The DC based rock band CHERRY AMES have been kicking around for a couple years now, with a handful of singles and EP’s under their belt. Their latest EP “No Brakes” feels like a fully realized vision of their 90’s indebted sound – guitars are tuned beyond recognition and feedback swirls liberally, invoking Daydream Nation era Sonic Youth comparisons and the raw combination of shoegaze and punk that The Swirlies weilded so expertly. Today, we’re thrilled to give you its first full listen, along with special track by track commentary below.
Cherry Ames is a Washington, DC-based indie rock trio that welds psychedelia, shoegaze and noise into a melodic, loud, gorgeous, sonic pigpile. Theirs is a powerful wall of sound, propelled by Matt and Jamie’s fuzzed-out, alternatively tuned guitars and driving basslines, and Trae’s powerful, virtuosic, and musical drumming. Like all of their past releases, their latest EP, No Brakes, is a DIY affair, crafted at the band’s own Nellcote studios in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Formed in 2016, Cherry Ames’s sound recalls the dark dreampop of Swervedriver, Slowdive, Lush, and My Bloody Valentine; the guitar chicanery of classic American indie groups like Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth; the confessional lyrics and songcraft of Guided by Voices, Car Seat Headrest, and Wilco; and the progressive exploration of Coheed and Cambria, and …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead– all infused with the Sonic DNA of classic DC acts like Fugazi, Jawbox and Shudder to Think.
Track by track commentary:
Angel 5 – Fittingly, the first song on Cherry Ames’ first EP was also the first song played at their first live show, Matt and Jamie’s first songwriting collaboration, and Trae’s first song as drummer. Angel 5 soars with hazy, shoegaze guitars, tribal tom fills, and Jamie’s passionate vocal. Jamie’s romantic lyrics draw upon his honeymoon to Portugal and the feeling of flying to a new place, the exhilaration and nervousness of looking out of an airplane window and knowing that soon you’ll be in a foreign world.
No Brakes – The title track somehow manages to showcase Cherry Ames at their heaviest, dreamiest, and most orchestral in just over six minutes- and hints toward continued exploration in the band’s future. The pummeling opening riff and machine-gun drumming give way to galloping verses drenched with echo-laden guitars, before collapsing into a space interlude that spotlights Trae’s operatic vocals and superhumanly in-the-pocket drumming. Jamie’s lead vocal exudes urgency, matching the lyrical theme of relentless forward progress and the power of breakneck speed.
Bad Moon Rose – The title is an homage to Sonic Youth and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Both sensed the dread lurking beneath the American dream, but unlike 1968 or 1985, the bad moon is no longer rising– It has risen. Matt’s lyrics see the promise of a more connected world devolved into a techno-dystopia where strangers are bitter enemies, people are products, and attention is of any kind is its own reward. Musically, this is another one of Cherry Ames’ earliest collaborations between Matt and Jamie, whose guitars seamlessly trade lead and rhythm parts, while Trae’s propulsive drumming channels Steve Shelly.
Best Wishes – Trae and Jamie brought most of this track’s structure to Cherry Ames from their project Little Hunts, with Matt’s vibrato-soaked guitar adding color and texture. Showcasing a more reserved and intimate side of the band, Best Wishes builds momentum from its contemplative intro to a cathartic, Mogwai-inspired crescendo. Taking the EP’s perspective from outside observation to self-examination, Jamie’s lyrics were inspired by the memories of languid and lonely summers, an all-too-relatable feeling during 2020. Looking back on past mistakes is difficult; learning to forgive others much less oneself can be painful but ultimately freeing and joyful.
Golden Boy – In some early dates, “Golden Boy” joined “Bad Moon Rose” as part of the “Everything is Fucked” trilogy inspired by the 2016 election. Living in DC, the nightmare has been especially palpable. Shortly after the election, there was this sense of unity and defiance that has since faded to numbness and resignation to fate– or worse, calls to a revolution that would accomplish nothing but create more suffering. But whether the world goes out with a bang or a whimper, Cherry Ames will go out in a cacophony of swirling guitars and pounding drums. Live, Golden Boy’s middle section morphs into a psychedelic jam known to stretch several minutes, so to hear the best part you’ll have to see them live.
Phase Out – It wouldn’t be right for a DC band to overlook their hometown’s punk heritage, and Cherry Ames’ addition to the DC punk canon serves as an exclamation point to their debut EP. Phase Out is a song long honed by Jamie and Trae, finally made complete by Matt’s wild roaring lead guitar. When the pandemic hit, all three members added contributions to Trae’s demos remotely, lending this track immediacy and rawness. Jamie’s lyrics are a rallying cry to anyone who has been treated like an outsider or lesser-than by the cool kids’ club. In increasingly divisive times, we must support each other with love and empathy rather than tearing each other down over perceived status and legitimacy.