By Ellen Pentony
There’s a whole host of young talent emerging across Ireland right now that is making me, at the grand old age of 24, feel absolutely ancient. It’s a weird feeling, fangirling over bands who are younger than you. You’re like, This is embarrassing, right? But honestly, it’s not, because these new artists are just so damn impressive.
Cherym, the self described “unce unce” punk trio from Derry, are the latest band whose success is making me question what the hell I’ve done with my life. Originally formed by Hannah Richardson (vocals, guitar) and Nyree Porter (bass) who knew each other in school, Alannagh Doherty (drums) was the final piece of the puzzle, joining just before they exploded onto the scene in 2019.
Doherty singles out the Ones To Watch slot in Whelans as their big break. She says that “we got [the Cork festival] Indiependence from doing that show. We did an Irish tour, we started doing bigger festivals like Electric Picnic.”
Asked about the music scene in Derry, Richardson laughs and says “Bennigans—that’s where everything is going down.” The wee pub on John Street is seemingly the place to be because “you just know that if you put on a show in Bennigans it’ll sell out.”
To her, this is what makes the scene quite a welcoming and encouraging place because “it doesn’t really matter what’s on. There’s always gonna be people out in the yard, just rocking out to whatever kind of music, which I quite like, I think that’s nice.”
When asked about the motives behind starting a band, it was refreshing to hear that they didn’t overthink it. There’s no manifesto or agenda. Instead, Cherym simply wanted to be “girls in a band.” That and the fact that Richardson says, “At the time Derry was a pure sausage fest, like an absolute disgrace of a scene.” They’re not afraid to speak their mind and don’t seem to care too much about what others think of that—not in an annoyingly apathetic way, but in a genuinely down-to-earth, I’m-comfortable-in-my-skin way.
Speaking about their musical style, Doherty explains that their differing influences “kind of blended into one specific type of music.” Pop-punk is the genre the band are most associated with, but Doherty is quick to point out that wasn’t a conscious choice and that they “never really settled on anything. It was ’Right, what are we feeling like doing today?’ ”
This carefree spirit translates into their lyrics and subject matter. Richardson says that one song they’re currently working on was particularly influenced by the show Dirty John—a documentary about a woman that kills her ex-husband and his partner. “He was an arsehole,” she says, “so like, I sort of sympathise with her.” She laughs, clarifying that what she really finds interesting is the way the storytelling influences the audience to feel for a kind of messed up person.
Doherty jumps in here to say that they do write about deeper stuff that is more personal to them. She explains, “We’re all part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Since we all share that experience, we want to have our music and our band to be a safe space.”
The band members are open about their identity, but don’t make a big deal about being queer. Richardson brings up a particular interview where they were asked, “Why do you sing about girls?’’ The interviewer “didn’t say that’s not normal or anything, but he was sort of implying it. For us that is the norm, though.”
Doherty adds that it would be weird for them to write anything else: “Like, if I was to write a song like ’Driver’s License” or whatever it’s called, like, that’s foreign to me. It wouldn’t make sense. Singing about boys? I can’t do that.”
Cherym want to be make it clear that they’re here and definitely queer, but it’s not a big deal because it’s “pure natural” to them. “It’s all about normalising it,” says Doherty, who points to the first time she heard Haley Kiyoko singing about girls the same way straight men sing about girls—except less weird and creepy. She hopes that their music resonates with “a younger generation or those who haven’t come out yet,” so that they have something to relate to.
It’s a bit mental that they’re talking about being role models for a younger generation given their own youth, but it shows a maturity and awareness that underpins their carefree, fun-loving style and personality.
They have some new releases coming up, with Richardson admitting that the pandemic has given them “a wee lifeline to just be really productive and write loads of songs.” Although normally flat out with gigs, she says that this is the first time they’ve put out songs and thought “aw, I can’t wait to put out the next one.” Their latest release “Kisses On My Cards,” is an Avril Lavigne-esque angsty love song. It’s very Pink Slip—that’s Lindsay Lohan’s punk band in the movie Freaky Friday for anyone who isn’t as obsessed with it as I am.
While their sound is definitely reminiscent of the early 2000s, Doherty says, “When we develop as people, our music is also developing along with us. That way you can expand your fan base, you can expand your audience.” Richardson adds that making music right now is exciting because there is so much genre-bending stuff happening.
We finish up our chat by talking about their dream act to go on tour with. Richardson hopes that whoever it is, they would be big. She immediately says Charly Bliss, but then admits that might be a bit out of their reach. She continues, “Realistically speaking, if One Direction were doing a reunion tour tomorrow and were like ‘We want Cherym to come and support,’ I’d be like, ‘What’s happening boys? Straight white men, I love you!’”
For Doherty, the first band that comes to mind is PUP—the Canadian rock band who were responsible for one of the happiest days of Richardson’s’s life so far.
Richardson tells the story of when they went to a PUP gig “wearing Cherym t-shirts and at one point [PUP lead singer] Stefan came out and I told Nyree to take her top off and throw it at him. Like she had a top on underneath, by the way. So she threw her Cherym tee on stage and he wore it for the remainder of the gig and it was just insane.”
Other standouts are Paramore and Pvris, whose frontwoman Lynn Gunn is also queer. Doherty says that it would be great to be “with other big gays doing big gay stuff.” Richardson identifies Haim as a dream group to open for, but then goes on to say it might be the end of the band because they’d “absolutely eat us alive on stage cause they’re that good. Like we’d have to quit. Our biggest gig to date and we just quit after it.”
Very punk rock of them.
There’s a really endearing, humble energy about Cherym. They certainly care about their music but, refreshingly, don’t seem to care too much about what others think of them. They’re just out here, living their best lives, making music for the pure fun of it. They’ve already achieved their goal of being girls in a band. The sausage fest is well and truly over; make way for Cherym’s reign.