The music industry is prone to notoriously slow starts to as far as album releases go, but this Janauary features a few exciting rock releases to jolt us out of our new year stupor — Vancouver rabble-rousers Japandroids, post-hardcore goths AFI, and scrappy L.A. punks Cherry Glazerr: a name, with any luck, that those outside D.I.Y. circles will be hearing more of soon, perhaps even drawing them to some basement shows. The band’s third album Apocalipstick finds frontwoman Clem Creevy — the band’s only constant member over its five-year lifespan — interlocking magic rings with keyboardist Sasami Ashworth and drummer Tabor Allen for eleven slapstick bursts of elite slacker rock.
“I was a lone wolf,” Creevy howls to open “Told You I’d Be With the Guys,” the album’s opening salvo. She’s singing about finding solidarity with other women — something that, with the singer-songwriter on the verge of leaving her teenage years (she’s currently 19), is of particular importance to her.
“It’s about women having to fight for space,” she tells Billboard before the band’s gig at New York’s Bowery Ballroom last Wednesday. “It’s about women having to create space for themselves — politically, economically, and socially. A space that doesn’t exist and isn’t open to them and isn’t for them yet.” (This is quite literally apparent in the “Told You” music video, which features spontaneously multiplying men ominously taking over a house occupied by Creevy and friends.)
Clem is a lone wolf no more; Cherry Glazerr’s chemistry is clear onstage at Bowery, just as it it is chatting with them at a nearby cafe before set time. Here, they’re riffing on their favorite musical scales (even demonstrating the Mixolydian scale on a cafe table), getting amped over hearing via text about their mention in The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” section and reliving the recording of Apocalipstick at Hollywood’s Sunset Sound Studios. “We have a musical language that is really strong,” Ashworth says. “The more you play with your band, the better you get playing together. It’s not like it just clicks immediately.”
Creevy founded Cherry Glazerr in 2012. Before and after, she modeled and acted (she had a recurring minor role as a member of a fictional rock band in the Amazon Prime series Transparent), though she admits she “didn’t really get any press for that,” to which Ashworth replies, “She was waiting!” Ashworth joined Cherry Glazerr in 2015, Allen, about two-thirds of the way through last year. (They’ve employed a rotating cast of bassists over the years.)
The trio’s unity is relatively new. They may wisecrack and write lyrics about never changing their underwear (track two, “Trash People”), but make no mistake — their live show reveals them to be just as much model students as class clowns. Allen is an absolutely thunderous drummer, several leagues above the standard at your typical four-band punk bill, while Ashworth injects a smorgasbord of synth sounds into the melody set by Creevy’s guitar, along with well-placed backing vocals. And thankfully, this isn’t the sort of indie rock show where the crowd resembles a jumbled queue of adults standing still; playful push-pits of not-too-serious dancing open for nearly every song. The crowd’s more stationary segment shows too many hair colors to count, with a spectrum of different sorts of couples interlocked.
Apocalipstick is the trio’s first album for Secretly Canadian, part of the label group that houses critically acclaimed 2016 noisemakers like Mitski and Bon Iver. There’s a good chance this LP will reach far more eyes and ears than their previous releases for the cult favorite yet comparatively smaller L.A. imprint Burger Records. Cherry Glazerr first planned to release Apocalipstick last year, but agreed to hold out for a less-cluttered Jan. 2017 date at the label’s urging. “Selling and promoting records is what they do, just like dentists pull teeth, and we make music,” Ashworth says matter-of-factly.
With the pack of (former) lone wolves united, the music’s out, and there’s more on the way. They’ve recorded new songs since Apocalipstick’s completion and though they’ll spend much of 2017 on the road, where they’re more comfortable than most at writing new music. But it’s release week, a good time to focus on the present. The vibe onstage so far this tour? “No sleeping, no crying so far,” says Allen. “We’re off to a good start.”