We speak to the independent rock trio on the eve of their newest LP "Apocalipstick"
My heroes died of overdose/ My enemies are in power.
– Cazuza, “Ideologia”
The world might be burning, but underground music is on fire. I have borne witness. Indie rock lives in a behemoth warehouse that sits on the banks of the L.A. River.
The skyline is wrapped in dark clouds as I exit the 101 and turn onto E. 7th Street. Out of the drizzling fog looms Downtown Rehearsal, a veritable rock n’ roll sanitarium. This is my rendezvous with native noise pop outfit Cherry Glazerr.
Taking the elevator lift to the second floor, I nervously skulk down the building’s long, empty hallways. Its hundreds of studios rupture at the seams with bands wailing away behind the endless rows of closed doors. Security cameras shadow my every move.
I uncover their rehearsal space: Room 231.
They had just finished jamming, and autographing a big stack of posters of their new LP, Apocalipstick, which depicts a lipstick rocket blasting off in a futuristic Hollywood Babylon. The cover’s illustration by cartoonist Malachi Ward pairs nicely with the band’s surf noir sound, and acts as window into a mysteriously androgynous landscape, eagerly awaiting invasion by its audience.
I’m welcomed with Looney Toon smiles and ecstatic banter, halfway through a conversation in which Sasami Ashworth (synth) asks Tabor Allen (drums) if he would ever get a vasectomy. He’s slow to answer. “You can always reverse it,” she assures.
The room’s packed to the walls with equipment, gearing up for their upcoming tour. I manage to sneak a seat on the cluttered couch, sticking my hands in small puddles of spilt beer. It’s a stark contrast to the acropolis backdrop of the Hollywood Hills, where the band wrapped their photoshoot.
It’s been three years since Cherry Glazerr burst onto the scene – Fabulous Stains-style – with Haxel Princess: a tuned-down bedroom dreamland of alien princesses, pizza monsters, and grilled cheese. Its success wasn’t something vox/guitarist Clementine “Clem” Creedy counted on.
Clem has the name of a sugary character in an Annie Proulx novel, but the voice akin to a neon-tinged lounge singer in a Philip K. Dickian wasteland. Her crooning offers reprieve and solace to the dead-end kids on east Hollywood sidewalks who can barely swing a cover charge.
“I was a little bamboozled by their presence at first,” she tells me through oversized cat-eye frames that all the time slide down her nose. “Now I’m used to the fan base, and can see it in a more casual way.”
Apocalipstick’s arrival reflects a maturation, not only sonically, but in the suffragette ethos of the band itself. It’s representative of the intellect emanating from L.A.’s fuzzed out garage scene, currently dominated by female-fronted acts.
Cherry Glazerr’s current incarnation knocks down the confined bedroom walls of teenage past, and confronts an outside world in dire need of visionary reconstruction. Feminist battle cries are matched with fierce riffs and rambling guitar solos, new territory braved by Clem.
“There’s no one ‘right’ way to do feminism,” she affirms. “It’s an amalgamation of ideas. No two people have the same experiences. Everybody’s feminism is different. At its foundation, I see it as a dismantlement of the white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal power structure.”
Is this what the view’s like at the end of history? Are we witnessing the Return of the Divine Feminine? The Goddess archetype is defined by “anima,” the spark of inspiration, catalyst of change, siren of desire. The future is androgynous: equivocal and unshaped, like wavicles dancing in the static of potentia. Our future is fuzz, thus our music is fuzz.All is fuzz.
Intersectional critique spills out of Clem as easily as fazed chord patterns.
Clem: I’ve been thinking a lot about mainstream feminism, and the ideas in the movement becoming widespread. I feel that because capitalism, and most of the fashion industry, is a product of a misogynistic power structure, to use feminism and women supporting women for capitalist gain goes against the foundation of feminism – at least my feminism. It’s kind of a neurotic place to be when you want to consolidate that. So, it sucks when fashion companies are like, “We want to shoot you two girls ‘being friends.’” I doubt boys in bands are ever propositioned like that. (Cackles)
Is that what happened with the shoot today?
Clem: But it’s all cool people. It’s no one company’s fault.
Sasami: People are just doing their jobs.
Clem: No one person is bad. It’s not like any given person doesn’t have the potential to do whatever the fuck they want to do. It’s more that society’s ideas are a product of what’s trickling down from the power structure, and people are told to do and think a certain way – and it’s usually based around money.
Sasami: It’s more dialogue that just needs to happen. A critical thinking that always needs to be used anytime there’s some intersection of marketing or capitalism and feminism. Anytime those things intersect there needs to be an actual conversation.
Clem: They oppose each other, so it’s hard to have a dialogue that makes sense, because at its core the feminist movement is dismantling the capitalist patriarchy. So how do those things come together? It’s contradictory.
We all have bills to pay, but we could at least be honest about it.
It could be condescending, but it could also be speaking to the unique qualities of female dynamics. The first track on the new album seems to speak to that female solidarity.
Clem: Yes, that’s our showing of what we truly believe. We don’t have to play pretend in front of a camera to show what we mean. Our art exists as our explanation, as our belief system, as our deepest feelings, thoughts, passions, and personalities. That’s all in our art. People have a hard time just looking at the art.
Tabor: Clem is someone who thinks so deeply, and so often, about a feminist platform, and being part of that movement, you have to be careful what message you’re sending when that’s being coopted by a fashion magazine to sell clothes. You work so hard to say something of value, and are you then undermining it by appearing to have a certain agenda, or to be part of some trend?
Sasami: Which is why we’re talking about it.
Is it difficult dealing with an audience when all these things intersect?
Clem: We try not to pay attention to the fans and to the audience, we like to just do art and whatever we’re going to do. They don’t really affect the creative process. I have this idea, or maybe it’s a joke, about us walking on stage and looking out onto a room full of actual fans, like, “Look at all the fans!” just blowing in our faces.
Did you encounter any challenges making the new album?
Clem: Nothing was challenging, really. It all just kind of comes naturally. As a writer, it’s always come that way. We don’t “try” to write songs, they just come out of us.
Sasami: Like a fart.
Clem: It’s an involuntary action, or reaction. We can’t help but to make music. It’s not like we sit down and go, “I’m goin’na write a tune now!” We jam and we make songs. Almost every day I’m writing a new melody or a new lyric. It just pops into our heads at random times.
Are there any contemporary bands influencing you guys right now?
Clem: We listen to mostly contemporary music. Like Sean Nicholas Savage, out of Montreal. He put out an awesome record last year called Magnificent Fist. He’s been putting out cool, sophisti-pop, keyboard-centric R&B stuff.
Sasami: I’m deeply obsessed with Suuns—also from Montreal.
Tabor: 2016 was a fabulous year for music—
Tabor: Big artists put out great records, like Frank Ocean, and then there were tons of awesome experimental music put out, like James Ferraro. I love Dedekind Cut too… weird, apocalyptic computer music. I don’t even know how to describe it.
Clem: A lot of female Americana folk stuff. Solo guitarist Marisa Anderson from Portland.
Tabor: Sarah Louise, twelve-string solo guitarist. Is she in L.A.?
Clem: Devendra Banhart put out a record too! He’s L.A.-based.
Tabor: He and I get breakfast at the same spot. I like to think we’re having breakfast together.
Tabor: Kitchen Mouse. You know who else I saw there? Marc Maron.
Clem and Sasami: No way!
Tabor: We always see The Gaslamp Killer there too. The Gaslamp Killer might work at Kitchen Mouse.
Clem: Write. This. Down.
Tabor: We have this joke that he works there, like he’s a line cook or something. I swear to God, I’ve seen him go in the back.
Clem: I’ve seen him get up, and he was wearing an apron under the table.
Sasami: Shut up.
Clem: Swear to God. (Pause) Maybe I made that up.
The new singles have some cool solo work. Is guitar-rambling something you’ve always done?
Clem: Thank you! I like that, guitar-rambling. Yeah, I think I’ve gotten better, just by playing all he time, non-stop. I hope I’ve gotten better.
Tabor: We’re all show-offs anyway. Anytime one of us learns a new trick we just immediately put it in the new song.
Clem: Totally! We’ve been fucking around with different time signatures, which is new for me. Not for these two.
How long have you three been a unit?
Tabor: Sasami and I joined a little over a year ago.
Was there any drama to the change of lineup?
Clem: No, no, there’s no drama in music. Musically, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me—to play with awesome players, that’s what you want as a musician.
Tabor: It’s a hard thing to be in a band. It can be a delicate relationship. People come and go, their lives take different directions.
Clem: A band is like a marriage.
Is it a positive there’s a dude in the band? Does it offer any balance?
Clem: Yeah…I guess. (Laughs facetiously)
Tabor: Feminism is for everyone. It’s certainly not a woman’s responsibility to educate you, as a man, but being in a band with two awesome feminists helps. We reject gender norms, and hopefully society moves in a way that does the same, at least any kind of ingrained expectations.
The 2:1 ratio seems amiable. You guys are a triad, an ancient symbol loaded with meaning.
Clem: Ooh! Tell us.
Take the Hexagram, a symbol of two interlacing triangles, one facing upward (masculine) and one facing downward (feminine). Together, it typifies the sacred union of opposites in nature. Light and dark, sun and moon, etc. Without one, you cannot have the other.
Clem: That’s beautiful. It gets me thinking about the dynamic between groups of three.
Cherry Glazerr is a good microcosm. Do we really need that many dudes walking around? The United Sausage Party of America?
Tabor: Strangely enough, I was reading Ursula K. Le Guin, the sci-fi writer. She has this thought experiment about why the population comes out in such even numbers when, biologically, not a lot of men are needed to repopulate, or perpetuate a species. I don’t think there’s a simple answer to that question.
Other than female infanticide in places like China?
Tabor: Well, right, okay. All large-scale social engineering aside—
Clem: (Cackling) No, stop talking. That’s it. I love that sentence as it is.
How would you describe girl friendships?
Clem: Female friendships are beautiful, and intense. We went to see the writer, Zadie Smith, speak last night about her new book, Swing Time. It’s mainly about friendships between women. She talked about how female friendships are complicated because women need to stick together—like a survival tactic.
Tabor: Right, and how women are forced to be competitive with each other, especially over men, in a society that wasn’t built for them to maneuver through with the same freedom, and that competition puts a strain on female dynamics.
Clem: Simone de Beauvoir has a quote that I think greatly sums up our deep-rooted misogyny: that women move clumsily through the world, because it is not their world.
Tabor: Zadie talked about these long female relationships she’s had that go through periods of real animosity. Relationships which men, like her husband, would have ended years ago. But, for her, there’s something satisfying with sticking it out with girlfriends, and that those relationships evolve in interesting ways.
Clem: It’s tough. I reject competition and jealousy with my female friends, which sometimes makes my relationships not as intimate, because it’s not what girls are used to. I try to base our relationships around experiences, or loving certain things, like music. At the end of the day, we girls always have music.
Written by Brent Smith
Photographer: Easton Schirra for Studio 64
Stylist: Leah Adicoff
Hair and Makeup: Luisa Ruiz
Assistant photographer: Lindsay Clark for Studio 64