Like so many great bands, Cheerleader started in a basement. Original members Chris Duran and Joe Haller started as good buds, solidifying their musical connection after an impromptu jam session with each other. They've got a fantastically insouciant sonic aesthetic coated in layers of emotion and optimism. It's as if they objectively view the topics that they sing about, injecting a hint of wistfulness that really draws listeners in. And Haller sings with this great, Noel Gallagher-esque affectation; it's effortlessly cool.
Now a long way from Chris' parents' basement, Cheerleader is prepping to release the follow up to 2014's acclaimed On Your Side EP: their debut LP, The Sunshine of Your Youth on May 19th via Bright Antenna Records.
Chris was nice enough to chat with me about how Cheerleader got where they are, and where they want to go next. Read Baeble's exclusive interview, and watch the videos for "The Sunshine of Your Youth" and "New Daze" below.
Baeble: So, you and Joe started out in your parents' basement. Was it musical from the very beginning? Or were you guys just chillin' back in those days?
Chris: We met sophomore year in highschool, when Joe moved to town. The first night that we ever hung out, I don't know why but we ended up recording a cover of Alice Deejay, "Better Off Alone," but I don't think we played together again until around a year later. After that, though, everything that we did musically involved both of us. It was definitely strong friendship first, music afterwards.
Give me a little insight into how Cheerleader became a five-piece. Did you know that's what you were going for? Or did it happen more serendipitously?
I would say it was more by chance. When Joe and I were first writing these songs, we were just using Garage Band and a busted Apple laptop and to make the songs sound good, we loaded them up with tracks. So when we went to release them, we were getting asked by clubs and venues to come play live and we were like, "Well, we don't have a band, so we can't." It was really out of necessity, putting a group together.
I'm a nineties baby, and I detect a hint of nineties flavor, even dare I say alternative in the Cheerleader sound. Where does that come from? Who were some of your favorite bands back then that inspired you?
Growing up it was Green Day, Dookie for sure, and also Offspring, Smash. Nirvana became a pretty huge influence at a young age, too. And then you get older and you find even more great stuff that your favorite bands were influenced by and you just keep going back. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless, Crooked Rain, Modest Mouse, and definitely Built To Spill.
As a relatively recent college graduate missing simpler times, I connected with the title track off of the album. Was that song written about specific times that you guys wished you could relive? Or is it more symbolic?
It's largely symbolic. And if we're doing our jobs right it will mean different things to different people. It's supposed to be about an emotional connection that will resonate nostalgically. It's one of those things that you just know when you hear it. There were definitely specific things that we were going through that led to those feelings and that mood, but I think it's better when you don't color it too specifically.
That song recently reached number one on the Alternative Specialty Radio chart. That must have felt pretty amazing, right?
Yea that was super cool. It definitely took us by surprise, but it felt great.
You've said that the The Sunshine of Your Love LP was written during some pretty trying times. So, why the sweet, optimistic sound? Was that a way of dealing with some of those issues?
That's exactly it. I think it was on a personal level and also on a larger scale. Joey and I were reflecting on different things like the current state of music and how it's so often cynical and ironic, and we wanted to be positive and stand for something. It came from that a little bit, and maybe I'm waxing poetic too much, but it was also for us. The music had to pass our test and get us excited, but it was also almost a 'laugh to keep from crying' kind of thing.
A lot of people are calling your sound things like "hazy" and "sunny," and then there's the cover art on your upcoming LP. Is this all symbolic? Or are your guys actually sun-washed beach bums?
We're not the most visually-oriented group of people. But you just hope that people can look at your album artwork or whatever it may be and get a rough idea of what you're going for. If it's effective, it can prepare listers for what they're about to hear.
2014 was a huge year for Cheerleader. From the release of the On Your Side EP to the extensive touring that you did, it seems like it was all a bit of a hurricane. Has it sunk in yet that people like your music and that you're doing this for real?
(laughs) Believe it or not, I'm gonna say no. We're just moving so quickly that we haven't really had time to think about it. There are definitely moments where we're like, "Well this is really cool," but it's difficult to realize as it's happening. It's especially overwhelming when we're on stage, but then when we see pictures the next morning we'll be like, "Holy shit! That was awesome!" We're generally just super appreciative and couldn't be more grateful for our achievements so far.
The On Your Side EP was very well-received, but it seemed like there was more that you guys wanted to say. Do you think the upcoming LP will represent that continuation?
We had more ideas that will definitely show up in the LP; it's broader in that respect. We're excited to get it out there.
What are Cheerleader's goals for 2015?
We made our first songs in a basement in Connecticut three years ago and a lot has happened since then. We're continuing to learn and grow, and we're focusing heavily on the live act so that we can give people the best show possible. And of course, we want to write songs that people can really connect with.
Pre-order Cheerleader's debut LP, The Sunshine of Your Youth, here.