INTERVIEW: Cherry Ames

Welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Jamie Darken: “We’ve been better. Trying to find the balance between this wave of musical excitement and being cooped up in quarantine.”

Matthew Vandenbroek: “I can’t say it hasn’t been tough being sequestered at home. We had to cancel shows and obviously aren’t playing live, which is a major bummer, because we are really looking forward to playing these songs live. The upside is that all three of us have been working on demos and writing, so we’re ready to burst with new material once life returns to closer-to-normal.    

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “No Brakes”?

JD: “We’re all really proud of this song. It represents each of us at our strongest and most confident.”

MV: “I’m just love the progression from this hard,  meatheaded downtuned riff to Jamie’s propulsive verses, to Pompeii by way of Death Valley. The basics of the song had knocked around for a while, but really found its feet when Jamie brought in the vocal melody. When we first listened to the rough mix together and Trae’s opera vocal comes in over the guitar solo we just started laughing uncontrollably… it was such an out-of-body moment.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

JD: “Not an event, more a general feeling of helplessness and loss of control. At times that can be scary but it can also be thrilling. To me, this song feels like one of those roller coasters that blasts off from zero to sixty in three seconds.”

MV: “More than anything, its musical inspiration is the sensation of speed. The fastest I’ve ever driven was 125 mph somewhere in the Idaho desert, and hearing this song I feel that same combination: sheer terror mixed with calm control and that thought in the back of your head reminding you that if even the slightest thing goes wrong you face certain obliteration.”

Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?

JD: “We have some surprises in store.”

Why naming the album after this song in particular?

JD: “This song really brought us together as a trio and it captures the feeling that we’re just starting to take off. This is only the beginning of the ride, the initial thrill of acceleration.”

MV: “For sure, this EP feels like the start of a new phase for Cherry Ames. Doing everything ourselves– recording, mixing, mastering, artwork–gave us a chance to really take our time explore the unique aspects that each of us brings to the band. We’re just getting started.”

How was the recording and writing process?

JD: “We record everything ourselves at Nellcote, which is Matt’s basement. Matt came to me with the instrumentals and a general concept and I wrote the vocals around that. It was one of our first collaborations. Recording the vocals, I just tried to channel my inner Corin Tucker.”

MV: “This is one of the densest recordings the band has ever made, in terms of overdubs and experimentation. There are 24 guitar tracks alone! Let’s just say this gave us a lot of options for mixing. DIY at times can be a blessing and a curse, I guess.”

What role does DC play in your music?

JD: “We’re all inspired by DC’s punk and hardcore heyday and are fueled by the freeness and energy that those bands embodied. For a while now we’ve felt like outsiders in the modern DC scene, but that feeling drives us to continue being ourselves and doing what we love.”

MV: “For me, DC’s influence is impressionistic.  Immediately after the election, DC had this defiance and resistance about it that has fallen away to a much bleaker, numb feeling… Vichy DC. vibes. Being at the political center of the universe makes it hard to not let politics seep into every aspect of your life, including music.” 

What is it about the 90s that you find so fascinating?

JD: “Basically it was just an awesome time for rock music. There was a lot of guitar experimentation that happened in the 90s with bands like MBV that’s just inspiring to hear. A lot of styles coalesced in the 90s too. Punk, prog, and hardcore all kind of melted together and you got bands like Dinosaur Jr and Swervedriver.”

MV: “Not sure I would call the 90s ‘fascinating’ so much as formative. I grew up with the whole Chicago/ Champaign punk and indie scene of those days… just incredible heavy guitar bands like Hum and Poster Children and Menthol, and also this experimental scene coming up with Jim O’Rourke and Sea and Cake and all of the post-rock bands.”

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

JD: “For me, the lyrics usually serve as pieces of advice I write for myself. There’s definitely a sense of apocalyptic dread on this EP but it’s always followed with a little reminder that things will be okay. The good and bad always mix together in a weird bittersweet anxious thrilling way.”

MV: “Musically, I try to create sounds and write progressions that make me feel something, and hopefully evoke emotions in the audience. Irrespective of who brings in a song to the band initially, they really come into our own from the three of us pushing it to its limits. 

What else is happening next in Cherry Ames’ world?

JD: “Getting signed hopefully! Also I need to change my guitar strings.”

MV: “We’re chomping at the bit to get back to work! We have at least a dozen songs ready to go for a next LP and look forward to getting back onstage.”

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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