Landing somewhere on the musical spectrum between the Shins and the Flaming Lips, Philly’s Cheers Elephant have been quietly churning out impossible to resist psychedelic pop-rock, crammed with beautiful three-part harmonies and unforgettable choruses that stick with you for hours. The song “Falling Out” off of their latest (Like Wind Blows Fire), has been with me for days now.
Three-fourths of the band have known each other since they were sleeping with nightlights, so there is definitely a bond that comes across as remarkably tight in their sound. Seriously, the Rolling Stones could learn a thing or two from these guys.
With the band fresh off one of their biggest tours – a trip that included several well-attended shows at SXSW – and about to turn in their third release, frontman Derek Krzywicki was kind enough to answer some questions recently about the band’s founding, their influences, and how they happened to find themselves sharing a stage with Chubby Checker.
Innocent Words: I apologize for starting this one off this way, but how did the band first get together?
Derek Krzywicki: King [Robert Kingsly, drums], Matt [Travelin’ Mat, bass and vocals], and I have known each other since kindergarten. We started our first band together in seventh grade. Many years later, the summer after my freshman year of college, I came back to form Cheers Elephant with King and Matt. We wrote and recorded an EP which sat on ice until I transferred back to the East Coast after sophomore year. It was around that time when Jordan [del Rosario, lead guitar and vocals], Matt’s cousin, joined the group. Since then we’ve been working harder and harder to make this our careers.
Krzywicki: We’ve been in the thick of it since 2008, and I can’t say that basements hold much weight in what’s going on. We’ve maybe only played a couple in the city. With that said, the DIY scene is very big. Spaces like the OX (R.I.P.), Danger Danger, and Philly MOCA are good examples of that. These places are more post-warehouse kind of feel then basements. However, that’s not to say basements aren’t rockin’. I think different genres are different niches when it comes to that, although, there are so many great venues for smaller bands that it’s alive in the bars all throughout the city.
IW: Does anyone in the band have musical influences that would surprise anyone?
Krzywicki: Well, we all jive on the same sort of stuff, which is nearly anything. Good music is good music, no matter what you wrap it in.
IW: You guys just finished a pretty big tour. Where did you go? Any good road stories?
Krzywicki: Tour was a blast. We are officially addicted to the lifestyle and can’t wait to go out again. We went south through D.C., Asheville, Atlanta, New Orleans, Texas, Colorado, and Chicago, just to name a few. We filmed a handful of tour dairies for YouTube if you wanted to get a good idea of what we were like. We made some cooking shows while camping and ate very well for a poor band. We did lots of free things like Brewery Tours and Disc Golfing at parks.
IW: How was SXSW? Were you able to check out any other bands?
Krzywicki: Amazing! We had a blast and had a killer reception. We were lucky to go to an RSVP Only performance of the Shins, which was fantastic. Also got to see Jimmy Cliff, Of Montreal, Built to Spill, Delta Spirit and so much more…. and all for free!
IW: Like Wind Blows Fire is your third release. Are you starting to feel more comfortable in the studio?
Krzywicki: Absolutely. It also helped that we worked with two producers – Justin Chapman and Lenny Skolnik – that we instantly befriended. We found ourselves laughing and having a good time in the studio more times than not, and all while keeping a good work ethic.
IW: How much time did you have to record for this one?
Krzywicki: We started recording with Justin Chapman and Lenny Skolnik almost immediately after we released Man Is Nature last year. So, we started recording around March of 2011. However, we got the bulk of our work done in the month of July and August of 2011.Then I’d say we had the finished product by November.
IW: I’ve got to ask, how did you find yourself opening for Chubby Checker?
Krzywicki: It was a friend of a friend kind of thing. It was filmed for a pilot show which was produced by Drexel Film majors. They knew us, they knew Chubby, and bam! They got a show.