‘(…) we stumbled on a few synthesizer sounds that we would employ as countermelodies to jangly guitar & bass driven songs that otherwise sounded like nice nods to the Smiths or other influential bands.’, says Steven Delisi.
The Thin Cherries just released their second record “The Thin Cherries on Moose Island”.
And this is their story so far.
I think you’ve alluded to what’s traditionally considered “success” …. recognition, financial gain of some sort, etc., as having evolved to something that fits more realistically into the current world we live in where there’s a sort of “democracy” now to producing & sharing music. Everything happens so much faster these days and then it’s on to the next thing, but in the end, you have to write good songs and express something meaningful to people. Of course, we all want success, but it’s already been wonderful to have made two albums together and play shows, etc.
We tend to be realistic I guess, but we also have fun with the ‘fantasy’ too … which is funny sometimes, as most of us are over 45 yrs old … but not too sour yet 😊
I feel our new album is a success as far as artistic development as well. Our band started out as a project for two songwriters, Mark & I, wanting to collaborate with the help of a friend who plays many instruments …. & had access to a rehearsal space with limited recording gear. That’s Darren Shepherd, our lead guitarist who we brought demos to & eventually we recorded bass, guitars, & drums to start the record. Our goal was to “put out a record” and just see what happens. Personally, I worked all week & couldn’t wait for our Saturday afternoons to get back to “my real work” … what I love so much and want to do more full-time.
During these initial meetings at the “Cali Space” … a rehearsal space building in Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago, the drummer from Darren’s other projects happened to stop by & he liked songs we were working on & offered to play on “Oven Mitt” … the one song from our first album that has a non 4/4 time signature. Gabe Palomo turned out to be this amazing drummer who really understands the recording process & kept showing up to help us complete the remaining songs.
The four of us really formed a bond in the “studio” and became good friends. This was all during 2016. A bit later, Gabe’s wife Birdie joined us on Keyboards … completing the ‘sound’ we created for that first record … which has all the dominant synth parts that make the dream pop aspect of The Thin Cherries.
Initially, when Mark & I started to meet at his apartment studio to share song ideas and create demos; we stumbled on a few synthesizer sounds that we would employ as countermelodies to jangly guitar & bass driven songs that otherwise sounded like nice nods to the Smiths or other influential bands.
We realized how much we loved electronic keyboard sounds like with New Order, or old Gary Numan records … but we discovered an interesting hybrid of those with the traditional clean, twangy guitars. This felt like the perfect approach for our songs which were already very good to begin with.
At the end of 2017, we started to really develop as a band that could play out and play most of what we created in the studio LOL … it’s taking all this time to really discover how we play together.
Our goal became to make a really good album that has all of us participating in the songwriting process, more than the first album. (new album, Oct 26th, 2018) (The Thin Cherries on Moose Island)
So, our rehearsals became more focused on issues like, how are we going to shape this or that song. Birdie would show up with these amazing keyboard melodies to complete songs that Mark & I had made demos for … but we left room for other instruments, etc. And, Darren continued to do the same with guitar parts that both texture and lead voices … he really amazes me how versatile he is as a player. And, we finally started to work on some of Darren’s songs which we ended up with “Steadfast Arranger“ on the new album, departure of sorts that’s more personal & emotional ….which is really beautiful!
And it was important for us to get our drummer Gabe more involved creatively, as he is a producer of dance and techno music. Our current single “I Don’t Know You All”, is the result a “drunk’en” idea Mark came up with after rehearsal … late at night, in which Gabe quickly “threw down” beats and they went from that point shaping a dance track. The rest of us added instruments later & we sort of fulfilled our desire for a more organic approach to producing music, that starts from a melody idea & not some one’s already written song. We wanna do more of this in the future.
Last year we asked our friend Mike Hagler to co-produce us at the studio, Kingsize. He had done the mastering on our debut album and was familiar with what we like to do… and like the new song ideas, we had, etc. Mike is a great engineer who really understands how to work with a group of musicians …where sometimes, there’s just too much expected or going on, and he quickly brings the group back to what’s needed for a good recording. So, we came to him with some rehearsed songs and some ideas in draft form to work from.
(Our friend is engineer Mike Hagler … Mark & I have known for over 25 yrs. I had worked with him in the mid to late1990s when he recorded my first band, Phenomenal Cat. And more recently, he has worked with The Luck of Eden Hall, which is Mark’s other band that’s been putting out records and touring since the late 1980’s. ) (Kingsize Soundlabs in Chicago, owner/engineer Mike Hagler)
During this past year while recording our album, “The Thin Cherries on Moose Island”, we solidified quite a bit as a band.
Figuring out how to play together was difficult at times. But the studio experience made it very rewarding. Along the way, our friend Sophie Senard helped us with backing vocals on songs like “Moose Island” & I Don’t Know You All”. Her amazing voice & ideas really made these songs & several others, more interesting. Then she contributed accordion on “Soviet” which added a super cool element to the scene that is this song. So, now she is our newest member 😊
Going forward… finishing out this year, we are just trying to get our album in the hands of people who will play it on the radio and share on social media, etc. Our goals for 2019, are to possibly find a label that will partner with us in printing and distributing our album as a CD release. Then, of course, we need to stay focused on writing and recording at least an EP. Part of this effort for new material will be to expand on the full band collaborative process that we only started recently.
The biggest fun I had … & I think we all feel this way, was going to Mike’s studio …. Kingsize, and recording the basic tracks for the first time. It was amazing to get acclimated to the studio, that is basically an old factory space with a loft where the mixing room is. It’s tracking area is a huge space that felt almost too big to properly react to each others playing, and for me, it became very uncertain when having to play under headphones since I’m not used to this method when playing & recording altogether.
But then after a few takes, we went up to the loft to hear the tracks, and it was like, “Oh my god, the sounds are so big!” & the tones so rich and beautiful. We could then choose the best takes for these first songs … each sounded so promising! So, we knew right away that we had the basis of a really special album. This was exciting and it propelled us along each time we worked at Kingsize.
I definitely feel part of a local music community in Chicago that stems from playing what’s more or less, accessible pop/rock music. There are a lot of bands & venues here. So, it’s been pretty easy to make friends with other bands and connect with people who go out to shows frequently. In fact, we’ve become close friends with the folks who produce The Power Pop Shoppe radio show at WNUR here in Chicago. They have had us on their show several times to play live, and we’ve participated in showcase gigs that they organize at different local venues. Even though we are not a power pop band, they have been kind enough to include us in their wonderful programs. In fact, we played a few Tommy Keene songs for a tribute show this year to honor his music. This was organized very well with several power pop bands involved. I had fun learning his songs and understanding better how influential he has been to pop/rock music over the years. There’s a power pop component to what we’re doing too … songs like “I and Julia” and “Dorian Gray” from our first album come to mind. And, “Novato” on our current album. So, we kind of fit in 😊
Chicago’s The Thin Cherries is the newest musical project founded by scene vets Steven Delisi and Mark Lofgren.
Delisi is a musician and songwriter with a background in theater and film production. His former band, Phenomenal Cat, blended his pop/punk sensibilities with experimental music and the Russian folk influences of his band mates.
Songwriter/musician Lofgren is one of the founders of psychedelic pop/rock mainstays The Luck of Eden Hall, who have toured Europe and released music on a variety of independent labels, including Headspin Records and Fruits de Mer Records. In 2014 he released his solo debut, The Past Perfect.
In 2015, Delisi approached Lofgren, who shares his love for bands like Blur, the Replacements and the Smiths, to collaborate on a recorded project that emphasizes good songwriting
In the spring of 2016, The Thin Cherries emerged with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Darren Shepherd(Belmondos) and drummer Gabriel Palomo(The Streets on Fire). Later, they welcomed the addition of Birdie Soti on Keyboards & synths.
Collaboration at their California Station studio in Logan Square led to the initial recordings for The Thin Cherries’ debut album, that was released in spring of 2017.
Currently, The Thin Cherries just released their 2nd album “The Thin Cherries on Moose Island”, at Kingsize Sound Labs, with engineer & producer Mike Hagler.