Music Sunday, March 12th

Q&A with Hay-on-Wye psycho pop band Cherryshoes

Music Sunday, March 12th

Q&A with Hay-on-Wye psycho pop band Cherryshoes

Haunting and hypnotic Cherryshoes sound like where they come from.

Residing in the shadow of The Black Mountains they combine the area's myth and magic with a darkness and sense of foreboding.

BBC Radio Wales's Adam Walton described the band as ‘hairs on the back of your neck stuff’ and he's right. It's reminiscent of early Goldfrapp and, with singer-songwriter LJ Nova's unexpected, eccentric edge, one of the most exciting sounds to come out of Herefordshire.

They've played T in the Park and Latitude, and lately collaborated with top draw Hay-on-Wye producer Jim Eliot, an industry insider who has written and produced for the likes of Foxes, Ellie Goulding, Will Young, and Kylie Minogue.

With their debut EP The Colour Red expected soon, we spoke to LJ and keyboard player Dave Prescott to find out what's next for the Hay-on-Wye six piece.  

Last year you played T in the Park, Nozstock and Latitude. Nice work. How was it?

Dave Prescott: We were chosen to play at T in the Park by the BBC’s Andrew Marston through BBC Introducing. It took 11 hours to get there in a minibus and the entire festival was knee-deep in mud. I mean just not a blade of grass to be seen. It was mad. When we arrived, we heard that an ATM had been nicked. I mean, who steals an ATM? The gig itself was in this huge tent, there were all these pro-sound people running around from the BBC. We were nervous, but the set went over pretty well, there was a really good response from the crowd – it was probably the biggest crowd we’ve played to so far. While we were there we had a chance to watch The Stone Roses, who were just epic, and this guy called ‘Ball-Eyed Paul’ came up to us and demonstrated that he could kick himself in the head. A few weeks later we played at Latitude. Quite a different experience.

What about the recording process. Is that a pretty straight forward business for you guys?

DP: It’s a massive cliché that these things take so much longer than you think, but you probably have to have a few false starts to learn the ropes. I think we’re getting there now with an EP. The recording is the easy bit – it’s the mixing, production and distribution that takes the time, and when there’s six of you everyone has their own opinions about how the song should sound. We’ve been unbelievably lucky to have had production input on a couple of songs from the legendary Jim Eliot, whose day job is to work with superstars like Ellie Goulding.

How did you come to work with Jim Eliot?

DP: A couple of us know Jim, who is based locally, and after a long time spent encouraging/badgering him to get involved. We did a gig with his band (Kish Mauve) at the Globe in Hay and then he came to one of our rehearsals which take place in the upstairs of a hay barn at Des’s place. It’s quite a magical place to rehearse, the whole space reverberates like a giant amp. Maybe seeing us up there in our natural habitat was enough to win Jim over. 

And getting airtime on national radio stations is a bit on the flattering side?

DP: 6 Music is such a great station, we’re so lucky to have it in this country. To be fair we’ve only been played a couple of times, but it’s a great thing to be able to say. Likewise, we were played on Radio 1. Really, I don’t know where bands would be without the BBC and this kind of leg-up. There’s so many bands out there these days, it’s so easy to make pro-sounding music with the likes of Garageband, but it’s harder than ever to make a living from it.

The BBC support is worth its weight in gold. 

You describe the band's sound as psycho pop. Tell us a bit about that sound, and about your songwriting process. 

LJ: Well if you strip it down to the bones, most of the songs are pop, got your classic structure, jingles and all. Psycho is the layer on top of the foundation - the left pull. That’s my take on it anyways.

DP: LJ writes the songs. She rocks up to rehearsals with these incredible demos then we all add our input to give them a Cherryshoes vibe. She’s just a song-writing machine, it’s incredible. One time Dave came down with pneumonia the night before a gig. LJ’s response, rather than figuring out which songs would work without the keys, was to write a new song (Test) which we opened with at the gig. Turns out it’s one of our most keyboard-heavy songs.

Who are you influenced by?

DP: It is hard to limit that to specific bands. It’s a bit of a mad mix really but generally I think a lot of us have quite a strong soft spot for punk, post-punk and New Wave. There’s maybe a smattering of 90s Indie in there too.

LJ: Too many, I actually don’t know where to begin with that. Des and Ade have an encyclopaedic knowledge of music stretching back decades, if not centuries. They will listen to anything from weird 1920's cinema soundtracks to death metal. On long journeys to gigs they will spend hours discussing just one song from 1962 from a band that no one has ever heard of apart from professional archivists. Rob dreams of the Cocteau Twins. Antoine is French, so who knows? Dave’s influences include Chopin, Smalltown Boy and Pale Blue Eyes.

What have you got lined up for 2017?

DP: We’re delighted to announce the release of 'Ride On' and 'Justice' online, and we’ve got a few more in the pipeline. We’re supporting a great Liverpool band called Joe Symes and the Loving Kind at Brecon Theatre in April. Hopefully there’ll be an EP soon, and then some festivals – there is talk of playing Wilderness this year, which would be amazing. We’re lucky to live around here because there’s a lot of well connected people scattered around the hills. Festival promoters, music industry legends and the like. So we try to work through these connections, it means that opportunities pop up for us at short notice.

An EP, awesome. Which is generally preferred, the studio work or performing live?

DP: Depends who you ask. LJ loves it all. Rob loves playing live. Dave is more of a studio guy. To be honest, we make some of our best music in the rehearsal space up at Des’s. But generally speaking, getting to hang out together making music is just great. It doesn’t really matter how or where.

Which bands would you love to appear on a bill with?

DP: Tricky one. John Grant is a legend of our time. Josephine Ohrn and the Liberation maybe. LJ has a list of mostly dead people: Brian Eno, Janis Joplin, Goat, CoCoRosie, Kate Bush, TomTom Club, Freddie Mercury, Scissor Sisters, Bjork, Together, David Bowie, Cocteau Twins, The Last Shadow Puppets, and everyone else I can’t think of right’s an endless list.

Cherryshoes singles Ride on and Justice are now available to download from Bandcamp, iTunes, and Spotify. They will be appearing at Brecon Theatre on April 29.

Tile and banner image: Cherryshoes

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