Over the past few months, pop misfit Charli XCX has been pointing her fans towards the Instagram account of a band called Nasty Cherry—a four-piece, all-girl band that seemed to be posting a lot of content but very little music. For a pop star so prone to teasing new projects and collabs with what often seems like very little context or strategy, this seemed par for the course. Still, there was something intriguing about the fact that Charli seemed to have some stake in a band otherwise unrelated to her work; was Charli about to go punk, as she did for a brief period in 2015 with her sophomore album Sucker?
In short: no. But the reality of the situation is a hell of a lot more interesting than that, anyway—today Nasty Cherry make their debut with “Win”, a brash, bratty pop-punk track co-written with Charli and produced by Justin Raisen, who has worked with Charli, Sky Ferreira and Angel Olsen, among others. And while Charli isn’t in the band, she was still involved from its inception: just like Simon Cowell with One Direction, Charli is the mastermind that brought the four members of Nasty Cherry together and pushed them towards making music. Now, they’re signed to Charli’s label Vroom Vroom Recordings. Think of them as Josie and the Pussycats or the Spice Girls, if the Spice Girls lived in LA and loved The Runaways.
Comprised of lead singer Gabby Bechtel, guitarist Chloe Chaidez (also of the band Kitten), bassist Georgia Somary, and drummer Debbie Knox-Hewson (Charli’s drummer from the Sucker days), Nasty Cherry have only been playing together for a couple of months but drip with the kind of natural charisma that’s necessary for the kind of disaffected pop they’re making. “Win,” with its driving central riff and Gabby’s so-over-it lyrics, is a hell of an introduction to the band. It’s one of those pop tracks that’s genius in its simplicity. When I call Nasty Cherry at the LA show they share to ask what it’s about, Debbie’s answer feels blindingly obvious: “It’s about winning, baby!” Read our interview with Nasty Cherry and listen to “Win” above.
Noisey: How did Nasty Cherry form?
Debbie Knox-Hewson: I knew Charli XCX, I was her drummer, and Georgia was a good friend, and we went on tour with Chloe, who’s in another band, Kitten, and we hired—stole—Gabby, our lead singer. So, Charli XCX really put us together and helped make it possible.
Outside Nasty Cherry, what do the four of you do?
Chloe Chaidez: Now, we’re just making music. We’re living together and write every day and work on what our sound is. I also have a band called Kitten, I’m the singer in that, and I’ve been doing that for about ten years.
Gabby Bechtel: Before this, I was doing mainly modeling and dancing and stuff like that.
Debbie: I’ve been a drummer for a bit more than five years, and now I’m a drummer still.
Georgia Somary: I was a set decorator, designing film sets and doing a bit of performance stuff for friends. A friend of mine made a feature and I was the lead in that, so I’ve been doing performance for pleasure but set decorating for films as my career before this.
Debbie: Georgia couldn’t actually play bass before she joined the band. We didn’t know we needed her, we didn’t know what we were missing in the bass world.
How have all those prior endeavors influenced Nasty Cherry?
Gabby: I think we all came from artistic and musical backgrounds. We bring that to this in how we want our image to look, and our influences in music. Just having pretty visual and vibrant minds has been helpful.
Georgia: I think it’s been a fresh page, as well, because our references are coming from so many different places and there’s so many different influences for us.
Debbie: It was really exciting for me to work with three women who were using this new medium they’d picked and it was new to them as well. Chloe was singing in her other band and now she’s playing guitar for us, and Gabby hadn’t done much singing. I find that really inspiring, and when we go into sessions we’re pretty malleable, and not set in our ways. We’re really open to learning and trying new things.
You said Charli was the connecting factor between the four of you, so what was the actual process of putting the band together?
Debbie: Charli mentioned to me ages ago—when I was playing in Charli’s band it was an all-girl band, and we’d always dreamed of putting together like… well, of being in the Spice Girls, basically, was a huge dream of mine. Charli and I had all these references of what we thought was cool—like, The Craft and Heathers and Spice World and stuff like that. I think she just thought ‘ Well, fuck it, I actually will just put a girl band together.’
Georgia: It’s been a long process, about three years of talking about. Me and Chloe did a session a couple of years ago and it felt really organic how it’s actually come together. She put us together, but it’s been really organic, happening over the last few years. Finally we’ve actually managed to be in the same city at once and make something.
Chloe: I went out with Charli one night and she told me about the idea. That was a few years ago, and now we’re here. Viral!
What’s “Win” about?
Georgia: It’s about winning, baby.
Gabby: It’s about not letting anything get you down, wear you down. Fuck it all. Win.
Georgia: We wrote that with Charli, and it was one of the first songs we wrote all together. She came over and Chloe was rollerskating around the living room playing this riff on her guitar, saying “I need to win, I need to win” and Charli was furiously writing the lyrics on her phone.
Debbie: It’s such a fun fucking song. I think it’s got what could be considered a lot of male energy about it, and I think that’s really cool coming from women—being very fearless in saying what you want and taking it. Gabby reminds me of Bruce Springsteen for some reason.
What reference points were you drawing from when recording “Win”?
Gabby: It started off a bit slower. It was very feels in the beginning, and then we decided to take up the tempo and make it more of an anthem, a feel-good ‘I’m gonna dance in my underwear’ sort of song.
Your visual aesthetic, on Instagram and stuff, draws heavily from this 70s punk rock vibe. What inspired that?
Debbie: I think that inspired it—we’re so into that. I love modern pop and I’m not one of those people sitting in the past, but I really wanted to be part of something that references back to that time period. Those are the people I idolize—The Ramones, The Runaways. I definitely wanted to be part of something that drew on that.
Georgia: A lot of it is just our natural energy coming through.
Most of your fans became familiar with your Instagram and your look before you even started releasing music or playing shows. Why did you decide to launch the band that way?
Chloe: A little tease never hurt.
Georgia: I don’t think we realized how long it’d be before we released music. It was a little premature.
How do you want people to feel when they hear “Win”?
Debbie: Like they’re winners. If there’s an exam you’ve gotta slam, if there’s a guy you gotta break up with… I just want you to listen to it and break up with him.
Nasty Cherry are playing their first headlining show this Friday, March 15 at the Moroccan Lounge in Los Angeles. Buy tickets here.