Last Wednesday, April 3rd, I stopped by Necto to catch performances from some artists that I've been a fan of for quite a while, Cherub and Gramatik.
Cherub is a electronic pop duo and Gramatik is a hip hop based electronic producer. Both acts were absolutely incredible and Necto was jam packed.
Cherub played a DJ set, due to the set-up at the venue. During their set, they played songs from across their discography, as well as some unreleased material.
Gramatik played songs ranging from his earlier, groovier hip hop material all the way to material off of his upcoming album that has a much more electronic influence. In addition, GRiZ stopped by as a surprise guest, hopping on stage during Gramatik's set for an unexpected Grizmatik set.
I got a chance to sit down and talk with Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber, better know as Cherub, before their set. The following is an edited transcript of my conversation with Cherub.
Elisha: Who is Cherub?
Jordan: I'm Jason, I'm just joking, that's confusing. I'm Jordan, that's Jason.
Jason: I'm Jason. We're Cherub...We're from Nashville, Tennessee and we don't poop on your pee.
Elisha: How would you guys describe your sound?
Jordan: We generalize it as pop music...our elevator pitch is it's Prince on ecstasy. That's always fun to see people's reactions when you give that to them...If we had to generalize it into one thing, we'd wanna just say pop just because it's got the catchy hooks and...the feel good vibe that we feel like a lot of pop songs have. Maybe old school pop songs.
Jason: It's really funny. We get on the bus here and it's a bunch of electronic musicians on the bus and we're all just jamming out 90's RnB.
Elisha: How long have you guys been doing music?
Jason: Well music, we've been playing together for about two and a half years. We both met going to school at MJSU, so we've both been doing music for forever...close to ten years...If not more, but as Cherub together, we've been playing for about two and a half to three years.
Elisha: When did you guys first start doing shows?
Jason: It was right at the beginning of Cherub, so yea, two and a half years ago, about.
Elisha: In Nashville?
Elisha: How long did it take you before you guys were able to get outside of Nashville?
Jason: We did our first tour in Mexico and that was not even that long in. That was like a couple months in the project. We just got thrown right out into it...and it was awesome, it was seriously awesome. Some of the best stories. I mean we wrote songs about it.
Jordan: We only had like eight songs, yea something like that.
Jason: But it was cool, they didn't even speak English anyways, so it was fine.
Jordan: Yea they were cool. They were super cool with it. And that was so much fun to do and we...totally lucked out being able to go there and do that...it was a crazy learning experience for sure.
Elisha: On that note, how would you guys describe your songwriting process?
Jordan: As far as how it goes from nothing to something?
Jordan: Well, to be boring about it, the skeletons start on my computer on Reason and I basically loop...them and write to them, and then...we drop them off in Ableton to Jason and he adds stuff here and there and then we take it to a studio and both add vocals and guitars, you know, live, analog stuff, like synths that Jason has or whatever. We have our good friend Nick Curtis mix and master it, add his two cents in, so that's how.
Jason: The secret third member of Cherub.
Jordan: Yea he's like, the secret sauce.
Jason: He the sauce.
Jason: Nick the sauce.
Elisha: On that note, with the instrumentation, when I saw you guys at Electric Forest, you had this crazy thing, it looked like you were blowing into it, can you tell me about that?
Jason: Oh the talk box.
Jordan: Yea the talk box.
Jason: Watchu got there in your squatbox man?
Jordan: It's so funny. It's been such a huge mystery to a lot of people...it's like I'm blowing their minds or something. It's been around forever...you can hook a lot of instruments up to it...I mean you can hook keyboards up to it, I use a guitar. It basically takes my guitar tone, runs it through a pre-amp and then focuses all the sound through the tube into my mouth and my mouth kinda can word out sounds. I'm basically like, making my guitar talk.
Jason: He's lying. It's a CamelBak for champagne.
Elisha: How did you guys link up with Gramatik for the tour?
Jordan: I think actually at Electric Forest, honestly. He came to our late night DJ set for like, the last little Sunday pop off...and it was kind of just a long time...in the making so it's awesome that it was able to work out, you know, calendar wise for all of us. But like, the thing with Gramatik is...he has a really broad base and knowledge of music and if you listen to his music and the way he incorporates it into making it modern is really really dope. So it's really cool that he can kind of appreciate our approach to keeping a lot of organic instruments in and actually playing a live set, you know?
Jason: During the Gramatik set last night, I had this vision, you know the scene in Star Wars, when they're walking into that alien bar and they're like, that alien band?
Jason: That's, that's what the Gramatik music is like. It's like completely future [stuff].
Jordan: It's really bad-ass.
Jason: Bad-ass musician's music but from the future. From very far out.
Elisha: I know what you're talking about. that's cool. So your first album was called Man Of The Hour, is that right?
Elisha: Ok. Can you guys talk a little about that one?
Jordan: Well, that one was, that's how me and Jason got together on the thing, minus Dirty Cockroaches, because we wrote that one later. but I wrote the whole album in my room and...
Jason: Going insane.
Jordan: I was just having fun in my room, like going crazy and...I sent it over to Jason because I didn't know how to perform it live...I just made beats and stuff. It was like a new territory to try and transfer it live and so Jason DJ'ed, was doing a whole bunch of gigs and stuff, so I sent it over to him and we made it a live project.
Jason: We were gonna try and figure out if we wanted to do a live band or just a DJ project, or kind of something in between the two like we're doing now. We started going through like, oh, which musicians will we get, oh, let's not bother with that, let's just keep doing what we're doing.
Jordan: It makes everything way more convenient and simple.
Jason: We can fly, travel really easily, set up really easily, we don't take up too much space when we're opening for bigger acts, you know, who might normally want to DJ and just get out of their...hair.
Elisha: But you guys do play with a drummer?
Jason: Sometimes, but it's very rare. I mean eventually, we're going to incorporate, you know, hopefully it'll be a four or five piece band, you know, but for right now, it's perfect the way it is.
Elisha: Ok. Your new project is called 100 Bottles. Can you guys tell me about it and what you guys did and where you guys were trying to go with it?
Jordan: I think that the main thing with that, this new album, is that it's very song based...I wrote the Man Of The Hour album, I saw the songs that translated well live, I saw the people that got super hype on the songs that were dancey, which...led me to focus on super fast paced songs for the Mom & Dad album. I focused more on the dance element. Yea, Man Of The Hour is...
Jason: Who am I, what am I doing. Mom & Dad is like, mmm that's the hot [stuff]. And then 100 Bottles is all about just the songs. That one was fun for us because all the writing for that was done while we were on the road, because we've been touring so much recently...Jordan just recently got a laptop as opposed to the old...G5 Apple tower that we were producing on. That's...allowed us the freedom to write while we're on the road. A lot of these songs were written when we were in New York. Jordan had the skeletons and he would disappear onto the roof for a few hours, then he comes down and he's like, alright, I got the hook. It's gonna be really good...We were super excited about getting into the studio, because we had these songs ready to go. It was, I guess, the most prepared we've gone into the studio. And that was good for us.
Elisha: Were you guys surprised by the success of Doses and Mimosas?
Jason: Yea I was for sure. That song is hilarious...I almost tried to convince Jordan for us to not do that because I was like, I don't want to have to show my mom this chorus, oh man, but our parents love it, they're super supportive.
Jordan: Yea and at the end of the day, it's such a tongue in cheek song...I just think it's funny that that's the one that popped off. When we play live now, there's four or five songs that people get super rowdy to, but in general, for all the internet buzz...for the doses song...I just didn't think that would be the one for sure. I thought it was OK. You know, obviously I liked it...but I didn't think that would be the pop off song that people were like, oh yea, that's...the Cherub staple song...so, I don't know, that's funny, because I definitely didn't expect that...I know the hook's hilarious and people are super about it.
Jason: They just like saying things that they wouldn't want to say for themselves. Sometimes you gotta be naughty.
Elisha: You guys touched on this before, you mentioned Reason, you mentioned Ableton, are those the DAW's you use?
Jason: We write in Reason, we do some fussing around in Ableton, we record into Pro Tools and then we split it back apart into stems and perform out of Ableton Live. So Reason, Pro Tools, Ableton.
Elisha: And then you guys also have live instruments that you play.
Jason: Yes, yes. Then we both play guitar and sing as well. But all of our live stuff, you know, we'll send through, in and out of Ableton, that's the brain of our live show.
Elisha: Do you guys have any advice for aspiring musicians?
Jordan: Yea, my advice is always...it's a hobby until you can make money off of it and ...you gotta figure out and totally believe in yourself that you can do it. I mean people always say, make a plan B and do all this stuff, and you know like, I don't know, you just gotta do it. You gotta do it.
Jason: Do [stuff] for yourself, keep everything that you can and take yourself seriously, because if you don't, nobody else will.
Jordan: Yea it's true...if you sum up the two and a half years we've been doing things, there's been so many ups and downs, and, if you don't really love doing the music and stuff, then you're going to be so fed up with a lot of the process of the come up and making money and turning it into your way of living. It's just like, dude, you gotta be ready for the...long haul.
Jason: We don't make money yet, we just have fun doing it. We can pay for our own plane tickets. We're living off of it.
Elisha: You get from place to place and have food on the table.
Jason: Exactly, it's like, you have to decide what your level of success is. We're stoked with where we're at right now...of course you never settle, but you gotta find that level of content.
Jason: That was the most real we've ever gotten on an interview question.
Elisha: Do you guys have a favorite memory, a favorite performance or like, a favorite moment working in the studio, something that stands out?
Jordan: Just recently, we sold out the Georgia Theater
Jason: That was gonna be mine.
Jason: It's just a huge venue and we headlined...we've played there like three other times before, or four maybe, and we've played there to like five people in the room, in an 1100 person venue. It's just like, literally...
Jason: Yea embarrassing. So it's like, going from that to within a year being able to...pre-sell it out ticket wise, it's a really proud moment for me. Athens has been super awesome for us. It's been one of those places that's been super supportive. But that and Red Rocks, playing that venue was sick, and we opened up for Sound Tribe which was even sicker. And it was just us, and then Sound Tribe went on, that was a really epic moment for me too. I mean, there are so many of them, but those two definitely stand out for me personally.
Jordan: Yea, I mean, definitely those two, then the only other...epic moment like that was when you (Jason) and I were standing on the balcony in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on our first tour in the hotel bathrobes...looking out at the ocean and just like, wow. We're on tour playing music and this is our thing, this is what we do and this is who we are...we're amazingly lucky to have this opportunity to do this with each other and it's really really cool.
Jason: That was our first pinch me moment where we had to take a step back.
Elisha: You guys mentioned that you're are really happy with where you've gotten. Do you guys have any long term goals?
Jordan: This is so minuscule to what I want that I can't even describe. I want it so much bigger.
Jason: Yes. We have a lot of big goals for ourselves. I mean, between where we want to go and the people we want to play for, as well as what we were talking about before, expanding to the full live band with the full production, and, not just a regular concert. We want to give the full, you know, theatrical pop show for people. We want to make a little bit of DisneyWorld.
Jordan: I wanna...sing a song, play guitar, then go to another song, have a piano on a riser with a...spotlight on me.
Jason: Then disappear into a trapdoor on the stage with the fog and the smoke.
Jordan: Like Spinal Tap...I wanna do some million dollar productions. It's all about just making the money and putting it back in the machine. That's why musicians look like they're balling, but really, all their money is going back into their art it takes years for you to actually be balling on top of looking like you're balling. It's just something that...takes time. Going to city to city to city then back to the cities and then like, yea. It takes time. Which is cool, it's all part of the process.
Jason: But it's a lot of fun. That's when you know that you're able to take your creative vision and do something with it and see it become something. It's really cool.
In addition, I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to Jordan and Jason of Cherub as well as their management, everyone over at Necto and Calvin Tuttle-Horn for all of the help throughout this process.
All the best,