facing Winter was far from complete. The band would go on. Our deep, blood-brother-friendships would go on too.

To this day, we’re all still tight. And in 2024 we still hang out regularly. Here we are as the groomsmen at Liam’s wedding:

In the meantime, in our current story- It was the Autumn of 2009.

Jeff and I kept at it.

We went back to an acoustic format and played many more shows as a duo over the next few months.

All the while- we still weren’t done with the new album yet. Liam had already recorded 6 songs with us, but we had 4 more songs in mind that we wanted to include. Jeff and I collaborated on these remaining songs, and in the spring of 2010 we released Gifts from Gravity.

Liam, Jeff, and I gave everything we could possibly give to this album. Ten songs about love, upheaval, fortune, loss, inspiration, sadness, and resolve. It’s an honor to be able to revisit them again with you.

Our good friend Derek Sepeda came up with the album title.


And Hannah Berestizhevsky designed the artwork.


Prior to the release of the album, and shortly after Liam left the band, Facing Winter’s story began to brighten significantly.

In November of 2009, Jeff and I played an acoustic show at a venue called “Chord On Blues” in St. Charles, IL. Afterwards, a guy named Drew deWaard introduced himself and said “Hey, why don’t you have a bassist? I like your songs. Maybe we could meet up and play some music?”

We weren’t actively looking for a bassist, and so the fact that he approached us felt serendipitous.

We decided to give it a shot. And to our surprise, we clicked immediately! Drew’s bass playing was other-worldly. And we were instantly charmed by his cool, confident, (yet silly) demeanor. He also had experience with booking and other band related skills.

Drew joined the band officially later that month, and we played our first show together on 12-9-09. From that point on, we were back at it! Full strength.


November of 2009 was a fortunate month. In addition to meeting Drew, we also met a musician named Dina Simone at a local open mic. She was an adept vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. I was enamored with her bold personality and musical chops. We quickly became friends and started collaborating at open mics.

Our creative partnership escalated over the coming months, and she joined the band officially in February of 2010.

Dina played saxophone on the song “Home” and was one of only two guest musicians on Gifts from Gravity.


The other guest musician was Margaret Dearden Stutt (aka Pezzettino), who played accordion on Broken Branch.


2010 was full of new life. We were rejuvenated and excited to promote the new album. Together as a four-piece band, we went on several Midwestern tours, and played some of our favorite Chicago venues.

Dina, Drew, Jeff, and I were a great team. And we were all eager to start writing and recording new songs together. Plans were in the works.

During 2009-2010, Facing Winter could not have existed without love and support from:

Michelle Doyle, Suzanne Szafranski, the Massihs, Andrew Birchard, Misha Mahadevia, Mark Pasindo, Amy Aiello, the Goluszkas, Rory Doyle, Matthew Potts, Lisa Holloman, Andres Acosta, Ryan Worthy, Julio Gomez, Lucy Primavera, Matt Tenclay, Steph Yeager, James Scott, Alison Weir, the Geraghtys, Jake Jeter, Marija Birchard, Mike Storms, Alberto Ayala, Eddie Ortega, Sam Ortega, Justus Taylor, Chris Shern, Kiel Doyle, Sarah Worel, Derek Sepeda, Stacy Roberts, Phillip Rabbit, Nicole Schafroth, Jeff Stogis, Alex Zago, Kyle Hofmann, Steve Thrasher, Andrew Brueck, Valentiger, the Hempels, Stacy Stell, JD Mathys, Ashley Wolf, Ali Stilin, Chris Darby, Kimber Aita, Kelly Boerman, Chad Headley, Robert Estes, the Zieches, Melissa Chromek, Nathan Kalish, Loretta & Robert Birchard, Kimberly Redden, Jodi Doyle, and many MANY others.

Thank you for following along. And for caring about our music and our story! We’ll be back in a few weeks with the remastered version of our album “Opt Out”.

p.s.- we’re starting our newsletter back up again, please check it out here.

“Seas Drain Into Space” – 2008



For many years, our album “Seas Drain Into Space” only existed in physical form. But now it is available EVERYWHERE:

In 2007 we wrote most of the songs from Seas Drain Into Space. Then in 2008 we recorded them. These years were special, charged with love, optimism, determination, and purpose.

There was a lot of work to be done, but we were ready.

Liam Doyle
Justin Birchard
Jeff Goluszka

In 2007 we moved out of our previous studio and into a new spot just down the road. The best thing about this building was that we could rehearse, record, and live all under the same roof. We called it “Seven Sided Studio” or usually just “The Studio” for short.

The property was beautiful. It sat along a busy highway, but it had a spacious yard with ample trees, vines, flowers, and wildlife. There was even a peach tree!


Previously this building had been an office. It wasn’t zoned residential, but we got permission from the owner to live there “on the down low”. We also got permission to remodel the inside.

This rare and unique opportunity was granted by my boss– the new owner of Apple Graphics: Keith Hempel. We can’t thank him and the Hempel family enough for all the generosity they have shown us over the past 15 years.

Before we moved in, there were three weeks of dirty, dusty, DIY renovations. It was a lot of work, but it was exciting!

I drew up the plans, then Liam and my brother Andrew lent their expertise and enabled us to execute the design. After a lot of demolition, we built new walls and door frames. Then we installed a new window and electric line.


After the construction was complete, we started recording immediately. We didn’t care that there wasn’t a kitchen, we didn’t care that the bathroom was barely functional. There was no time to waste! Music needed to be made.

We had several goals for the year:

  • Record a full length album
  • Play at least 50 shows
  • Book our first DIY tour out of state

Of course, we also had to contend with “real life” — day jobs, chores, and learning how to exist as 26 year old “adults”. It was a tricky balance. There were ample heartbreaks, victories, challenges, laughs, and tears.

It was beautiful, but it wasn’t easy. Together, we figured it out.

Here are some photos from the SDIS recording sessions:

We began recording in December 2007, and the album was completed in June 2008. The art design, recording, mixing, mastering, and packaging were all done in-house.

During this period we did several out of state tours and played many of our favorite Chicago venues for the first time: Double Door, The Abbey Pub, and Quenchers. We also had the opportunity to play live on several radio stations and an indie TV station:


We played (and hosted) a lot of house shows and frequented loving local venues like Oasis Cafe in West Chicago:

In 2008 we recorded our first music videos. The first was a low-fi version of Pocket of Change that I recorded solo on my lunch break at Apple Graphics:


Next we invited our closest friends and fans out to the studio and filmed a live show. This “290” video was directed and produced by our good friend Chad Headley:


The final video we recorded that year was for “Moonshine” and was once again directed and produced by Chad Headley:

We can’t emphasize enough how impactful and helpful our friends, family and community were during this period. We had a street team! We had pizza parties, softball games, water balloon fights, barbecues, and disc golf meetups!

You helped us assemble merch, you were at every show. We love you and we can’t thank you enough:

Ashley Wolf, Andrew Birchard, Chris Darby, Jeff Stogis, Nate Kalish, Lisa Holloman, Andrew Massih, Derek Sepeda, Amy Aiello, Stacy Stell, Andres Acosta, JD Mathys, Jake Jeter, Andrew Brueck, Kimber Aita, Stacy Roberts, Eric & Ivory Schwab, Chad Headley, Beans, Chris Shern, Sarah Hein, Matthew Potts, Nicole Schafroth, Jodi Doyle, Rory Doyle, Kiel Doyle, Ali Doyle, Michele Doyle, Alison Weir Speckles, Suzanne Szafranski, Ryan Zieche, Eddie Ortega, AND SO MANY MORE.

We kept each other grounded in an absurd world

Thank you for taking the time to revisit this era with us. We’re playing these songs live again! And some new ones you’ve never heard. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for all the latest.

facingwinter(at)gmail

We’ve got a distance left to run. Many more songs. Many more shows. We truly hope you’ll keep in touch.

“Apple Sanctuary” Songs from 2005-2006

The next Facing Winter compilation is out now!

It’s called “Apple Sanctuary” and contains 11 songs from two of our EP’s:

“Apple EP” recorded in 2005
“The Sanctuary EP” recorded in 2006

We rearranged the original track order and added a touch of remastering. You can hear it here:

In 2005-2006 our world was expanding. Jeff Goluszka, Liam Doyle, and I were practicing, recording, and playing shows nearly every night of the week. We had a shared vision, we were pushing hard, and we were having a lot of fun along the way.

Jeff Goluszka, Justin Birchard, and Liam Doyle in 2005 at Apple Graphics in West Chicago, IL.


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The story of “Apple EP” begins with a small print shop in West Chicago. I worked there, and the place was called “Apple Graphics”.

This wasn’t a “Copy Machine” type of place like Kinko’s or Office Depot. This was a gritty, messy, industrial print shop, with a steampunk vibe:


Everything was analog.

All of our Facing Winter merch was printed at Apple Graphics including album covers, posters, stickers, t-shirts, etc.

The printing process started with developing film in a dark room. After that, we burned the images onto metal plates. The plates would fit around a cylinder on the printing press. This cylinder would “stamp” the image onto each sheet as it fed through the press.

Here is the cover art for “Apple EP” that we printed at Apple Graphics. The hand-drawn artwork is by long-time friend and co-conspirator Jeff Stogis:


Dustin Lapotka drew our poster with black ink. I colored it, and then we printed it at Apple Graphics.

(I’ve still got a stack, DM if you want one!)


At Apple Graphics, we mixed our ink by hand using a scale. There was a specific formula for each color. When the presses and bindery equipment broke-down, we repaired them ourselves. We were fiercely independent. No corporate ties. Just a small team of people working towards a common goal and trying to keep “the ship” afloat.

Between 2004-2006 the shop had five employees: Andrew Birchard (my younger brother), Alberto Ayala, the owner Michael Potts, and I.

I can’t emphasize enough the monumental role that Apple Graphics has played in my life over the past 20+ years. The business has changed a lot, but I still work there, and Chris Shern does too! Liam Doyle and great friend Matt Potts have also been among the ranks.

It was amazing to be able to work with my brother Andrew everyday for several years. We were close as kids (home-schooled!) and we have remained close ever since.

Until he moved out of state, Andrew came to ALL of our Facing Winter shows and has always been one of our biggest supporters.

Felipe Alberto Ayala Morazan (aka Alberto) has also been a big part of my life. A boss and an “uncle”. A friend for many years (and still today). Alberto is a kind man. Always willing to help my brother and I in whatever way he could. After more than 35 years at Apple Graphics, Alberto retired in 2023. I worked with him for more than 20 years!


And finally, Mr. Potts. He was the owner of the print shop. And not only that, he was a father figure for me. He helped me and cared for me in ways that very few adults ever have. He trusted me and I trusted him. He wanted to see me thrive. He enabled me to grow and find myself. He allowed Facing Winter to practice and record in the warehouse whenever we wanted!

Mr. Potts passed away in 2005. It’s hard to believe how long it’s been. I still think of him frequently. For reasons well beyond music, he still has a significant impact on my life today.

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The warehouse at Apple Graphics is where we recorded “Apple EP” in 2004/2005:

We worked hard, but we also spent a lot of time relaxing. During our down time, if we weren’t wandering the streets of West Chicago, we were likely hanging out in the shop, playing cards or various other games.

Our great friends Nicole Schafroth and Matt Potts were almost always there with us:

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In 2006, we got our first private, dedicated rehearsal space! It was in Glendale Heights, IL (not far from Chicago) and we named it “The Sanctuary”.

It felt so good to have our own space that we could control. The building was dilapidated, kinda disgusting, and the neighborhood was sketchy. But we loved it so hard. And we made the most of it. We spent the vast majority of our evenings there in 2006. Rehearsing, recording, and playing cards.

“The Sanctuary EP” was recorded at this location. And it will always have a special place in our hearts.

Here is the hand drawn artwork created by Jeff Stogis:


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In 2005 we were mostly playing in Chicago and the burbs. Frequently with great friends Chris Darby and Them Damn Kids:

In 2006 we did our first out state tour thanks to longtime friend and songwriter Nate Kalish.

By the end of 2006 things were starting to get real. It felt like we were becoming a part of the scene in Chicago, the suburbs, and beyond.

Jeff, Liam, and I were best friends. We were tight musically and personally. A true team. Many more good things were on the way…

Thank you for following along with our story. Can’t wait to share the the next chapters! Lots more music still to come. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to us anytime:

“Ghost Trains from Fermilab” Songs from 2003-2004

The latest Facing Winter compilation is called “Ghost Trains from Fermilab” and contains 10 songs recorded between 2003-2004. We’ve put a lot of time and thought into this track list, and all the songs have been remastered for 2023. You can hear it here:

You may be wondering- What’s with the name?

Liam, Jeff, and I brainstormed and collaborated for over a month before we settled on it. Here’s why we chose “Ghost Trains from Fermilab” as the title:

During 2003-2004 Jeff, Liam, Matt Potts, Dan Horyn, and I would frequently sneak into Fermilab late at night. The property is MASSIVE. Literally the size of a city:

There was a particular area we liked to hang out. At this spot, there were tracks, and trains would rumble through slowly as we mused about life, love, music, and supernatural things. In the end, some of us came to accept the possibility that if there are ghosts, there may also be “Ghost Trains”.

The lore doesn’t end there.

For many years Liam and I worked for a print shop that produced “Engineering Notepads” for Fermilab. One side of the sheet was presumably for writing notes and equations. The other side was graph paper for math and physics. We called them “Fermipads”. Each pad contained 50 sheets and a cardboard backer. Liam would print them, then I’d collate and glue them. I’d usually keep a few for myself because I love graph paper and blank books. The next day I’d drive to Fermilab and deliver them. I loved getting stopped at the security checkpoint and being able to say “Yep, I belong here, important delivery!”

I frequently daydreamed about what the scientists were doing there. There was (and is) a palpable amount of mystery and magic about that place. Was it true that the Soviets once (and maybe still do) have nukes pointed at it? Whatever they were doing there, it seemed likely to change the world.

I have STACKS of journals, poems, and lyrics written on Fermipads. Many of the songs from this compilation were written on them. Here’s a song I started writing in 2004, some of you may recognize it:


In a strange twist of fate, I’m back in the neighborhood of Fermilab after being away for many years.

I met some cool new friends not too long after I moved back here. Turns out they are physicists, and they work at Fermilab. I am not a superstitious person. But also, I love it when life makes me stop and think “Wait… this feels like more than just a coincidence. Something else could be going on here”.

It’s easy to forget how strange and magical the world can be. That’s why this compilation is called “Ghost Trains from Fermilab”.

And by the way, this album was partially recorded at the print shop where we produced the Fermipads:

Oh. You’re still here? Well then I’m going to tell you even more about this compilation.

Everything was up in the air in 2003, and it was one of the most tumultuous years of my life. But the one thing I knew for sure: I needed to keep writing, recording, and playing shows.

Most of the songs on this compilation were never officially released, instead they were passed around on CD-Rs among friends and at shows. (Anyone still remember what a CD-R is?)

20 years after these songs were written, I find myself in similar life circumstances and back in the same neighborhood. Many of the lyrics feel just as relevant to me now as they did back then. I still know with certainty: music will help me understand the world around me, it will help me understand myself, and it will help me heal.

At the time, music didn’t feel like a choice, it felt like something I had to do in order to survive. My soul needed it. I played as many open mics and shows as I could in and around Chicago.

Towards the end of 2003 I helped Liam Doyle learn to play bass. I had previously been having trouble keeping people in the band. So I figured, why not just be patient and wait for my best friend to learn an instrument? I didn’t care about current skill. I cared about dedication and chemistry.

By 2004 Liam was a legitimate bassist. The first two songs Liam ever recorded were “For Real” and “Scientists“.

The next thing that needed to happen was to secure a drummer. Just like with Liam, chemistry and dedication were the two most important things to me.

Jordan Hill had previously recorded drums on several songs and had performed many live shows with me. Some of his best work can be heard on this compilation: “Prepared” and “The Test“. But Jordan was planning to move to California, and I knew he wasn’t a long term solution.

Turns out, Jeff Goluszka was the solution (as he often is). He didn’t have as much experience as Jordan, but he was (and is) one of the hardest working, most passionate, and dedicated people I have ever met.

Jeff didn’t play drumset on this compilation, but you can hear his hand percussion on “For Real” and “Scientists“.

Edward Bembinster also had a significant role on these songs. He did not play any instruments, but he helped record and mix many of the songs including “For Real“, “Scientists“, “Prepared“, and “The Test” .

Jason Sipe had major contributions on this compilation too. But our lives were taking different paths. The other bands he played in were having a lot of success and he was touring frequently. In spite of this, he managed to record some AMAZING basslines on “Summerset“, “Prepared“, and “The Test” .

This compilation represents the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. I would no longer be playing solo. There would no longer be an uncertain roster. Because now my two best friends were in the band! We were teammates in the truest sense of the word. We were focused and passionate, and we were ready to take on the world.

There would be many more songs to come.

Thanks for reading/listening/caring! If you’ve got something to say please feel to reach out to us: