Cherub is living large these days. The velvet-smooth electro-pop duo inked a major-label deal with Columbia Records at the end of 2013. In February, the label sent the band's semi-viral hit, the nearly 2-year-old "Doses and Mimosas," to alternative-rock radio, where it debuted in the Top 40. This week they release Year of the Caprese, silky bangers from which the band will inevitably perform for a crowd of thousands during a 9 p.m. opening-night set on one of Bonnaroo's massive tent stages.
Kicking back on couches in their East Nashville crash pad, the duo's Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber (two chums who met as music business majors at MTSU and started their '80s R&B-fetishizing pop-EDM combo a mere three years ago) are pretty stoked to talk about their whirlwind career thus far. If they (and Columbia) get their way, expect a slew of articles from publications worldwide with ledes offering some variation on "electro duo proves there's more to Nashville than just country music." From fun facts to crucial deets, here are some key things to know about the band.
Cherub did it the old-fashioned way — through touring.
A whole lot of viral love — which Cherub's received to the tune of roughly 3 million YouTube views (as of press time) on their "Doses and Mimosas" video — no doubt aided and abetted the band's success. But it was through three years of relentless road-doggin', including gig after gig at clubs, frat parties and rave-ish EDM-y shindigs, that they built the kind of word-of-mouth following that resulted in the band doing their first NYC show as headliners at the 700-capacity Highline Ballroom. "The bigger cities, even if you haven't played them, they are just more up on what's going out and what's really new," Kelley tells the Scene.
Now they're on a major label.
"For the most part, really, nothing changed," Kelley says of the band's decision to sign with Columbia Records. "Me and Jason have tried to keep everything as self-sufficient as possible. ... We don't want to be a band that collects a fuck-ton of debt and never makes any money."
That spendthrift ethos includes cutting their records at a friend's (producer Nick Curtis) home studio: The Stu, in Franklin, where they recorded their first three albums, in addition to their brand-new fourth record, Year of the Caprese, their major-label debut. They recorded most of the album before inking their deal, and finished it with minimal influence and interjection from their corporate overlords at Columbia. "They're stoked with it," Kelley says.
The Cherub signing signifies how more and more, major labels aren't looking to take baby bands and build businesses around them, but rather jump on board with ones that are already building their own cottage industry and giving them a steroid injection of sorts.
"The way they pitched it to us, and the thing that made us feel comfortable with [signing], was that they were a magnifying glass and they just want to take our vision and put it on a platform that we couldn't [get to ourselves]," says Huber.
The viral success of "Doses and Mimosas" helped them get a major-label deal.
"I think at this point if labels see a song get the slightest bit of a viral [presence] on the Internet, they contact management and say, 'Hey, what's up with [your artist],' " Kelley says.
In other words, YouTube views and the like are the new A&R barometer, or the music industry's Gallup poll.
"We didn't need to take the deal," he goes on, explaining that the team (booking agent, management, legal, et al.) they'd built was already turning the band into a profitable business. "During the negotiation process we decided that if it came to it, we would be ready to walk away. ... We knew that we were able to keep doing what we were doing and sustain it."
They wouldn't mind being the biggest band in the world.
Columbia believes so much in "Doses and Mimosas" that the label recently sent the not-all-that-new single to alternative-rock radio, where it cracked the Top 40, making it the "Sounds of Silence" of electro-pop. In Nashville, you might be able to catch a spin on 102.9-FM The Buzz. "I heard Korn, Disturbed and Stone Temple Pilots while I was listening for us," Kelley says. "I was just [wondering] what people would think when 'Doses' popped up."
"We were tempted to do the cliché thing and fight it — 'No, we have so much new music!' — but our dream for this whole thing is to have it reach a global scale," Huber says.
They're more than a party band
Cherub cut its teeth opening for EDM stars like Pretty Lights and MiMOSA and jam-band-friendly outfits like Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Umphrey's McGhee, so don't be surprised if you go to one of their gigs and get shoulder-tapped by ravers on the lookout for doses and rolls. That said, Kelley and Huber aim to be more than just a "party band."
"I feel like it's so temporary when you're a 'party band,' " Kelley, the duo's principal songwriter, says. "There's a catch-22 there — we don't mind playing and having people party to our music, but I also don't want it to be a thing where it's like, the next week they find the next party song. I want to make songs that can connect with people."
That's not a whole lot unlike jam culture, though, where one faction of the crowd is there to hang on (or excitedly vibe on) every note, while the rest of the crowd is there because it's a good place to get the best drugs and party.
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