Welcome to Band of the Month, a new series here on Mouthing Off which aims to introduce our readers to some of our editor’s top music picks – both old and new.
At a time when live music may seem a faraway memory, we want to recapture the excitement for music and performance. It doesn’t hurt that we’ll be spicing up your playlist while we’re at it.
Our Arts Editor, Charlie Colville, is back with another music pick for April – and this time she’s gone further afield to a band that spans over the US and the UK. This month we’ll be looking at Nasty Cherry, a pop-rock girl band that champions the female experience while channelling elements of girl power nostalgia (think the Spice Girls, HAIM, Paramore).
Nasty Cherry have become a favourite of Charlie’s this past year due to their no-nonsense approach to the depiction of women in the music industry; grungy, candid, and empowering, Nasty Cherry are ones to watch if you’re looking for something unapologetically female in your spring playlist.
Who are Nasty Cherry?
Nasty Cherry is currently comprised of Gabi Bechtel on lead vocals, Chloe Chaidez on guitar, Debbie Knox-Hewson on drums, and Georgia Somary on bass. The skillset of each member ranges, as the girls came together with varying degrees of experience in the industry beforehand. Chaidez had previously performed with another band, Kitten, and Knox-Hewson had played drums on tour for several years with Charli XCX. In contrast, Somary joined the band with only a year’s experience playing bass while Bechtel, a former model, was completely new to the music industry.
Looking on these circumstances, these girls seem quite a random line-up for a band – and they are, to an extent. Nasty Cherry formed during a 2019 Netflix documentary, I’m with the Band: Nasty Cherry, which saw the girls come together as strangers with the dream of making it big in music. Under the mentorship of British pop star, Charli XCX, Nasty Cherry would hone their musical sound to create their debut EP.
Since the show, Nasty Cherry have gone on to record three extended plays: Season 1 (2019), Season 2 (2020), and their most recent The Movie (2021).
I’m with the Band: Nasty Cherry
I’m with the Band: Nasty Cherry was created to illustrate the origin story of the band over five episodes. The series follows Charli XCX and her friend (and manager of Nasty Cherry), Emmie Lichtenberg, as they put together a group of strangers for what they hope will be the next chart-dominating girl band.
In the documentary, Charli XCX opens up the first episode with the ideals behind the band: “I wish when I was fourteen there was a band like Nasty Cherry: unashamedly human, real, and also badass.”
So, four people move into a house together in LA with the knowledge that they are going to start a band. Most of them are women that Charli has come to know throughout her career in the music industry: Bechtel worked with Charli on a music video a few years prior, Knox-Hewson played drums on tour with Charli, and Somary had been a long-time friend. Chaidez, as previously mentioned, was already making rounds in the local music scene for her work with another band.
Despite any nervousness or anxieties, the group were eager to get to know each other and get started on their journey towards a music career. Speaking of the experience to Harper’s Bazaar, Bechtel commented:
Following the sentiment, Knox-Hewson added:
From their first “3/10” jam session to a polished EP, the documentary highlights the ups and downs of forming a band from scratch. It’s a humbling depiction of stardom that highlights the idea that the roadmap to success isn’t always clear or straightforward.
Like most talent-finding TV shows, I’m with the Band: Nasty Cherry does take its cues from a leading celebrity in the field – you will see a lot of Charli XCX as she narrates the story. But don’t be fooled. Charli is no Simon Cowell, and she is very clear from the start that the project is about empowering women in all areas of the music industry.
So, despite the X Factor vibes of throwing random people together in the hopes of creating the next One Direction or Little Mix, the documentary is a great introduction to the concept, aesthetic, and people who came together to form Nasty Cherry.
Sound and Musical Influences
An interesting part of Nasty Cherry’s makeup is their emphasis of each member’s individuality. Being separate people as well as a band has meant that they’ve brought their own ideas to the table when it came to building their sound – and their musical influences are varied because of this.
Bechtel, for example, has cited Gwen Stefani, The Runaways, Suzi Quatro, The Cramps, and Poison Ivy as some of her influences, while Knox-Hewson has mentioned The Donnas, Simon and Garfunkel, Joan Jett, The Spice Girls, and Lillix as some of her major inspirations in music.
However, one thing the girls of Nasty Cherry seem to be in agreeance on is the importance of strong women in music – in particular, those who have a striking presence in the industry through a mix of their sound and aesthetic. As Bechtel emphasised: “just people, women, with really strong voices and visions in whatever band they’re in… where they just created their own world.”
With this in mind, the sound of Nasty Cherry comes together to form a mishmash of rockstar vibes and girl power. The band creates music that shows they live for a party – and can party hard – but are also very aware of how this can create misconceptions about their character in male-led narratives and media.
But while Nasty Cherry have been compared to other groups and singers who champion female empowerment, they are much more candid about the topic of misogyny than any other mainstream pop rock group on the market right now.
Rather than be led by any expectations or dialogues put upon them, Nasty Cherry are wholly led by their own beliefs and expectations. In an interview with Gay Times, Somary expands on this:
This message is supported by every other sensory aspect of Nasty Cherry’s brand, as seen by the 70’s grunge hairstyles, girly Y2K accessories, and bold stage makeup. They’re not trying to fit into one idea of what a girl band should be – as dictated by media – they’re just doing what works for them.
EP Review: The Movie
The Movie is Nasty Cherry’s most recent musical output, and has been described by NME as a departure from their more “sassy Girls Aloud-meets-Sky Ferreira anthems of empowerment that painted the quartet as the coolest girls at the party” vibe. Instead, The Movie is a more vulnerable offering that explores the complexities of friendships and relationships.
Made up of five tracks, the EP aims to show a softer side to the band that highlights their multi-faceted approach to their artistry. As we’ve already gathered, Nasty Cherry get bored of labels easily – they are always looking to reinvent themselves in order to defy expectations and find a sound that fits them during the current moment.
A track from the EP that reflects on this is ‘Her Body’, a dark breakup song that follows the girls as they find out their ex-lover was cheating on them. Utilising a thrumming bassline punctuated by hazy synths and low vocals, the track narrates the transition from raging insecurity and anger to the realisation that they were too good for their ex-lover anyway.
‘Her Body’ has a low, pulsating beat that keeps the tempo slow and syrupy, playing on the lethargy after a messy breakup before building into a punchier chorus. A measured explosion of accusation and condemnation against a former lover, the song makes for a cutting commentary on what their ex-partner is missing: “I’ma be better in bed / She lays with the dead / I’ll be better than that / And I’ll ride with you ’til the end”.
And while the lyrics highlight the raw emotional impact of the situation, there is a degree of control highlighted by the music itself. Slow and sexy, the tune of the song draws in listeners while the lyrics keep us at arm’s length, highlighting a reluctance to allow intimacy after a lover’s betrayal: “If I find her body / Lyin’ next to yours / Won’t be me that’s hurtin’ / ‘Cause you’re headfirst in the dirt”.
The Movie is, overall, a great example of Nasty Cherry’s ability to dredge up darker narratives and show that life experiences don’t always revolve around rainbows and parties. The EP is at times sensual (‘Her Body’), at others upbeat and guitar-heavy (‘Six Six Six’), and sometimes bittersweet (‘Lucky’). A great precursor of what’s to come (full album, please), The Movie only highlights Nasty Cherry’s quickly expanding skillset and talent when it comes to storytelling.
Listen to Nasty Cherry below!
Looking for more music to spice up your playlist? Head over to Mouthing Off’s Music Section.