Interview: Cherub

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Who doesn’t love 90s R&B jams?

Even the most hardcore metal head has a little soft spot for some smoothness from the 90s. The music was fun, fresh, danceable and most importantly it always, always had a great hook to it.

So, are we surprised that two talented guys living in Nashville turned their love from this era and turned into it a very successful and fun musical career? The answer is no, of course. So it should come to us as no surprise as to why the duo of Jason Huber and Jordan Kelly, better known as Cherub, have been having a massive year. Their record, The Year of the Caprese rocketed up the iTunes charts immediately upon release, their song “Doses and Mimosas” has become an absolute must on satellite radio and the duo has become a staple in the outdoor festival scene, garnering spots on both Made in America and Bonnaroo this year.

We caught up with Cherub’s Jason Huber (who may be one of the nicest people we’ve interviewed in a long time) last week to discuss the band’s recent success, Mariah Carey Christmas jams and their upcoming performance on Sunday, September 28, at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Photo Credit: Sami Drasin
Photo Credit: Sami Drasin

Congratulations on all the success, a lot of chart topping stuff for the Caprese album, “Doses & Mimosas” doing great on iTunes, playing all the festivals. Does the success feel weird? Like it’s not happening to you? Or is it hitting you guys well?

Jason Huber: We try to not pay attention to it. We stay really busy. We’ve constantly been touring for a little over four years now. So we really just try to stay busy, and stay focused on what we’re doing, and not really get caught up playing any sort of numbers game. It gets really frustrating trying to just pay attention to a bunch of numbers going up and down, and up and down, and figuring out what they all mean. It stifles the creativity of things, and the magic of it all. You don’t pay attention to all the things that are going on around us that we’re so lucky get to experience. So we try to not focus on playing the numbers game, and try to just enjoy what’s happening.

Has there been a moment while touring, I mean like I said Bonnaroo Made in America, where you guys just walk out on stage and it’s just you have had this moment of “Wow I can’t believe this is happening to us?”

Cherub - Press Photo 3 by Sami Drasin - HI RES

Jason Huber: Yeah, we call those the pinch yourself moments. It’s where you have to take a step back or pull yourself out of the moment and be like “Wow, this is crazy right now.” We had one last night.  Right now we are on our first bus tour, our first headlining tour where we rented a tour bus, and we’re some big boys now with the whole crew going around with us. And we realized that a year ago at this same time Jordan and I were driving ourselves around in my Xterra touring. It was literally just the two of us, that was a pinch yourself moment. The first one we ever had was when we were on our first real extended tour ever, and we were standing on a balcony looking at the Pacific Ocean in Mexico, and we were like “Wow this is crazy. What are we doing right now? This is awesome.” We try to stay focused, but every once in a while you have to just take a step back and be like damn things are crazy right now. Bonnaroo was one of those, this was my ninth year at the festival, and I love that place. So being on stage with that many people there with us was amazing. We had another one in Latvia recently that was really crazy too just because we were so far from home, and there were people singing along the words with us. They barely spoke English, but they still sang along and it’s just cool.

Since we’re talking a lot about live experiences right now, can you talk to me about the Cherub live experience. You have an electronic-based song and in terms of live performances, I’m predisposed to seeing a full four or five piece band and knowing what I’m going to expect. But this is just you two guys on stage, or is there more to it?

Jason Huber: It’s just the two of us on stage. We try to kind of blend what people expect with a traditional rock ‘n’ roll band with a newer school approach to music performance that’s happening with DJs and all of these bands that are taking electronic instruments on stage. We try to dance the line in between the two. It’s the two of us on stage, and we’re using a bunch of equipment to perform out the studio tracks that we perform in the studio on keyboards, and drum machines. In addition to that we have some guitars, and basses, and drum machines. We really just try to keep the instruments in our hands, and be playing and getting sweaty the whole time. We both sing live, we never auto tune a vocal, and its fun. Sometimes it gets sloppy and that’s what makes it rock ‘n’ roll. It’s really fun that way. We, since day one, tried to really break the whole plane of the DJ table and stuff like that, and really just keep things very intimate and rock ‘n’ roll, and you can reach out and touch people in the crowd.

And was that difficult moving from recording all your stuff in the studio to going out to that live performance? Were there some awkward shows, I’m gonna say, you know, those “awkward teenage years” shows where you’re kind of like “Oh boy we got some work to do?”

Jason Huber: You can find the very first show, but in the deep dark Internet actually. There are video recordings of the very first show. So you can see just how awkward it was. Like with any band there were some very awkward stages, and we started touring pretty much immediately, so we had all of our awkward moments on stage in front of people. But I don’t know we try to have things pretty well rehearsed before we bring them out, and writing in the studio first before we decide how to perform things live really keeps the creativity up in the studio. And it makes for a very precise crafting of the live show. When it comes time to put the song together we both have a pretty solid idea of what it is we’re each gonna be doing at each given point in a song, and so it really lets us focus on the performance of that, and delivering that to the audience. Because we end up making a set of rules for ourselves that lets us know where we also can step outside of those rules that we’ve set up for ourselves and get a little bit crazy.

Speaking of being in the studio, I was listening to the Spotify Commentary that you did for Year of the Caprese, which is really cool. One of the ones that stuck out to me was when you were talking about the song “<3" (aka Heart), and you guys were saying it’s your most Nashville sounding song. I also loved the fact that you referenced, like this was the song for if they remade Top Gun, and I listened to it and now I want that to happen. Anyway, back to the question — can you explain what you mean by that was your most Nashville sounding song?

Jason Huber: Nashville obviously is very widely known for its country music scene, and we obviously don’t have a very country music sound, but in addition to the country music scene in Nashville there’s just a huge scene for singer/songwriters, and just song craft in general. And the song itself, “Heart,” the underlying song, we just feel that’s something that you would hear somebody with an acoustic guitar at like the Bluebird Café. It’s one of those, you know, set of chords and lyrics that, I don’t know, it just has a certain Nashville sparkle to it, and it would stand up in a lot of different formats. I guess that’s what we really mean when we’re saying that.

Photo Credit: Sami Drasin
Photo Credit: Sami Drasin

And the other song I was very interested in getting your thoughts on was the song “Work the Middle,” which might’ve been my favorite track off the record. And I don’t know if it was you or your partner that said you guys love early ’90s and mid-90s jams. Could go into a little bit more about that because I could definitely hear it, but I’d love to get what you love about 90s and mid-90s jams in particular.

Jason Huber: I think really what that love comes from is the fact that Jordan and I aren’t classically trained, so we grew up listening to the radio, we grew up listening to what our parents were listening to, we grew up listening to what was around us, and what inspired us. And that’s where we both ended up finding love for all sorts of different kinds of music, but especially pop music. And it’s something – it’s a word and a genre that we’re unafraid of. Some people hear pop music and they’ll “Eww, it’s gonna be gross, mass produced, nobody cares about it,” – every genre of music has its fluff, and every genre of music has some good tunes. The word pop is not synonymous with soulless music, it’s synonymous with a sound, and a feeling, and that’s the stuff that we’ve come to love. And especially in that early ’90s, late ’90s that’s where pop music was really just raging. It was awesome. It was spread out across all sorts of different genres. They had different pop music flavors, and stuff like that, and you’d hear all this different music on the radio, and you know, we can’t help but be inspired by that. And when we aren’t classically trained then that’s where we’ve learned from that we can’t help but pull influences from that. So, yeah, “Work the Middle” that’s kind of our ode to Aaliyah. And she actually gets a shout out in the track. But, yeah that’s a really fun one to play live too. On record we kind of take the back half and screw it down, and do this whole chops and screwed thing with it. Live we flip the back half of that song in a completely different way, so it’s fun for us to get to do something on stage that’s completely different from what we did in the studio.

I’m probably just about up to my last question, but it’s kind of a fantasy booking question, Cherub now can tour with – who would you want to tour with from that era in their prime?

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Jason Huber: Well, we actually just said this, but it was really good, we want to go on a Christmas tour with Mariah Carey, but I’m gonna make another stipulation on this. We want – like there has to be an artist bus in which we get to ride on the bus with Mariah Carey, and there will be a fireplace on the bus, and we’ll just all like hangout and read Christmas stories in front of the fireplace on the bus.

And she is single now.

Jason Huber: I would love to be on that tour. That sounds like such a fun tour.

I would want that to be filmed. That would be amazing.

Jason Huber: It would be fantastic.

You guys are on your first headlining tour, what is the plan for the rest of 2014? Is it continue touring, or is there a couple of big spot shows that you guys are really stoked for?

Jason Huber: Well we tour all the way through Halloween. We are playing our Halloween shows in Colorado, and that is where we’re wrapping up this two month tour, the Champagne Showers tour. And then we hop on tour with Capital Cities for a couple of weeks. We’re gonna be doing a bunch of dates in the states, and then up in Canada. And then after that I’m not really sure what our plan is yet. We’re kind of toying with the idea of hopping back over to Europe for maybe like a week or two. But then really we’re gonna be wrapping up the year in the studio at home, you know, recording. We’re not really sure what we’re recording for yet, whether it’s a new album, or you know, just some short releases. But we’re gonna be spending some time in the studio, and with family and friends.

If you could cover one Mariah Carey Christmas song what would it be?

Jason Huber: Oh, “All I Want for Christmas” would be it.

I think you guys would kill it. Well, dude, thank you so much, and good luck, and …

Jason Huber: How much falsetto would be going on there? Just like Jordan stacked with Mariah’s that would just be falsetto, on falsetto, on falsetto. It would be so much.

Cherub performs at The Stone Pony on Sunday September 28th along with Ghost Beach and Gibbz. Click here for tickets.

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Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites