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Cherry Cheeks Tells Us About His New Scorching & Jittery Solo Venture

Kyle Harms' solo recording project Cherry Cheeks emerged out of pandemic boredom. Now, after a few EPs and limited tape runs, Harms is prepping for the release of his full-length debut through Total Punk Records next month.

Photo by Jason Miller

Cherry Cheeks is tough, Cherry Cheeks is mean, but is Cherry Cheeks egg punk? Well hell, we couldn't tell you, we still need to consult a few more charts before we can give you an accurate description of what that means. However, Cherry Cheeks is definitely the ripper — sorta like if Devo hustled up a little bit and added Jay Reatard to the lineup.

Formed in Orlando, but based in Portland, Cherry Cheeks is the one-man project of Kyle Harms that came out of pandemic boredom. Aside from the handful of EPs and limited tape runs released last year, Harms is getting ready to release his self-titled debut in December on Total Punk Records, one of the best labels in supplying gunk punk.

Across album's 12 tracks, Cherry Cheeks embodies that jagged, angular thing you hear in a lot of the Midwestern bands we know and love like the Coneheads, Erik Nervous, the Minneapolis Uranium Club or anything Ian Teeple does. With chords jumping all over and discordant synths microwaving your brain, the debut portrays modern life as a dizzying fever dream. It’s definitely an album to run through your mind, haunting you, and allowing you neither sleep nor respite — I’m kidding, but it’s catchy as hell and an accidental perfect record for the lockdown era. Whether its egg punk or Devo-core, Cherry Cheeks is the embracement of melding trebly oddball and new wave nerves with hardcore punk.

Ahead of the new release, we caught up with Harms to discuss his signing to Total Punk, recording the forthcoming debut, and making his live shows a multimedia experience.

Paperface: When did you first get the idea for Cherry Cheeks?

Kyle Harms: April of 2020. It was me just shitting out EPs. Over a weekend or throughout a week, I'd record; then I would put them up on Bandcamp. Each one of those took about a week. But I've been writing and recording music for about 12 years.

Before you moved to Portland, you were in Florida. Are you originally from there?

I'm actually originally from Aruba. I moved to Florida when I was a kid and lived there for 12 years before I moved to Portland.

Total Punk is originally based in Florida too, is that where you first met the label?

Yeah, Rich was an somewhat of a friend. Everybody sorta knows each other in the Florida punk world. Plus we both lived in Orlando. We both played in the same local scene. That's how he first heard Cherry Cheeks.

When did you record the upcoming self-titled debut?

The self-titled was mostly done in November and December of 2020. I took a little longer on this, as opposed to the EPs. I'd just finished the Therapy EP and decided I wanted to try out putting together a 12-track album. So I did, and I even actually ended up cutting a few songs from it. We might include one on the cassette release as a bonus track.

So when was the original release date?

Honestly, I don't know. We sent it to the pressing plant almost a year ago. I think at first it was gonna be in like July or August, and now it's just gotten pushed back again, but it'll come! Also we aren't going to be pressing with the same plant the second time around, so hopefully it will be a lot faster.

"Second time around" does this mean another record with Total Punk? Or a repress?

Repress. But I am gonna be making more stuff with Total Punk in the future, and a 7" with Under The Gun.

That rules. Have you ever played live as Cherry Cheeks?

No, but we do have a band set up. It's a six-person group, and I'm fronting and playing the auxiliary stuff. In a very much Devo-theatrical sense, we're planning on making it very multimedia. We're still getting shit set up, but we're gonna be playing a release show here in Portland with Nick Normal and someone else we've yet to determine. That's gonna be December, and hopefully by then we'll have a lot more figured out. I'm still picking up stuff to make the more visual aspects of the show, and some equipment to make playing it a little easier.

How does the live band sound compared to the recordings?

I could never make it sound like the recordings because it's so in-the-box, so to speak. I've really enjoyed bringing these songs into a live situation. They've become a lot more chaotic and I love it!

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Are you planning a tour?

Yeah, definitely. Hopefully next year we will be touring up and down the west coast. I don't know how much of the visual stuff we will be able to fit, because we already are gonna have six people with all of their equipment. We don't have a massive van.

Do you plan on coming to the East Coast as well?

I'm sure we will. We're actually almost all from Florida, despite moving here haha. So we'll probably start down there and head north.

Can you lay on me some of your influences?

Definitely Devo. I've been called Devo-worship and I think it's funny, because it's less about worshiping Devo and more about worshiping their methodology. I like the way that they are subversive and that they always think about "How can I turn this into a theatrical performance." And using that as a way to turn it into a more dramatic experience, not just "playing a show."

It's certainly something people will remember.

Yeah, I want them to remember it. I want them to come out to these shows and walk away with a big smile on their faces thinking "What the fuck?" haha. So a lot of our planning is going into stuff like that. I have some very talented friends that are helping me. I'm super excited for the next year.

So you've got the LP coming in December, another 7", and are putting together a dramatic punk experience, anything else we should know about?

I'm putting together a compilation tape with all of the members of a Discord server I run, including people like Connie Voltaire from the Neo Neos, Billiam, Tommy Cossack and a bunch of other people that are in that server. It should be coming out soon!

Cherry Cheeks' self-titled LP comes out November 5 via Total Punk Records.

Pre-order the upcoming album below.

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