Cheerbleederz are a DIY indie pop supergroup of sorts – comprising members of Fresh, Happy Accidents, and Finish Flag. So, naturally, you’d expect them to have a bright, charming sound, filled with upbeat melodies and big, positive guitars. And that’s certainly true of their first EP, 2018’s excellent Faceplant, which expertly offset that (dare I say?) cheerful sound against somewhat downbeat lyrics. But from the opening moments of Lobotany – their new EP on Alcopop! Records – it’s clear that Cheerbleederz have grown and expanded their sound.
EP opener ‘say 2 u’ begins with a wandering baseline dripping with threat and menace, which is soon joined by extremely close sounding drums and a softly picked guitar line, lending the track an eerie atmosphere that sounds something like The XX covering ‘Gouge Away’ by Pixies. It’s a stark difference with what’s come before – one that lays a marker down for a band doing things differently. Though halfway through, distorted guitars come crashing in, and suddenly the old Cheerbleederz are revealed.
That energy feeds into second track, ‘disco’, which was released as a single ahead of the EP’s launch. It’s a good choice for a single, as it’s exactly the sort of irresistibly charming indie pop track you’d hear on any number of Spotify playlists. It also has an earworm of a title lyric; you’ll find yourself singing “I was never picked at the disco” for weeks afterwards.
If it’s a little thin though, that’s more than made up for with the brilliant third track, ‘sometimes i cry at work’. Easily the EP’s best song, it charges out of the door with a Martha-esque intro, before settling into an almost grungey verse, which lulls you into the sense that this is going to be a straight ahead rocker. But the band take a couple of abrupt about turns, suddenly stripping all the noise out to deliver the title lyric in hushed tones, before abandoning the song’s structure entirely in the second half to build and build to a huge, crashing return to the title lyric hook.
Second time around it’s no longer quiet and restrained, but now triumphant, and emotional, and joyful, and cathartic, and sad, and loud as hell. It’s the best Cheerbleederz have ever sounded, and it’ll surely be a live favourite as I can’t see how fans would be able to stop themselves screaming, “sometimes I cry at work” along with it until they lose their voice.
The final track once again offers something different by venturing into far gentler territory than we’re used to from this band. ‘gaze of others’ seems to address the impact that being in a band can have on your mental health – baring your soul on stage for the entertainment of the audience and the conflicted feelings one might have about feeling powerful by making yourself vulnerable and opening yourself up to criticism. It’s a more contemplative sound and shows the band can do a quieter, more laid back vibe just as well as they can do a big loud singalong.
Lobotany finds Cheerbeleederz exploring and expanding their sound – embracing new, interesting textures that point towards a potential. The band say they take influence from the likes of The Breeders, Snail Mail, Dream Wife, Alvvays, Charly Bliss and Kississippi, and you can definitely hear a lot of those bands in here, but there’s something else as well. They’re singing for themselves and for people like them in a very real-world kind of way that’s both touchingly heartfelt and painfully tender, while also feeling cathartic and inspiring – particularly on stone cold banger, ‘sometimes i cry at work’.
Lobotany is a fantastic little EP that shows an awful lot of promise for the future, and I for one can’t wait to see what they do next.
Lobotany is out now. Buy or stream it here.