Cherry Poppin’ Daddies
The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies’ musical journey is much like a bell curve. They were relatively obscure for about the first decade and then “Zoot Suit Riot” hit and they were on top of the world. Just as quickly as they ascended the pop charts, they descended in 2000 when Soul Caddy failed to do what Zoot Suit Riot: The Swingin’ Hits of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies did in the late ’90s. But there is so much more to the band than the one hit that they are most widely known for. Lead singer Steve Perry explains that the band is much more than one song. He also talks about their latest album Susquehanna, becoming a real life daddy, and molecular biology.
What is it like knowing that the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies have been around for almost two decades?
It’s pretty amazing considering that our first gig was kind of a lark. We didn’t even have a name. We never really did what desperate-to-succeed bands do, like move to Seattle, LA, NYC, Portland and try and snob their way to the top. We stayed in our homely, stupid little college town and concentrated on the songwriting. I am proud that we have continued to make music despite having not much on our side. I still think that the music is good and getting better or else we would stop. We deliver something real, which I think many people don’t really know what to do with in this age of fakers “winning” everywhere.
It’s been eight years since your last album Soul Caddy, what have you been up to during the hiatus?
Well I traveled for a while, got out of NYC just before 9-11,went to college and got a degree in molecular biology, made a glam record on Jive records with the band White Hot Odyssey, and recorded Susquehanna in 2007. Oh, I also knocked up my girlfriend and so I’m gonna be a real daddy this year.
What brought you back into the studio to record Susquehanna?
I had an interesting idea for the form that a record could take. I wanna sort of model it after this Godard film Pierrot le Fou. It was kind of therapy for me to write, and I realized that this is what I need to do to process my feelings. I kind of have to create in order to feel like my feet are on the ground.
I have been a big Cherry Poppin’ Daddies fan since I first heard “Zoot Suit Riot,” and most people only know you from that smash hit and the Swinging Hits best-of collection, but most people don’t know how versatile the group is, from the straight-up ska of “Hi and Lo” and “Hammerblow” to the flamenco guitar-led “Roseanne” on Susquehanna, just to name a few. Was the intention while making this album to bring out the more diverse parts of the band?
Yes, but many of our records do the same thing regarding drastic changes in the form that songs will take. We don’t have a “sound,” we create each song as a separate scene in a “movie.” We often get criticized for this because the only record that most people know of ours is Zoot Suit Riot which was a compilation and wasn’t done out of an artistic impulse but rather because people wanted to buy a record with all of our swing stuff on it, so we put one together. We have made six records, and we are beginning work on a new one soon.
My favorite song on the new album is “White Trash Toodle Oo.” Is that a continuation of “Drunk Daddy” or is it something completely different?
It’s similar to “Drunk Daddy” in that it comes from that punk rock swing place like many of our early tunes did, and that it is about domestic abuse. Its not meant as a dance song but as a story set to music.
On your official website, there is an album by a new band that you formed called White Hot Odyssey. How was that project different from what you have done with the Daddies and are there any plans to bring White Hot Odyssey back or was it just a one-off project?
It’s a kind of proto-punk, kind of a glam record. I am interested in the bubblegum throwaway aspects of glam rock and I wanted to do something that felt that way. I actually really like the way that record came out. I think what has happened is that I have folded some of my glam impulses into Daddies songs, and it ends up being kind of Roxy Musicky or Adam and the Ants like. The next Daddies record will be even more glam rock oriented.
It also says on your website that your ideal situation would be to live outside the U.S. while still being able to record and perform music. Are you close to achieving that dream?
Well I need to stay where I am for a little while because of my daughter, but I am hoping that in a few years I will find myself in a position where I could live in Paris, Rome, or Barcelona or someplace fun and also do the Daddies. I would like to work on my French, maybe join up with some musicians over there. I am going to be putting my feelers out for opportunities over the next couple of years and see if anything comes of it.
Your bio says that you received your molecular biology degree from the University of Oregon. So which is your biggest passion: Music or Molecular Biology?
Music is the bigger “passion”, but I have an enduring interest for science in general and questions concerning development in particular. Someday I would like to pursue several of the questions that I have found myself researching lately, like the relationship between the microflora of the body and its role in the development of particular aspects of an organism.
Are there any big touring or recording plans for 2009?
We plan to tour Europe again in the late summer. We just did a month over there in Nov/Dec and it was really great to be back. We went as far afield as Sophia, Bulgaria, and Zagreb, as well as hitting London, Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna. I have seven songs that are slated to be tracked this winter and my goal is to finish a CD by the end of the summer. We will see, though.
After two decades, every artist leaves some sort of legacy. What type of legacy do you want The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies to leave on the musical landscape?
I hope that we will leave a legacy that inspires other artists to listen to their own muse instead of trying to do what they think is popular to hipsters. I also hope that people think of us as an album band eventually. I hope our legacy is one of strong songs that listeners feel both in their bodies and in their emotions.
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies: www.daddies.com