February 11th, 2014 | Interviews

aaron giesel

L.A.’s Cherry Glazerr are the new wave of the new wave of Burger Records, with a debut LP recorded by the very able Joel Jerome (of dios and Acid Babies) and a Syd Barrett-by-way-of-Silver Lake-garage-pop sound that’s all the rage in the world of high fashion. Naturally, we could think of only one man who could grapple with such a complicated phenomenon—Steve McDonald, teenage (and later post-teenage) bassist of the immortal Redd Kross and the invincible Off!, as well as producer and pop historian extraordinaire. This interview took place between school getting out and sound check starting up, which is pretty much perfect.

Two of my most dreaded things are when someone shows up to the interview and are like, ‘I don’t have questions written down, I’m just gonna wing it.’ And ‘I just heard your new record!’ Two of the worst things, and I’m already guilty! But I did listen to your record and I really enjoyed it. And I figure we should start with some basic origin kind of questions. Cherry Glazerr: how did you begin?
Clementine Creevy (guitar/vocals): I started making songs about a year and a half ago. Just demos. Then Paige from Tashaki Miyaki met my mom in a coffee shop. My mother overheard her talking about playing drums and was like, ‘You play music? My daughter ALSO plays music!’
‘Imagine that!’
C: ‘You should talk to my daughter!’ And Paige was really cool so …
Were you already familiar with her music?
C: I wasn’t, but I knew Burger Records and her band had been around for a year or two, and they were playing shows. So I met Paige and she and Joel helped me record.
That’s Joel Jerome Morales, if he uses that, of the band dios. Local celebs.
C: Dios is awesome. Sean’s a big fan.
Sean Redman (bass): He’s got a new group. Joel Jerome and the Acid Babies.
He’s a local visionary. From listening to the record, I think he did a great job. Speaking of Burger, I got a Burger cassette of you guys from a year ago—so maybe a half-year into your founding?
C: Half a year after I started making songs, but we didn’t actually form til after the tape came out.
Were there auditions?
C: No, Hannah goes to my school and we just started jamming.
Hannah Uribe (drums): This is when I was just playing drums on some of the songs. I did drums for ‘Glenn the Dawg’ and ‘Bloody Bandaid,’ and by then we’d established a little partnership. And we also did ‘Pizza Monster.’
I recognize a couple songs from the tape—and that’s good that I recognize them on first listen! Are they the same versions?
C: We re-recorded four, we kept ‘Teenage Girl’ and a couple, and then did four new songs.
I heard some evolution. Is ‘White’s Not My Color’ a new one? You can tell the band is a little more of a unit now. And ‘Haxel Princess’—what is that? Besides the title of the new album.
[Conspicuous silence]
You don’t have to answer this one.
S: There’s no story.
I didn’t get a chance to look it up.
C: It’s not a word. It’s made-up—a fictional word.
It sounds like Paxil. ‘Maybe Clementine wanted “Paxil Princess”?’
S: I kept thinking it was ‘Hacksaw Princess.’ I was like, ‘Yea, bad-ass! Let’s go with it!’
C: We should’ve changed it! Why didn’t you say that?!
You can save that for later! But what is a cherry glazer?
C: She’s an NPR reporter on KCRW.
H: But she spells it differently. Glaser. And the way she says it is kind of indecipherable. Like ‘Sherry Glaser?’ It’s hard to tell.
It almost sounds racy. But maybe I’m just a dirty old man.
C: No, a lot of people say that!
S: It’s sorta become a verb. ‘Yeah, cherry glazin’…’
Maybe an artisinal weed strain. ‘Yeah, I got some cherry glazer, some sour diesel…’
S: My favorite Gatorade flavor is Glacier Cherry.
The new record—is this your first thing on vinyl?
H: Yeah, we did just tapes last time.
C: It’s pretty much our debut LP. The last one, people categorized as an EP. Eight songs but all like a minute and a half.
The new one is 25 minutes, and that’s right on for my tastes—concise and strong. Did you all go to school together?
C: Yeah—SAT prep!
And Sean graduated?
C: No, he’s 22.
S: I moved to L.A. from Seattle in 2011 and I went to music school at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. I played bass for a while and did audio engineering, and that was sort of my route into Los Angeles. I don’t really represent it as an alumni at all.
There’s kind of a stigma on that place, but I’m sure that’s left over from the hair metal days. You’d always see like Asian kids walking down Hollywood Boulevard with their guitars.
S: It’s still that! Like 80s hair metal revivalists from all over the world who come to shred. Pay eight grand a quarter to shred and try and look cool.
So like hammer-on clinics? That’s cool. And recording facilities.
S: That was more valuable for my education.
I remember you telling me about your curriculum at high school. It sounded pretty groovy.
H: It is pretty groovy. Project-based learning. It teaches you to work with other people. It’s not test focused so we don’t take a lot of tests. We do lots of projects and present them.
C: It’s very highly progressive. Today we talked about multiculturalism and sexism in science and all that jazz. They showed videos of … like in Germany there was a video that was banned that was trying to get women into science, and it was like three chicks walking in heels—like, ‘HYDROGEN!’ [Mimics techno drumbeat.] And holding a beaker.
And that’s supposed to appeal to females? With the dance beat?
C: It’s supposed to promote women in science, but it was sexist itself.
Was this made in the 90s?
C: No, last year! And it got banned.
Were you offended?
C: Yes—
H: We didn’t do this in our class.
They had to separate you?
H: Ha ha—no, but I have been separated from my friends. I’m way too old to be separate from my friends!
What do people at school think about you?
C: It’s kind a joke!
H: ‘Heyyyyyy, Cherry Glazerr!’
C: A few kids in grades below are into us.
Do they idolize you?
C: Maybe three people, total. They’re nice. They comment on our Instagram pictures, is about all the interaction there is. They’re cool. I was walking a few months ago to my car and some 8th grader was all like, ‘Uhhhhhhhhh—I LIKE YOUR BAND!’ Aw, thank you kid—that’s so cool!
Are there other bands at your school?
H: Oh yeah—like 80% of the school are musicians. They’re not necessarily in bands, but they all play music and are pretty musical.
C: We don’t even have a football team. Our school is hippie-dippie arts oriented. Everybody’s an art kid. Everybody’s very creative.
You’re in high school now—are you gonna go to university? In other towns? Is the future in jeopardy? Is the band a priority?
C: That’s something we grapple with every single day at school. Cuz we have a lot on our plate every day, and as our band gets more popular, it gets harder to do our chemistry homework.
Do you play school nights?
H: We try not to cuz it’s very difficult.
I identify with this—I did this myself.
H: Our teachers totally support us, but they won’t let us use that excuse. We can’t get there late like, ‘I had a gig.’
C: ‘Good for you, but get to school on time!’
So they still encourage music—‘Just keep your crap together, kid!’
H: We’re just able to manage. It’s not really that easy on weekdays. Especially this year. It wasn’t as difficult last year.
SAT time?
H: Yes.
C: I do all my prep with my tutor.
H: Wildwood students aren’t very good at testing so we aren’t very good at tests. We’re known for it. We’re good at projects. So lots of people have tutors for the SAT cuz it’s a very specific test. You have to learn how to take it.
Do you feel pressured?
C: I would like to do well on my SATs!
H: I have an app that’s an SAT question a day!
You’re obviously very serious about taking the SAT—are you as serious about Cherry Glazerr?
C: It’s difficult. The hardest question: ‘Are we gonna have to choose between college and the band?’
Well, what ambitions do you have? Like if a major label pounded down your door tomorrow and said, ‘We wanna plaster your image everywhere, we’re gonna make millions with you guys—‘
C: That’s my ultimate dream! I want it to be my career and it’s the best thing in the world and I wanna do it the rest of my life. I’d choose it over school but my parents are like, ‘Go to college, go to college …’ They’re telling me it’s up to me, but they definitely push toward education. And if I go to school in L.A., I’ll be able to do both. They’re like, ‘It’s your choice.’ I have the option.
H: My parents are pretty similar. I got 15 out of 25 on a math test and I sent that to them and they were like, ‘Oh my God, congratulations!’ As long as I do my best and it’s whatever makes me happy, they’re like, ‘Just do it.’ They’re not so school-driven. When I got two Cs, they were like, ‘Aw, you’re amazing!’ It’s really nice having them as a support system. I feel I do better cuz they’re not drilling me so hard. It motivates me to wanna do better by myself. It’s really nice having them support me this way.
Do you feel the same way as Clementine about music as a career?
H: I do but it worries me—it can go either way. Either be really successful or incredibly unsuccessful.
And what are the odds on success?
H: That’s what I say. When I think about the odds, that’s so worrisome. Music is what I’m passionate about, but I also wanna do other things. I love creative things. Things on the computer, editing films—
So you can make the videos?
H: I’ve been experimenting. I definitely know how to film and I figured out Final Cut with tutorials on YouTube. Some nerdy guy going like, ‘OK! Now what you’re gonna wanna do …’
C: You wanna learn to rollerblade? YouTube. Ableton? YouTube.
It’s true. I do recording and I often look at YouTube tutorials. It’s a nice thing for your generation. So I asked a sort of pointed questions about the mainstream—like the major label, being really exposed. But then there are examples of people who are really successful and then most people who don’t ever earn any money. For me growing up, it was a different time. ‘A different time, kids!’ But there was never a middle class in rock ‘n’ roll. The mainstream thing was like … you’re not gonna make money for a long time, you’ll put money in and never make any money and put in all this time and then the idea is it’s gonna break and get huge and be all over MTV—this is when MTV played videos—and the record is gonna sell a lot. That was also a very different economy. And that’s what you were gonna bank on, and if that didn’t happen … you could always flip burgers. But now it’s different. Artists are kind of forced to do more on their own. Like their own videos! And you can do it—with YouTube and Final Cut. But mainly in my experience, it seems to boil down to being on the road a lot. And that’s the life of the musician. It’s like the life of old jazz musicians. One night stands.
C: We have yet to go on tour. But that appeals to me. I wanna get a van ASAP. The whole experience I feel would be just so amazing, especially for the first time.
So you wanna see the world, meet the people—maybe not sleep on the floor?
H: I wouldn’t really care.
What if they have lots of cats and put you by the catbox?
H: I don’t like cats that much so that might be a problem.
So you wanna go to the people, connect with the people but keep the sound—what if Big Daddy Records comes and is like …
H: ‘You should sound like Kings of Leon?’
‘We got the sound, and you got the look!’ ‘You fit the Johnny Bravo suit’ is what they said back in the day.
C: Protecting our creativity and being able to have total creative control is the most important thing to us.
How involved were you in the recording of the record? Some songs are very different than other songs—like different moods.
S: Personally I think this album is like a collage. There were four songs we recorded—after I learned all the songs from the tape—and when I listen to it now, I think there are parts we all wanna change. But I like the fact that we’ve been a band twice as long now as we were when the debut was first recorded. It doesn’t sound like us live now but the response has been good.
C: Surprisingly good! I was like, ‘Oh my God, people are gonna hate it! Oh my God, I’m so stressed!’
S: We were so green and new in a studio—we just tried! It was fun. There were some headaches, but working with Joel was a very carefree experience. We’d always ask, ‘So how was that?’ and he’d say, ‘What do you think?’
The old mirror routine!
S: Completely unbiased.
H: We love Joel.
We’re from the same hometown—Hawthorne, California. Also home to the Beach Boys. I’ve known Joel a long time, and I think he did a great job. The perfect hands for you guys. Also my own opinion, when it’s a young band in the studio and they’re happy but feel there’s more they can do—that makes you hungry for the next record.
C: We’re very eager to record the next record. We’re eager to record an album and push it. Our first song, we just recorded. It sounds good. We’re excited. A demo.
For another label?
S: It’ll make sense in a month or two.
What inspires you to make music? Other musicians? Do you have anything in common musically—like on an imaginary tour, what music would you play in the van?
H: I feel we have lots of bands in common. We go to the same shows. We just went to Froth’s record release.
C: Froth—they kill it! They’ve been around as long as us, or not quite as long. Wax Children, Corners, La Luz—they’re from Seattle.
So you’re inspired by your contemporaries?
S: Our friends! We always show each other what we’re listening to.
Sounds supportive. You’re not competitive with them?
S: No—it’s just incredible the reception we got from other L.A. bands who were older than us and had been doing it longer and trying really hard for years. And we sort of caught a break. And I thought for a while they’d hold it against us and shove us off, but they embraced us and love our music and love hanging out with us. Especially the Lolipop Records guys! It’s cool. We just get off on each other’s music all the time. It’s not competition. We’re not trying to one up the other guys.
H: We’re just genuinely super into the bands!
C: There’s a great scene now.
In L.A.?
C: Echo Park, Silver Lake, East L.A.
It’s a neat time to come up. Who’s an older artist who you maybe love their music but also what they’ve done with their career and how they progressed? What is success to you?
C: That’s interesting. I’ve never thought about that before. Like modeling our career after another one of my influences? I have so many. Syd Barrett is one of my influences, but I don’t wanna go that direction. St. Vincent is killing it! She’s so great. Man, she’s a great guitar player!
She started in the Polyphonic Spree playing guitar. Imagine hiding that talent in that gigantic orchestra of … hippies. What would you do if your label wanted you up there with Beyonce?
C: That’d be so rad—I love Beyonce.
H: I love Beyonce, too.
S: That’s kind of anticipating a completely revolutionized lifestyle. I don’t think any of us wanna be celebrities.
H: The celebrity lifestyle is a very difficult thing to live. If you’re as big as Beyonce, you can’t go anywhere without being bombarded by fans and everybody. You can’t go to the supermarket and pick up some cereal without everyone trying to take a picture and get an autograph.
C: ‘I just want some cereal!’
H: Our friends are awesome. I dunno if I’d be happy not being able to walk into a supermarket and do everyday things.
C: I think about the Arcade Fire a lot—how they’re at a level of fame I wanna be at. People say like, ‘Oh, so you’re in a cool band—that’s why you’re famous.’ Not like Kim Kardashian, and that’s why your famous. Be in a great band that’s somewhat recognized. Not like everyone recognizes the lead singer.
H: Yeah, everyone in the supermarket knows Beyonce—‘THAT IS BEYONCE!’ They wouldn’t be like that for the lead singer of the Arcade Fire.
Or especially not the drummer.
C: Or the eighteen percussion players.
That’s an interesting point for your generation. You wanna be recognized for your band, as opposed to Kim. You’re in the post-Paris Hilton era where lots of people have Instragram and are ‘narrowcasting’ and everyone gets their agenda out there just to get recognition. Now a lot of people are famous just for being famous. That’s a big part of culture nowadays, and that’s what you’re immersed in. And you want to get success under those conditions—
H: We could also just wear masks on stage! No one would ever know who we are!
Clementine is like, ‘Bring it on! Bring on the billboards!’ But you’re a little more concerned with losing anonymity …
S: Personally, I’d be OK with being recognized as long as its recognition for making something.
H: As opposed to having sex with Ray Jay.
Kids nowadays and their sex tapes!
S: We do respect bands that conceal their identities. It lets the music speak for itself in such a special way, and people aren’t focused on the details of their sex life or whatever the gossip is. The music stands for itself. That’s something I don’t think we’ll really achieve—people already know what we look like!
And you’re a great looking band, too! But I get the sense you’re serious. You feel like you have something to say and you wanna get it out there.
C: I think I’ll always be writing songs, always be making music. I’ve been writing songs since I was like 7, and playing guitar since I was a little kid. I’ve always been obsessed. I used to stand on the dinner table and sing.
You feel like a lifer?
C: Yeah, and if we totally fall apart and Cherry Glazerr ends and I’m never in another band again, I’m still gonna be writing songs. I’m always gonna do it cuz it’s just what I do. I feel best when I’m doing that.