• Rob Spectre
  • 19
  • Jun
  • 08
This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Cherry Poppin' Daddy Man

Delivered via their website quite nearly half a year before its availability in corporeal form, the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies dropped their first devirginizing LP in seven years. Available 10 June on your earth CDs, it has seen wide distribution over a number of digital channels long before the arrival in stores. Titled Susquehanna, the Daddies deliver a decidedly DIY effort with this self-release, having departed from Mojo along with many of their skankin’ and swingin’ fad contemporaries at the turn of the century.

Steve Perry and the Cherry Poppin\' Daddies.Opening with six tracks of six completely different musical styles, Susquehanna weighs in at a hefty 46 minutes of multi-genre mastery. Fans of the Zoot Suit Riot compilation of Daddies swing hits will no doubt be disappointed, but long time Cherry Poppin’ fans will be rewarded for their wait with an unapologetically unmainstream diverse record. With instant skank inducers “Hammerblow” and “Hi and Lo” intermingled with flamenco stilletto stompers “Roseanne” and “Arrancate,” this new album could be called a return to form if the argument that they ever left could be rightly levied.

Steve Perry, frontman and principal songwriter for the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, took some time out of the harried craziness of putting out a record on one’s own to talk with us about Susquehanna. Below is part one of our two part talk with the man who made it through the Swing Revival without selling his soul.

Dream Not Of Today: It’s been seven years since Soul Caddy and the departure from Mojo. On the new site you mention much about “getting this flying fortress of the ground” and more about this record’s DIY approach. How did this record get made?

Steve Perry: It was a long process where I tried to coax the band into rehearsing new tunes. We had been happy just playing occasionally, and the time commitment was small, so there was inertia that was more than expected. Eventually everybody got on board and we recorded some tunes.

(d)N0t: There are tracks that sound like they were recorded differently than others. What was the recording process like? Multiple studios involved? How long did it take?

SP: The Daddies have always taken a fresh approach to every single track, so we kind of treat each song as a separate entity, right down to mikes on the drum kit. Also some of the tracks I started in my basement and had the band overdub their parts. Money was a factor in a lot of this. It took at least a year and a half because I couldn’t get consecutive days studio time and the band often was often unavailable. Basically it was recorded at my home studio and at Gung Ho in Eugene.

(d)N0t: The opener of Susquehanna will be surprising to anyone who first heard Cherry Poppin’ Daddies during the swing revival. The latin bootyshaker “Bust Out” sounds more like the start of an Ozomatli record than the swingers who scored a hit with “Zoot Suit Riot.” The record follows with a swank rockabilly tune, reggae, and ska before a lindy hopper big band song. Are you trying to say something with this sequence?

SP: Well, many of our records have this kind of kaleidoscopic sequencing so it’s not a new thing for us, but for some reason the way we make records is problematic to so many “critics.” I have yet to hear a coherent rationale for the criticism we get for doing things this way. I feel like it makes for a more interesting record rather than less. Obviously it rubs many people who write about music the wrong way. We live in a time when commercial safety and ballslessness are praised and critics feel the need to snarkily defend the values of the status quo. Oh, wait a minute… it’s just like every other time in history.

(d)N0t: One of my favorite ways to get a handle on the character of a record store’s curation is where they put the Daddies records. eMusic has Susquehanna listed as “jazz.” Amoeba Records in SF put it in the ska section. A Virgin megastore has it in its dusty swing section. Were you the owner of a record store, where would you put your new album?

SP: Rock, I guess.

(d)N0t: Next year marks two decades of Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. What’s your state of mind when you pause to reflect on twenty years of this band?

SP: I am happy to have been able to work with the guys that I have worked with over the years. I am proud that we resisted the temptation to do things the easy way, proud of our restless defiance. Accepting of the oblivion that this attitude engenders.

Part two tomorrow at ten.

  • Rob Spectre
  • 20
  • Jun
  • 08
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Cherry Poppin' Daddy Man

At first listen, it remains difficult to consider a record like Susquehanna without being colored by the wonder of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies one hit. With former Mojo labelmates like Aaron Barrett putting out records all about the rise and fall of Reel Big Fish from popularity, the expectation for the authors of “Zoot Suit Riot” to do the same comes easy. Fortunately, expectation is a mechanism Steve Perry can deftly dismantle.

Some folks call them a ska band. Others call them a swing band. Still others call them a rock band. With Susquehanna all and none of those titles can be fairly applied to the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies of 2008. The one thing that all in the music business can agree to call Cherry Poppin’ Daddies is “unmarketable.”

Susquehanna may be the ultimate anti-record of the year with a sequence and style that’s nothing short of a solid middle finger to the modern business of music. The hooks are R-rated, the anthems are tango, and the album is bookended by the same tune – an English reggaeton with a Spanish reprise. Just one walk through the cookie cutter record stores that serves as the 21st century distribution channel and just finding the right shelf to put this album on is enough to inspire a migraine.

So, with his own money, his own studio, and a shitload of his own time, Steve Perry goes back to making Daddies records the way he began – with tongue-in-cheek and shoulder to the grindstone. Our interview with the man behind the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies concludes today.

Dream Not Of Today: What are your ambitions for this record? Is this one last hurrah before hanging up the gloves for good? Are you attempting to cement a place in the state fair / casino circuit? Is this a reaction to strong demand from the cult base that stayed with the band through one-hit-wonderdom to now?

Steve Perry: My ambitions for any record are to make a unique listening experience that brings the listener through a journey that tests as well as delights him/her. I have another bunch of songs of a completely different feel ready for a new recording – if I can afford it and if the band is up for it. Rock n’ roll oblivion is something that you cannot control. We make body music that anybody can enjoy. We incorporate many forms of American traditional music into the mix.

(d)N0t: When you look back to the release of Zoot Suit Riot, what do you consider the Daddies’ role in the short lived swing revival? Grateful participant? Unwitting victim of a fad? Trendsetter, if only for a short time?

SP: Swing music is a key part of 20th century American popular music. Currently “rock and roll” assumes too large of a place in the history. My belief in why that is has to do with rock and roll being a wish fulfillment art form that soothes personal insecurities by encouraging the illusion of power. It sublimates the actual will to power. It’s phony, like Grand Theft Auto. Swing doesn’t make little boys feel like they deserve to get laid or kick ass, therefore it is marginalized. Currently the swing scene is dominated by women. I think that is cool. I don’t think we have much of a role.

(d)N0t: Remorse and reflection are themes that have always been in Daddies tunes, Kids on the Street’s “Irish Whiskey” being my favorite example. Within the context of this greater body of work, Susquehanna doesn’t at all seem like a departure though obviously some might mistake tunes like “Hi and Lo” as a reference to the fame rollercoaster you experienced. A contemporary of your stardom, Aaron Barrett from Reel Big Fish, ended up writing a whole record about that rise and fall. Susquehanna contains none of that bitterness. Is something like We’re Not Happy If You’re Not Happy a record you ever got the urge to make?

SP: We are really not interested in the music “business” primarily, but interested in pop music as creative pursuit. “Hi and Lo” was written about a close friend of mine who led a doomed life and finally died of a Heroin overdose in the 90’s – it really has nothing to do with the Daddies career path. I guess for me I never felt entitled to all the goodies and success that our celebrity crazed society chases madly after. I grew up in Apalachin, New York among dairy farms… pretty frigging marginalized by birth, you know? So nobody owes me anything. Not even to be nice. So I am not surprised by how crappy businessmen can be when they exploit kids who play music to line their pockets. The first time I looked into one of those music business guys’ faces I went, “This guy would just as soon kick me in the face as smile at me.” When it comes down to it about 25% of those people are plain old thieves and lie to themselves about it. Susquehanna is more about the heartland than Hollywood or Manhattan. Hollywood is boring.

(d)N0t: What made you decide to get this flying fortress airborne again? If the reception to this record is lukewarm, do you see it being the last you make as Cherry Poppin’ Daddies?

SP: I realized how much I rely on writing music to process my emotional history, so I started writing again. I don’t see it as being the last. No.