Cherub: Not typical Nashville
Cherub seems out of sync with most of the music coming out of Nashville, but the dance-pop duo certainly doesn’t mind. Songs such as “Monogamy,” “Doses & Mimosas” and “XOXO” shamelessly draw from the ’80s. Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber just released a new EP, Leftovers. We recently spoke to them on a conference call.
You were friends for a few years before forming the group. How did you first meet?
Jordan: We met in college. Jason was doing a lot of live performance and I was a studio rat who didn’t know how to take what I was doing to a live show. Jason knew how to do that and was extremely talented at it. Basically it was yin and yang. From there, we started touring.
What were you first impressions?
Jordan: My first impression was that he liked gadgets. I thought he was a gearhead. The first time I met him, he was smoking a bong and had a bunch of cool guitars that he had put together.
Jason: I always for some reason thought you were the jazz guitar guy. You had that hollow body and you played jazzy licks. I could not have been more wrong. You don’t know shit about what you play. You just play what you’re feeling.
Talk about your musical influences. Did you grow up listening to ’80s music?
Jordan: I like to say I was an ‘80s baby but the ‘90s raised me. I didn’t have parents that turned me onto music. Everything I found was due to me having a personal influence and finding music from previous decades. The best thing my dad ever gave me was a Rickie Lee Jones album. It had “Coolsville” on it and I loved that song.
She didn’t have synthesizers.
Jordan: No. There are no synthesizers but there’s great songwriting and that’s hugely important for us. Regardless of what soundscapes we use, we want to make sure that what we write about is something that connects with people in some way, whether they like it or hate it. Rickie Lee Jones has a lot of that. That’s for sure.
Jason: This doesn’t relate to ‘80s music, but we grew up with the radio. That was a great time for that — not just for straight-up pop music but also alternative rock music. There were bands classified as alternative writing great pop songs. We’ll throw on Alanis Morissette songs. I think that’s hilarious. I never assumed I would be singing along to those songs later. We like Vanessa Carlton. My parents introduced me to good songwriting stuff. Billy Joel, the Beatles and the Allman Brothers and stuff like that. They left me with an appreciation for good songs. It’s not necessarily having a trained ear but just knowing what you like and appreciating it.
Nashville isn’t known as a hotbed for electro-pop. Did you have trouble finding a foothold there?
Jason: We met at Middle Tennessee State University, which is about 35 or 40 minutes down the road. We wanted to get out of that small town as quickly as possible. Once we started playing some shows in Nashville, we got booked by some of our friends here. We made the commute enough times that it made sense to make the move. We made that move about four years ago now. It’s been the best move we’ve ever made. There’s so much music going on and professionals within the industry. There’s a lot going on up here. It’s a great place to have a home and tour out of.
Do you have a favorite bar?
Jordan: I drink more than Jason, but I have a couple that I like to go get shithoused at. One is Mickey’s in East Nashville. There’s nothing special about it but you don’t have to wait very long to get your drink and it’s a good price. I don’t know why people want to spend twice for drinks and then wait for them. All my favorite places are dive bars.
Talk a bit about the new EP and the approach you took.
Jordan: The new EP is stuff that didn’t make the Year of the Caprese album. It was all recorded during that time period. Our thought was that we would be starting on new music and if we didn’t put it out when we did, it would end up in a Pro Tools’ session that never saw the light of day. We wanted to get them out before we moved on.
“Dave’s Pickup Truck” is really funny. What inspired the song?
Jordan: We have a friend and it’s the only thing he owns. Well, except for his clothing company. He has a brand called Jiberish. It’s a red pickup truck and he’s a funny dude. It was worthy of a song.
Jason: I remember when you came up it. We had flown to Colorado and needed a truck for a couple of days. Dave let us borrow his truck and you came up with the lyric. I thought you were a crazy person at first but then it was stuck in my head and it was awesome.
Jordan: Jason had the blinker on and I was singing it on my phone and just knew it would be awesome for the album.
Is “Best Friend’s T-Shirt” based on a true story?
Jordan: Yeah. It’s about my senior year of high school. I had a bad experience with my best friend. I had a falling out.
Jason: I also threw my shoulder out and it’s about that. I don’t like to leave anything hidden there. The back half leads into “Saudia.”
I think it’s your first release for a major label. What has that experience been like?
Jordan: Year of the Caprese to Leftovers is our first outing. It’s really been enjoyable process. The whole creative aspect has been entirely uninhibited, which has been really awesome. [We have worked with] Nick Curtis on every single record and we did the Year of the Caprese cycle with him. Taking it to Columbia, we were wondering if we would have to bring on other producers. We’re proud it’s still a couple of friends working together. They’ve fostered our creativity and helped put it on another level. They didn’t come in and try to meddle. They’ve been really supportive.
If I remember, the live show was just the two of you. Is that still the case?
Jason: That’s my favorite part of the whole thing. Since day one, the whole idea behind how we set up the live show has been to break the concept of a DJ or producer with a giant light rig. We want to get up and be a band and get sweaty and touch everybody and have a lot of fun. From that point, it’s been about keeping things streamlined and clean. We can play on a tiny stage or a big stage. We can even play behind a DJ booth if we have to. Now, we’ve had the opportunity to take that live show and turn it into something bigger. Since day one, we’ve had ideas of a very grand live stage with other musicians and all sorts of gadgets and tricks and treats. Slowly, we’re getting to realize those ideas. With each album, we’re trying to bring something new and exciting to the stage.
The Strip To This Tour 2015
New York, NY; Terminal 5
Boston, MA; Paradise Rock Club
Lancaster, PA; Chameleon Club
Buffalo, NY; The Waiting Room
Cleveland, OH; Beachland Ballroom
Columbus, OH; The A&R Music Bar
Nashville, TN: Marathon Music Works
St Louis, MO – Old Rock House
Urbana, IL; The Canopy Club
Milwaukee, WI; The Pabst Theater
Chicago, IL; Concord Music Hall
Minneapolis, MN; First Avenue
Des Moines, IA; Wooly’s
Carbondale, IL; Hangar 9
Bloomington, IN; The Bluebird
Grand Rapids, MI; The Intersection
Pontiac, MI – Crofoot Ballroom