I did a short review of the new Cherubs record 2 Ynynyty a couple weeks ago. After almost twenty years, the seminal Austin, TX noise rock three-piece has reunited to blast out a poignant, confident, heavy ten-song collection that picks up right where they left off, albeit with higher fidelity. The first pressing of the preorder sold out immediately, if that's any indication of how people feel about the record, though the marketing behind it capitalized on the zeitgeist of music in a digital age. You want to be sure you'll like the album before purchasing? Okay, game on. Brutal Panda Records lets you stream the album in advance, a tactic that surely paid off, rewarding listeners old and new to simply trying something. (stream is at the bottom of this interview too)
And that's where the band gets a lot of its success. Cherubs isn't the reunion band coming back to "save rock n' roll!" Matter of fact, Cherubs seem pretty okay with the gradual relegation of the genre. There's an underlying understanding that people, places, and things change and it isn't bad - it just is. Obviously, when you take twenty years between albums a lot is different. Here are a few things I can think of. The last time Cherubs released an album, there was no sense of wariness that an airplane would end up in a skyscraper rather than on a runway. The last time Cherubs released an album, the majority of people still bought encyclopedias to look things up. The last time Cherubs released an album, Anakin Skywalker never had the chance to be a moody teenager who liked Natalie Portman's skin because it wasn't at all like sand (spoiler alert!).
So things change. People change. Industries change. And even if you can find similarities between the sound of Cherubs' music now and 20 years ago, you can be certain that the band has changed. The album stream is at the bottom of the interview by the way.
Jordan Reyes: Let's start with an obvious question. You guys haven't put out a Cherubs record in close to twenty years. Why the resurrection act?
Cherubs: We're still here. Still around each other. Still drawn to the same core soul of things we've always been drawn to. Some tangible dark thing that is not nasty or evil or gross - just dark. And the songs, providing a nice moist growth medium to fester, just started to grow. And it seems like these specific tastes came back around just as we were doing it. So - maybe more a fortunate confluence of variables than a resurrection. Or maybe these poor dark people just needed some sustenance. Takes a lot of water to wet a rock so dry
JR: Are you surprised that you're getting the reaction that you are? Seems like a lot of people are very, very excited about the record, myself included.
Cherubs: Well, yes. We just figured that this kind of music was dead. It's rock, which is pretty antiquated. It is not the fresh sound of today. It feels pretty dirty and unkempt. Maybe the positive reaction is a gut rebellion against pristine pop for now people. We don't really know. We like the record ourselves - but that doesn't always translate to the consuming public. We are itchy cavemen - there must be more of those out there than was previously thought.
JR: As long as it's been, you guys sound comfortable and confident as all get out on 2 Ynfynyty. Had these songs been rolling around your heads for a while? How long had you been working on the record?
Cherubs: We'd been demoing and tinkering for a couple years before we got serious. These final ideas were culled from about three times as many - then bludgeoned into songs. Some came out finished (crashing the ride), some took some finessing (sandy on the beach), some had been around but needed to simply be interpreted (Sunday Mondays), some were hacked at until they were unrecognizable and left for dead (party ice), some were monsters that needed to be fed (we buy gold), and some were gems that just needed to be held up to the light (monkey chow mein).
Cherubs: We had the same ol’ difficulties - being cooped up together and making aesthetic decisions together is hard for us and we had to go round and round some. And we had to stomp out and come back. There were some magic moments, and some flat out jank bullshit that had to get sorted. In retrospect, it went down very similarly to the Heroin Man sessions. We broke up a couple times then too, but we kissed and made up and got the shit done.
JR: Tell me a little bit about the lyrics on this record. What ideas were on your mind while writing them?
Cherubs: Watching someone you love bottle up and go away - never to return. Watching someone you love slowly destroy themselves. Watching yourself turn into something empty and not be able to do anything about it. Finding strength in primal, animal forces. Finding strength in stubborn pride. The freedom of letting petty first world problems go. The realization that you have to put your whole unvarnished self into the fire if you want to get something true and lasting forged. Man against man, man against nature, where’s my Coke that I hid in the fridge, heading back to Home Depot for the right toilet part, who's picking up the kids, what the fuck can we make out of these three stupid things for dinner. Am I just a cloud? Shit like that.
JR: The cover of the record is a golden balloon and the name is 2 Ynfynyty (I assume pronounced "To Infinity"). Both the image and name seem kind of hopeful to me, which isn't typically a feeling I would associate with noise rock. Do you think there's an element of hope on this record and do you think the name/cover are parts of that?
Cherubs: You are dead on. It's all about spirit and hope. Really, all our music is. Our music is the intersection where exasperation/desperation is churning into hope. It's the grinding of gears to get into low to get up the mountain. We are not mean, or dark for dark sake - everything we do is full of hope. We may just toil in the dirty cave instead of out in the light. We are a necessary counterpoint to rainbow brite.
JR: I'm curious about 90s Texas noise rock. What was the community like? Did you guys find yourselves competing with other bands or was it more of a collaborative experience?
Cherubs: We didn't really hang out with other bands. We were consciously apart and we were serious about our mystery. We wanted to be good and we thought that the more we worked and stayed out of the scene, the more explosive we would be when we showed up. We may not have acted like it, we were probably very coy - but we were very competitive. We felt like that the only way we would get better was if we were kicking everybody's ass. And we got our asses kicked a lot - but we kicked some too. Now we try to surprise and impress ourselves - we are extremely snobby and uppity about noise. How ridiculous is that. Brilliant.
JR: Have you guys been living in Texas the whole time since you had last recorded music? Were there any particular important musical experiences you've encountered there that influenced this album?
Cherubs: We've just been writing and writing and writing. We got cut short and we're picking up where we left off. We want to put out things that feel important to us and that might make a difference to others. There is nothing like being blown away and inspired by musical output. Just when you think nothing can surprise you or cut you to the quick - bam, something comes along that tears you asunder. We would like to have that effect on people. And hopefully we will. If we can get healthy, we will play live somehow, and we'll certainly keep putting out records. We're working on new material right now - so we're not going to disappear again for a bit.