While we were at Firefly Music Festival, we sat down with some of our favorite artists on the lineup to chat with them about their past year and what’s to come. Pom Pom Squad, the group led by garage-rock virtuoso Mia Berrin, launched onto the scene in 2021 with their marvelous debut Death of A Cheerleader. If the names Soccer Mommy, illuminati hotties, and Lucy Dacus mean anything to you, then you’ve either had this record in your constant rotation this year or it needs to be the next thing you listen to. Berrin’s talent as a songwriter and producer is incredible for this to be Pom Pom Squad’s debut record; the record roars with ferocity on songs like “Head Cheerleader” and “Cake” while also maintaining sounds of 60s soul on “Crying”. It’s a varied, fiery, and emotive album that’s brought Berrin and co. incredible critical acclaim in 2021, and with a massive tour with illuminati hotties and Fenne Lily lined up for 2022, there is much to come for this young band. Check out our conversation with Berrin below and buy tickets to their forthcoming tour here:
Death of a Cheerleader came out right as we were escaping the pandemic and returning to some semblance of normality. How are you feeling playing shows again and getting to play these songs live for the first time?
It’s felt really good — not many people know this, but we’ve actually never been on tour before! The last show we played before everything shut down was in San Francisco in March of 2020. We had two tours on the horizon that, you know, didn’t happen, and the year just vanished. So it’s been really cool to get in the swing of it and use what we learned from playing New York for three or four years and bring it to the touring level.
That’s something I love about the record is that y’all sound fully formed despite this being your first real crack at it on a national level. Was there any influence or artist that stuck out to you while you were writing and recording these songs?
Well, I was listening to a lot of Motown and 60s jazz standards — like swingy things — while I was recording the album. I found it really hard to listen to new music during that time; you know, you spend so much time in DIY around people in your own genre, and it’s really difficult not to become comparative and really set yourself back by getting stuck in your head. So I had trouble going to shows and stuff, but really had no difficulty listening to music from that era because it was just its own world that I could dive into. It’s such a vibe that’s so distant from what I deal with on a day-to-day basis — like it’s almost Lynchian.
Just like that slightly warped reality — just a little off-kilter.
Yeah, it’s just so pretty and so perfect that it’s unreal. And I think the recording techniques of that time, you know, with the plate reverb and natural distortion that comes with it creates a very specific soundscape.
It blows my mind how all of that was naturally constructed; with reverb specifically, looking at the literal machines that they used to generate that and how basic but complex they were. We have plugins now where you push a button and you get the exact sound you want, but then it was so much more randomly constructed.
But it’s funny because that analog sound sounds less natural to me than the VSTs and Mellodyne that we use today.
THAT is an interesting take!
I know, but technology has just evolved to where we can make the unnatural sound natural — using sounds and plugins as a way to push sound beyond its limits to make it something more normal. Now we have options to either use these plugins or just go totally DIY, or even say “Hey, I want to cut something straight to tape” and have a plugin that can emulate that. I was super inspired by Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” style, and I think Sarah [Tudzin, of illuminati hotties] approached it in the same way when she was producing the album with me.
You said this is your first festival — how do you feel?
Oh, this is so dreamy. I can remember going to like, five festivals one summer when I was eighteen and it inspired me to really pursue this and push the band in this direction. It’s surreal that we’re getting to do this; some of the artists that are playing today are some of the ones I saw when I was eighteen.