Live: Cherub

Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber take their fun very, very seriously. The pair behind the ambitious and emphatic Nashville duo Cherub craft hooky electro-pop that lyrically captures the risque, pleasure-seeking impulses of their youth, while their studio expertise results in grooves so alluring, even your parents can dance to them. Which is their exact goal on Antipasto EP, the precursor to their highly anticipated Year of the Caprese debut LP.

Kelley explains, “it’s just the coolest thing if you can have different generations dancing to the same song.” Cherub doesn’t just commingle age groups. Huber and Kelley’s musicianship and imagination allows them to create their own ideas about style and music rather than abiding to genre. Featuring the viral hit “Doses and Mimosas,” two new songs and a Knocks remix, the four-track set serves as the boldest alignment of their diverse musical interests yet, ranging from brash rock to playful pop to seductive R&B.

The duo met while pursuing music business degrees at Middle Tennessee State, a large public university just outside of Nashville. Prior to meeting up at a dorm party, the two were figuring out how to become their own local legends. Huber was fronting a psychedelic folk-rock band, whereas Kelley was something of a mainstay in the Nashville hip-hop scene. Well, sort of. “I was making beats for this hip-hop duo and we got to open for GZA, but I didn’t know how to DJ my own stuff.” After meeting Huber, “I just asked ‘can you turn my beats into a live show?’” Soon thereafter, Kelley sent Huber his self-composed Man of the Hour EP and the two realized the potential in their partnership. Cherub began in earnest, with Huber’s live production embellishing Kelley’s clever songcraft.

Kelley’s lyrics of relatable hedonism come from everyday experiences – “nonsense on my iPhone notepad,” zoning out during long plane rides or meeting a local yahoo who got an unintentional writing credit on “Doses and Mimosas.”

“We were buying champagne in the Beachside Liquor Store in Gulf Shores, Alabama and there was this dude in his mid-40’s behind the counter. I’ll never forget what he said, ‘I remember the days of ‘pagne and caine!’” It became the indelible, call-and-response hook from “Doses and Mimosas,” their breakthrough smash from the self-released MoM & DaD which was #1 on HypeMachine’s “most talked about” chart in August of 2012.

The release of MoM & DaD was a part of a huge year for Cherub, as they were named one of “12 Tennessee Bands You Should Listen To Now” by Paste and landed spots at Bonnaroo, SXSW, Electric Forest and the Snowball Music Fest. These experiences have allowed Cherub to learn on the job and tailor their songwriting for the benefit of their sweaty, packed crowds. Taking inspiration from formative live experiences ranging from Incubus to Sigur Ros, Kelley ensures that “we have theatrical elements that don’t detract from the music. When we see the crowd respond to an uptempo song, that gets us going.” Their momentum continued into 2013 with the self-release of the 100 Bottles EP and its infectious lead single “Jazzercise ‘95.” The duo continued to book more ambitious gigs, including Lollapalooza, Governor’s Ball, Austin City Limits and their first tour throughout Europe and the UK.

Cherub aren’t much for tags, but if you want to get an idea of what Antipasto brings to the party, just ask them who they’d like to collaborate with. Kelley’s dream would be a duet with “Roger Troutman [R.I.P.], super funky but with no vocals, just talkbox. We’d also want to do an epic, super crazy R&B joint with The-Dream.” Therein lies the alchemy of “Lifesaver” and “Tonight,” where playful guitar licks meld with deep bass and lush synthesizers. But they also grew up idolizing rock auteurs such as David Bowie and Trent Reznor, and you sense their influence in Cherub’s knack for dynamics and solid, singalong melodies. Cherub always remain curious and ambitious – “I want to do a duet with Mariah Carey, but then pitch down her vocals. No one’s ever done that before!”

But above all else, Cherub are men of the people, dudes of the dancefloor, aficionados of the after hours. From the countless house parties they’ve played in Tennessee to their Age of Reason tour with Gramatik to their prestigious Red Rocks Amphitheater gig with STS9, they’ve always made it a point to engage with their fans. “People always think it’s weird when we ask during the show if there’s an after party,” Kelley says with a laugh. Antipasto starts the party, what happens from there on out is anyone’s guess.