Sure, you can see established artists like Jay Z and Bruce Springsteen at SXSW. But to me, the most exciting thing about the festival is discovering new bands you’ve never seen before or even heard of.
During the ASCAP showcase at Bat Bar Wednesday night, a large crowed gathered on the street in front of the bar to listen to an energetic rock band I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more about over the next year: Los Angeles based band Cherri Bomb.
All-girl rock bands are rare to begin with….especially when the average age of the four band members is 14 and a half! Cherri Bomb includes: Julia, 14 (guitar), Miranda, 16 (guitar, keyboard) and sisters Nia, 15 (drums) and Rena, 13 (bass). Through online ads and flyers, Julia started putting the band together when she was just 11 years old. “It was hard to find girls my age who even played instruments,” she says.
From there, Julia says the band’s career evolved quickly. The band, which is making its SXSW debut, has now been together for almost four years and is getting ready to release its first full length CD in May. “We went from rehearsing once or twice a weekend to being home schooled and rehearsing every day. We went from playing covers in a really small music shop to performing at Reading Festival and Soundwave Festival in Australia.”
Cherri Bomb says a lot of the opportunities they’ve had are thanks to former Hole and Mötley Crüe drummer Samantha Maloney, who manages the band and helped the girls land a recording deal with Hollywood Records. “She has helped us with everything," Julia says. "In fact, within two weeks of her managing us, she got us on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins.”
Despite their ages, the girls have being playing music for more than half their lives. Rena jokes, “We’ve listened to music since before we were even born.”
When asked what it’s like to be so young in an adult industry, Rena says, “We don’t feel a lot different. I mean, we don’t go around thinking there are all these old people around us.” Julia adds: “You feel like you’re on their level. In a way, where there’s a shared respect there.”
Julia says the band is also very well supported by people who keep them grounded and out of harm’s way. “We’re surrounded by really great people who know their stuff and push us away from things that we don’t want to be involved in. Plus, our parents are really supportive.”
As far as being teenagers with full-time music careers, Miranda says, “We’re all home-schooled and, basically, our life is the band, so we don’t really have normal teen lives.” And they’re ok with that. But the girls say they still make time to hang out with friends and do some of the things regular teens do.
Being an all-girl rock band comes with some pre-conceptions they’re trying to shatter. “We’ve had some people say, ‘Dude you rock as hard as a guy,’” Rena says. Miranda says some people even ask if they really play their instruments. “It’s a great motivator that some people assume that we can’t play. So we’re like, you know what, we’re gonna show you,” explains Nia, who could give any guy a run for his money on drums.
“I think a lot of people who watch us realize we are rock ‘n’ roll ,and we’re not like any other young group who plays pop or the main stream. We’re doing what we want to do and we love it,” Julia says.
Cherri Bomb’s first full length CD coming out in May is called This is the End of Control. Regarding the title, Julia says: “Some people want to change us and we’re here to say that we’re not gonna let anyone control us or stop us from what we want."
I asked the girls how they’ve honed their performance skills and they gave me an answer that reflects the unpretentious honesty of their youth. “We practice in front of the mirror all the time. We study what we’re comfortable doing and also what’s larger than life,” Julia says. Miranda quickly adds: “And we tell each other what looks stupid!”
Nia explains the overall message that Cherri Bomb is trying to convey with their music. “A lot of it is about empowerment. We’re trying to send out a positive message: You can be any age, you can be any gender and you can still do what you love. There are no limitations.”
It seems the sky is the limit for these four talented teens who are impressing audiences with their maturity and groundedness. They are, however still proving that they don’t take themselves too seriously while staying, refreshingly, kids.