How do you maintain your cool when you’re on the verge of blowing up? Take the Cheerleader approach; hide your swagger under the guise of hazy indie pop. After releasing their luminous debut album The Sunshine of Your Youth, Cheerleader finds themselves basking in the sunrise of their stardom (don’t worry, they have Ray-Bans). The band is poised for a strong 2016. Let’s trace their growth from the beginning, shall we?
As with many great tales of music and adolescence, Cheerleader began with Chris Duran, Joe Haller and a Connecticut basement. Although college commitments forced a separation of Haller and Duran, they reconnected post-graduation to pursue music. Their early sound was crafted through shared inspiration from The Beatles and The Beach Boys. The name Cheerleader was coined when a friend told Haller and Duran that they hyped each other up like cheerleaders (much to my dismay, I was hoping for some real cheerleading experience). The duo relocated to Philadelphia after hearing about the thriving music scene, and the first homemade Cheerleader demos were born in their apartment.
These original Cheerleader demos materialized in mid-2013. They received instant praise from music monolith NME, among a myriad of other music blogs. Simply named “Cheerleader Demos“, these recordings are a gritty yet sparkling expression of pop inclinations. Glimpses of leftist genres peek innocuously, like shoegaze in the shimmery guitars on “New Daze”, and the thumping, new-wavey drums on “Do What You Want”.
Since their initial recordings, Cheerleader has taken off like a rocket. They earned spots at CMJ and SXSW, sharing the stage with Alvvays and Charli XCX. They also recorded studio sessions with WXPN and Daytrotter.
In summer 2015, Cheerleader released their breakout album “The Sunshine of Your Youth”, eclipsing the potential that blogs and fans alike saw in their demos. The album was released on Bright Antenna Records next to notable labelmates The Wombats. All three demos were used for the record alongside seven new tracks. “The Sunshine of Your Youth” is a bastion of indie pop acclaim. Healthy servings of glittery guitars, synthetic drums, and illusory synths come together in this electronica jambalaya. After listening to the album, it’s hard to think of anything but an impromptu summer road trip. “The Sunshine of Your Youth” would fit comfortably on the record shelf next to a Phoenix’s “Bankrupt!” and Foster the People’s sensational “Torches”. The album balances pleasant boldness against dreaminess in a tip-toe fugue. “The Sunshine of Your Youth” is a 2015 year end list maker, for sure.
Since the release, Cheerleader has kept busy. Appearing at Firefly Festival and touring with The Wombats were certainly major highlights. They also released a video for “A Million Ways” which chronicles a summer adventure of young adults wandering the train tracks at the Reading Viaduct. Next up for Cheerleader is a super intimate show at Bourbon and Branch on February 12th. They’ll be joined by Surf Rock is Dead, and Suburban Living, a personal favorite of mine that I’ve interviewed in the past.
ALEXANDER PIRRO: Cheerleader has been quiet since the beginning of 2016. We’re anxiously awaiting something new. What’s in the works?
CHEERLEADER: We’re working on writing a new album, currently. We like to take our time, so it will probably be in the works for a while. Other than that, we’re lining up some more tour dates as we start to approach the warmer months.
AP: What was the concept/inspiration behind “The Sunshine of Your Youth” video?
C: I guess the general idea was nostalgia, particularly concerning growing up/childhood. I’m not sure whether or not we really captured these sentiments with the video, but I hope they came across.
AP: Your Spotify playlist is all over the place (in the best way possible). What are some of your favorite offbeat album choices during long drives on tour?
C: The Spotify playlist is all over the place because each member of the band comes from a pretty different place in terms of musical history/influence. Offbeat or strange albums? Hmm, I’m not sure that I can think of anything that came out recently… I guess Can “Tago Mago”, Animal Collective “Sung Tongs”, Brian Eno “Here Come the Warm Jets”, The Unicorns “Who Will Cut our Hair When We’re Gone?”, The Microphones “The Glow Pt. II”, Caetano Veloso self titled 1967 album, and The Feelies “Crazy Rhythms”. I don’t know if these are weird or off-beat, or that I am currently listening to any of them, but they’re all good records and coming to mind right now.
AP: What are some of your hobbies outside of music?
C: I know a lot of us like to exercise. Chris and I like to cook. I’m into wine and liquor for sure. We like outdoor adventures. Hanging with friends and family. Good movies. The usual.
C: All of us we’re particularly impressed with The Wombats skill as a performers. They sounded great, and looked great too.
AP: Jack White played a similar Airline Guitar in his White Stripes days (more specifically a red JB Hutto Montgomery Ward 1964 Airline, here’s a pic for proof). Any story behind your unique Airline guitar?
C: Yeah, I realized that Jack White played a similar guitar only after I purchased my own. Great company to be in though! I think I really just wanted a quality guitar that was unique – not just another jazzmaster or tele or SG or whatever.
AP: While stalking your Instagram, I noticed a picture of young Chris Duran playing a Jaminator. Not knowing what it was I looked up a video, and holy shit it’s amazing. How long did you play the Jaminator before switching to electric guitar, and you still have it?
C: Chris was pretty young in that photo, so I think his memory may be a little fuzzy. He remembers using the beats function of it more than the actual guitar feature. But who knows, maybe the jaminator will make an appearance on our next record!
AP: Are you aware of the Philly band Cheerbleeders? Do you think you could hold your own against them in an actual cheerleading contest?
C: Naw, they’d definitely have us beat on that front. Would be totally down to play with them though!