The only real surprise about a band like cheerbleederz is that something like this hasn’t come around sooner. The tight-knit nature of UK indie-punk has greased the wheels for an act like this for years now, but in the case of cheerbleederz, the band consisting of Fresh’s Kathryn Woods, Happy Accidents’ Phoebe Cross and Finish Flag’s Sophie MacKenzie, their steam only really began to pick up in 2018 with their debut EP faceplant. But for as solid as that EP was, hitting all the right quaint, melodically rich beats that this sort of indie-pop-punk speciailises in, it could also be a bit difficult to ascertain cheerbleederz’ USP from it. Sure, they were good at what they were doing, but that can be said for a lot of bands, particularly in indie-punk, and it’s not enough to save them from falling into the middle of the road that’s continuing to bulge as more and more bands are deposited into it. Granted, the fact that cheerbleederz clearly have the swell beneath them and the name recognition within their scene hints at at least a bit more longevity, but at the minute, they’re still missing that killer moment that’ll nail down that staying power for good.
And though it’s difficult to say that new EP lobotany has that either, the evidence at least points to cheerbleederz moving in a direction that’s a lot more indicative of a band that has the potential to stick around than previous. Even if there’s still not much of a deviation from some very familiar sonic pastures, there’s clearly a bit more of an individual niche being carved into it, and for a four-song EP that’s pretty brisk and breezy the entire way through, it’s made rather clearly that cheerbleederz are a lot closer to solidifying themselves for good.
Again, the general tonal ballpark isn’t being upturned or anything, but in taking the twee, borderline saccharine tones the provide an underlying presence in a lot of indie-punk and bringing them to the fore, lobotany leans into a poppiness that’s well-balanced by its scuzzy, rough-around-the-edges quality. say 2 u is easily the most obvious example in the way it effectively staples together a gentler, more contemplative half to a grittier reinterpretation with a much heavier focus on the thicker bass work, but the spry skip of disco and loose, ruffled sway of sometimes i cry at work feel like much stabler products of that fusion. Along with the homespun production and the incredibly sweet vocals that fit almost seamlessly with the smaller scale of it all, lobotany has that bedroom-pop feel down remarkably well, and even if it can lack a bit of immediacy compared to some of cheerbleederz’ contemporaries, the amount of charm here in comparison does a lot to even out that balance.
It’s a similar case with the writing, as cheerbleederz aren’t exactly innovating as much as they are peppering the usual themes of self-doubt and uncertainty with their own insular, introverted spin. Vulnerability is perhaps the most key theme, and how that manifests in the nervousness to admit feelings for someone on say u 2 or constantly feeling boxed in and under pressure on gaze of others. It’s built on by the multi-layered vocals of all three members, all who bring a shyness but also an earnestness to the table, and for an EP looking to prop itself up on those smaller emotions that gnaw more than they devour, lobotany executes that notion effectively.
Somewhat ironically, it’s a much more confident approach than cheerbleederz displayed on their last EP, as they continue to grow into themselves as a unit and explore the avenues that they could call their own. The fact that’s already noticeable is an incredibly good sign, especially for an indie-punk release, and the continuous growth that cheerbleederz are displaying points at something potentially great in no time at all. That’s all reliant of said growth being consistent, of course, but lobotany establishes that as a very strong possibility.
For fans of: Kississippi, Snail Mail, Beach Bunny
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘lobotany’ by cheerbleederz is released on 7th February on Alcopop! Records.