Cheem are vibe chameleons

Sam + Skye from the "nu-metal boy band" talk announcement

In the Molly Zone today, an interview with Connecticut punk-pop-nu-metal-genre-defying band Cheem!

Past Molly Zone guest Jacqueline Codiga recommended I chat with Cheem and oh man I am glad I did. I had already listened to their 2022 album Guilty Pleasure after seeing some good old-fashioned music Twitter chatter about it, and fell head over heels for the high energy and eclectic sound of the tunes. It’s pop, it’s punk, it’s got a certain flavor of nu metal…there’s singing, there’s rapping, there’s a ton of GROOVE happening…most importantly, Cheem always sound like they’re having fun with it, and their fun is absolutely infectious.

I got to talk with Sam Nazaretian (vocals) and Skye Holden (vocals/guitar) from the band about fast food tier charts, band trips to Disney, what it’s like to be in show-booking purgatory, and rules for conquering the “barrier of shame” between the stage and the crowd. Let’s go….

How do you guys know Jackie?

Sam: We’ve actually never met Jackie in real life. But back in August of last year, I was sending people our record [Guilty Pleasure] that came out the month prior. I’d noticed this Twitter account, crazy ass moments in nu metal history (ed note: shout out Holiday Kirk!) and I was like, hey, we’re kind of nu metal. I'm going to just send this dude our record and see how it goes. He received it extremely well to the point where he immediately started tweeting about it. Then that caused all of these people — Matty, Jackie, some other writers — to make this huge Twitter chain about our record. And I was like, Oh my god, what did I do?

That is so classically Indieheads, an internet conversation immediately spiraling beyond your control. That cracks me up.

Skye: I'm convinced Ian Cohen wouldn't have tweeted about our record if it wasn't for for Kirk posting on the nu metal account. We're tight as hell with Kirk now, I literally was just working on some promo music for his Nu Metal Night.

Sam: I'm trying my hardest to get to a Nu Metal Night in LA and finally do some nu metal karaoke.

In 2012, maybe 2013, I was doing karaoke at a bar and someone did “Nookie” and it just sunk like a stone to the bottom of the ocean. It was a girl doing it, too. I was like, we’ve gotta show out better for her. I was going crazy, but nobody else was.

Skye: The closest we've gotten to nu metal karaoke is when we did “One Step Closer” with Spring Silver and Ekko Astral on this last tour. That was fun. They messaged us about that. They were like, “Hey, we're going to do a Linkin Park song together.” I was like, “Cool, are we going to rehearse it?” And they were like, “No.” But to be fair, we've been rehearsing for that our entire lives.

Sam: Yeah, I remember watching video of it and I was like, oh yeah…we did it.

So on your album itself, you have lyrics about getting called an “emo band.” And I’ve seen Cheem referred to as as a nu metal boy band. So I wanted to ask about how you’re feeling about these kind of genre distinctions — on one hand, they seem like they’re necessary for marketing, but can also be limiting.

Sam: It's changed constantly, even from before we finished the record.

Skye: We started working on the record in 2019. Here's my problem with the term emo: nobody knows what it means. Depending on who you talk to, emo means completely different things. You go on TikTok or social media and you've got kids saying My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy are emo, which is fine. I have no problem being compared to those bands. But in a scene where people are convinced that only "real emo" is emo, like Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader, I have no interest in sounding anything like those bands and being compared to those bands.

I never expected we would get called nu metal, but I've been pretty open about my nu metal love, so getting unironically referred to as nu metal is totally fine with me. Same with the boy band shit. I love NSYNC, that's one of my favorite artists of all time. The only labels I have a problem with are emo and math rock. Math rock, god, don't even get me started on that shit. We play everything in 4/4! People can't handle syncopation, I guess.

That is so out of pocket. I do not see that for you guys at all.

Sam: Our guitar playing has some...intricacies, which is something I've always been really excited about for the band, the guitar relationship between Skye and Gabe. Maybe that's why? I don't know.

Skye: As soon as you take your hand from the picking to the neck and start tapping, people are like, Math rock. “Eruption” by Van Halen, and math rock.

That's so funny. And referencing Holiday Kirk, how do you feel about the resurgence of nu metal and where you fit within that or maybe don’t fit?

Sam: It’s hard to say. We do fit with a lot of the influence from the genre. I feel like a lot of the up-and-coming bands focus more on the metalcore and hardcore side, and we’re a pop band. But every member of the band has a past with metal.

Skye: I think it's cool that people are embracing it now because there was a time where that was the corniest shit. I remember it was 2018 or something, and I wore one of my 311 shirts to a show. A guy from a different band, I will not name names, was like, “Are you wearing that shirt ironically?” I was like, “What?Why would I purchase a shirt to wear ironically?” He was like, “You actually like that shit?” It was such an awkward moment.

I'm on the record as being like, there’s no such thing as ‘doing something ironically’…if you do it, you’re no longer being ironic.

Skye: Exactly. That's why we named our album Guilty Pleasure. I’ve said this in every interview, It's like, as long as art you're enjoying is not made by somebody who was inherently a problematic person, then why are ashamed of it? Just because it's cringe? Who fucking cares. Who cares?

Sam: There is no pleasure in feeling guilty.

I love that. Ok - your song “Mango” starts with the lyric I've got a grievance to air. I'm wondering if if either of you have any grievances that you would like to air on the record, big or small, today?

Skye: I guess my my biggest grievance is people on Twitter being concerned about what local bands are doing, or what touring bands are doing, or what happens in the green room. I don't understand why people post shit that's incendiary on purpose and then spend all day defending themselves in the replies and acting like it was in good faith.

Sam: I'm an avid fan of some touching grass. It's great.

I always wonder what is the overlap between the people who are tweeting about these things, and who are actually dealing with it.

Skye: Like, imagine just not being in a touring or a local band or a booker or having anything to do with a venue. And you get on Twitter and you're like, I'm going to share my opinion about it this. For everybody to hear. And I'm going to get really mad about it too.

[laughing] Make up a thing to get mad about and then get really mad. What you, Sam? Any grievances, large or small, that you'd like to air on the record?

Sam: A smaller one — I had a tier list that people got really upset about. It was a fast food tier list.

Oh boy.

Sam: I posted it because, you know, I’m just sending my thoughts into the world. I love some A&W and Cookout, and I have so many haters about it.

A&W is elite. I'm only mad there's not more A&W accessible to me personally.

Sam: Oh yeah, same. We're in New England which, there’s really no fast food here. So every time we're on the road, I'm like, oh my god, we've got fast food. The first time I had A&W, I was like, this is incredible. Why is fast food this good? This can't be real.

Skye: We tried Raising Cane's for the first time this past tour. That was good. That sauce…

I would imagine tour is a good opportunity to get in on some stuff that you haven't previously gotten in on.

Sam: Which I'm actually thankful for, because when I'm home, I'm very mindful of the food that I store inside my body. But when you're on the road, it’s like…they’re all next to each other…ooh, Zaxby’s.

Skye: It’s like going to Epcot. Which we also did as a band once.

You all went to Epcot?

Skye: Our drummer used to be a Wilderness Explorer in the Animal Kingdom. So while he was down there working at Disney in the Russell from Up costume, we got a fill-in drummer and toured from Connecticut down to Florida, and he got us into Disney for free for the day. It was sick. We did as much as we possibly could in one day.

Well speaking of tours and playing shows, any upcoming shows planned for you guys?

Sam: We're trying to do a small thing in the summer and then something a little bigger in the fall. We may be playing a festival in Ohio. I can't speak further about it because it’s not announced yet (ed note - it’s announced!), but it should be fun. We’re kind of in show confirmation purgatory. We’re currently seeing if we're going to play a big venue that I've wanted to play since I was like 16, going to shows there.

Oh, man, how does show confirmation purgatory feel as a musician?

Sam: Awful. I'm looking at my phone every other minute, just waiting.

My last question — how would you describe the vibe of the average Cheem show? At least with the album, there's some moments where I can imagine you could get down, dancing-wise.

Sam: At good shows, absolutely. We always joke about how there’s only one time you can talk about the barrier of shame between the band and the crowd. You can only tell them move up once. Then you kind of vibe and keep on keeping on. As of lately, we have been making the people go crazy and have some fun. There can definitely be pits at Cheem shows, but it's not walls of death or anything. With specific songs, we could probably fit with a heavier lineup of bands. Our manager says we're —

Skye: — Vibe chameleons.

Sam: Whatever we're thrown, we try to adapt and give the people exactly what they want…which is some frickin' music.

Skye: We're getting on all kinds of bills: hip hop, R&B, hyperpop, heavier bills, emo bills, pop punk bills. So for us, it's just like, let's curate a setlist that fits the crowd and is as fun as possible. I’ve always said this, that I feel like it's the Disney Channel original movie vibe. At the end of the movie, there's a band playing at a party after someone just saved the world, and everybody's having a good time. I want to be the band that's curating that good time. A nice, inclusive, friendly party environment — that's what I like seeing at shows.

That's a weird coincidence. I just watched a Disney Channel original movie because I went bowling and then thought it would be kind of sick to watch the Disney movie about bowling, which was Alley Cats Strike. And it ended with everyone swing dancing and having a party in the bowling alley.

Skye: Exactly. There's always a party.

That could be you!

Sam: I want to make that a music video now.

Hey, bowling is is underrated. I predict old-school leisure activities are going to come back in a big way.

Sam: It's so funny you mentioned that. My dad is the candlepin bowling champion of the state of Massachusetts from, like, 1986 and 1987.

Holy shit.

Skye: Bowling runs in your family.

Listen to Guilty Pleasure here, and follow Cheem on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

In my own Zone, please consider this the soft launch of a more immediate and everyday-style music blog I am doing called I Enjoy Music.

Basically once I started writing this newsletter, I realized I had the desire to write even more about music, but in shorter-form bursts — basically just letting things loose whenever I want rather than waiting for a newsletter publish date, and getting into more casual formats (email interviews, short track reviews, etc.) It’s pretty new, and I’m having fun with it, and boy oh boy there’s a lot of internet chatter about whether there’s still a place in the world for music blogs…and I do think there is! I actually think this is a perfect time for it, “more than ever.”

I don’t want to chase down social media virality or focus on numbers or anything like that, just vibe out and carve out my own concept of what music blogging is….…give some shine to new bands and talk to people about music per usual….maybe even develop some sort of ethos if I feel like it.

So I think the plan will be to keep doing the newsletter as this current chain-of-interviews format going forward, but also using the newsletter to link posts from I Enjoy Music…self-aggregation, if you will. A true blogsletter. I already have a bunch of posts up: been watching the ridiculous pop music-themed show The Idol; enjoying tracks from Ghösh, Doubtfull and Left Tracks; confessing my Shazamed songs; listening to a playlist called “running around on all fours biting people.” And I’ve got new blogs in the works about playing keytar, DIYing computer software-themed art for a single release, and even more MUSIC MOOTS™.

So yeah, I Enjoy Music and You Can Too. You can bookmark it if you still do that on your web browser. And if you have music you want me to check out — and guess what, I want to check out your music if you make it — email [email protected]. FRANKS!