RVA MAG #28 – The Cherry Pits Suck

by | Apr 25, 2017 | METAL, PUNK, THRASH & HARDCORE

“If you hold my beer, I think I can make it,” I said to Ben. Handing him my beer, bracing myself with his free hand, I stretched as far as my legs would go to make it from the pillow on the floor up to the tiny recliner where he was perched, feet carefully up in the seat. When I made it without falling or touching the floor, the room erupted in cheers, friends holding beers up in a salute, the sounds of their yells echoing off the walls and out into the quiet 2 AM streets.

The game is True American, and the floors are lava.

This article was featured in RVAMag #28: Spring 2017. You can read all of issue #28 here or pick it up at local shops around RVA right now.

Take a snapshot of that room and you’ll find a group of professionals, late 20’s to early 30’s. We are two butchers, a graphic designer, two teachers, an adjunct professor, musicians, artists. This definition of adulthood I never could have predicted as I grew up watching my mom work as a nurse and go back to graduate school, taping soap operas during the day to watch on the weekends. Yet here we are, drinking and playing this terribly silly game, but not on a work night, safe in a friend’s house, a sober driver present for those of us who will be traveling out at 3:00, 4:00 in the morning, still laughing but tired. It’s this same kind of redefinition of old social norms, of doing things your own way, that leads me to a tiny house couched in the middle of the museum district to interview one of Richmond’s increasingly popular scuzzy rock ‘n roll.

Fish, a smoky gray cat who greets me at the gate, follows me up the stone path where Kyle Trax, the band’s drummer and current host, shakes my hand warmly. “Welcome to the Nugget,” he laughs, giving a sweep of his hand to show off the porch, where strings of lights give a glow to the worn, but comfortable, setting. Having only heard about the unhinged shows the Cherry Pits give and seeing the obscenely irreverent cover art for their latest release, Splatterday Nite, I thought I would walk in, have to tease out something personal from some tight-lipped hard dudes disinterested in talking, maybe stretch to write a couple hundred words, but even those skimpy expectations were left at the gate as the band welcomed me into what felt more like a family reunion than an interview.

Settling in with a beer in one hand and my notebook in the other, I asked one question: “How did you guys become a band?” For the next hour and a half the group talked nonstop, joking with one another, telling me story after story about the crazy stuff that happens at their shows. Chris Jordan, the singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter, quickly moves from his move up from Alabama three years ago to recounting how he was once thrown through a table in the middle of a set. “The PA fell on my head, dude,” he says, perched on the edge of the couch, owning the room as his band mates and I laugh. “And the best part is Kyle’s mom caught my guitar!” he roars as we all lose it, his friends in nostalgic camaraderie, me in a kind of incredulous enjoyment.

If nothing else, this is a band that cares about the live show. While Kyle and Paul Kirk, the band’s lead guitarist and backing vocalist, recall a time when bassist Sean O’Dell was so drunk prior to the set he can’t remember playing, Sean waves his hands in surrender as the laughter dies down. “Seriously, though, that doesn’t happen that often,” he assures me, as “no one wants to give that kind of show to our audience.” Fixing me with a pointed stare and too-serious face, Chris say, “Yeah, make sure you print this — we definitely do not do heroin,” starting what would end up being a running joke all night.

Striking through these drunk tales, obvious in their conversation and surely at live shows, is a strong consideration for the audience and the experience they want to cultivate for their listeners. Listening through the six songs on Splatterday Nite, the band’s first solid release recorded by Tim Falen and put out by Jenny Records in Florence, Alabama, the energy of the tracks bursts through. Lyrically accessible, as Chris writes about depression, losing lovers, all things anyone in the audience could connect with, the feverish delivery pushes through any downtrodden feelings those heavy subjects could call up in a listener. Short songs, each one its own blast of punk, rock, breathless kind of melodic scream-singing, make sense for the quartet, all of them tough, veterans of the music scene and lifestyle. Yet throughout our conversation the band makes it clear they take their music seriously, defying the stereotypes of punk musicians sloppily composing, slurring through sets, or fighting onstage.

Regular rehearsals and nights spent writing and drinking at the Nugget have yielded this release with more tracks already forming for a second. Amidst the many tales of drunken parties, there is an unmistakable connection to the fans omnipresent whenever they talk about their work. The almost tangible appreciation of their live experience comes through best when Sean says, simply, “When you look out from the stage, we just see our friends in the crowd — people from other bands, people that keep coming to our shows, people coming in with touring bands… we just want them to have a good time.”

In a city raised on punk and metal, with all the trappings those scenes in the past call up, the Cherry Pits give rise to a new version of this kind of rock; partying, setting a rowdy stage at every show that never outweighs an awareness and love for the audience. Their redefinition of what it means to go to a wild punk show in Richmond throws their growing popularity into clear focus. At the heart of every show, every recording, is a simple idea that spurs the band’s frantic rock.

“This never gets old,” Kyle says, smiling at his band mates, “it’s just too fun.”

image by Nick Hancock

Laura Confer

Laura Confer

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