Interview: Cherry’s Russell Edling Finds Creative Bliss in Ignorance on ‘Dumbness’

"Sometimes you’re limited by skills," says the Cherry leader, "but ignorance creates the potential for a lack of inhibition."

cherry interview russell edling

Russell Edling has found freedom in the knowledge that anyone can be dumb. “Everybody’s dumb,” he sings on the new Cherry LP Dumbness, “go and ask anyone.” The record is an intoxicating listen that breezes by on classic psychedelics and big harmonies.

Dumbness is the debut LP from Cherry; the band also features Justin Fox on guitar, Spenser Colmbs on bass, Jesse Kennedy on keyboards, and Eric Osman on drums (Osman is also the founder of Lame-O Records). Cherry marks Russell’s new path after the dismantling of his former band, Kite Party.

Russell has a special sense for the place where music and art overlap – a gift which permeates his songs and his stellar work as a designer and illustrator.

On September 29, Lame-O Records released Dumbness and sent Cherry on tour from Toronto to Chicago and back to Philadelphia, their hometown. Culture Creature caught up with Russell while he was walking home from work a few nights before the start of the tour.

Listen to Dumbness here and read our interview with Russell below:

Nick Crystal: Is there a road from 2016’s Gloom to Dumbness?

Russell Edling: Gloom was a solo endeavor and there was some material I’d written parts to but hadn’t completed. After that, I figured out what the band was going to be and got some people to rehearse.

We recorded a bunch at the keyboard player’s house, then finished it in the Poconos. It was beautiful, because we were just up there in the middle of the woods in early Spring. No cell phone service, no internet.

As a musician and designer, what makes Lame-O a label for artists?

[Lame-O Records founder Eric Osman] has a great DIY ethic. We were talking about weird promo stuff, temporary tattoos or goofy little tins of mints that we could give out to people at record stores. And he was like, “We can do that, have you checked here, here, and here.” He was on it.

And that’s the whole thing, something that’s unexpected. It creates the potential to be memorable. I feel it humanizes a band.

Are there movie posters, book or album covers that you use for inspiration?

The most iconic, they’re not the best maybe, but I think of Beck, Odelay. Rancid, …And Out Come the Wolves. … I remember looking at Black Flag artwork and thinking, ‘Raymond Pettibon, this guy is actually an artist.’ The Misfits’ Static Age, for the songs. … Misfits became even bigger than a band. You can see a Misfits hoodie that is just the mask, doesn’t even say Misfits, you see the skeleton and you know.

What changed in your life between Kite Party and Cherry?

I was finishing up college, just super intensely involved in design school, also intensely involved in my older band. Everything was way serious. And I went through a weird health situation, found myself in the hospital for a little bit of time at the peak of all this pressure. And when you wonder if something is really wrong with you, priorities change and the ease of them changing made me realize the stuff that is not important is taken way too seriously.

That’s four years ago, but it completely changed the way I place importance on things. I find myself slipping back into it, but it’s like an optimistic nihilism. Kind of nothing really matters, right? It matters as much as you want it to matter. You have to welcome failure.

What is failure?

It changes depending on circumstance. In my design career, I feel I’ve taken risks, and then you get feedback from a client and it’s like, ‘We’re not looking to go in that direction at all.’ I’m closer to a plumber than a painter, because I’m providing a service.

I’m a huge perfectionist. It was hard for me to allow my own ideas to exist. But you have to. With lyrics, maybe in five years you’ll think, ‘I’m an idiot,’ but who cares?

I can’t draw. I never acquired those skills. I doodle. Sometimes I see a drawing on a napkin from my nephew and it’s really cool. You don’t need to be able to draw a dog to make art. Anyone can make something at any moment. Sometimes you’re limited by skills, but the ignorance creates the potential for there to be a lack of inhibition.

I love the stories, like, “We didn’t know what a bass was, so dude just played his guitar deep.” It creates a different sound you wouldn’t get if you knew what you were doing.

Sounds like Minutemen.

Minutemen, “Our band could be your life.” In that song [‘History Lesson Part II’] he says they were listening to punk rock, that they didn’t know what they were doing. You get this origin story; they were a piece of bread inside of a soup soaking in all this stuff around them.

Captain Beefheart. Motown. Wire. Nobody made soup like that.

It’s cool learning about a band from another band. It makes you feel like all the bands are connected. It’s encouraging. I think about reading On the Road for the first time. Kerouac mentions William Burroughs, you look him up. With Nirvana, my boss told me Kurt Cobain thought he was ripping off the Pixies, so I listened to them and thought they were so cool.

Skateboarding videos had unstoppable connections in the soundtracks.

I used to get into so much music from skateboarding videos. Skateboarding was everything I did pretty much from when I was 9 to 17, until music started to take over. I lived out in the middle of the country, no one to skate with, and I’d watch these videos and get pumped as shit. I remember watching Transworld videos, there was Feedback, there was a Pixies song in that, Bam Margera had a part. There was a Zero video, there was Jump Off A Building. … Yeah Right! by Girl.

Yeah Right! by Spike Jonze – that’s next level. Way back, there was Streets On Fire, the Santa Cruz video with Natas Kaupas and Jason Jesse, that had an SST soundtrack stacked with Black Flag, Minutemen, and Descendents.

It was all skateboarding and punk rock for me. I have older sisters and they all had good musical taste. They planted all the seeds, in Northeast Pennsylvania, listening to Big Wig, Rancid, Screeching Weasel. I started going to community center shows.

When I was a kid, I never trusted the radio at all. I remember going to shows, you buy a CD from a band and get a sampler – here are twenty other bands on the label with a similar vibe.

And it was all cool older sisters.

So much of my musical formation is from them. The first thing I did was send my sister a copy of [Dumbness] once we got it mastered, and her first reaction was, “Uhh, yeah, cool.” And this is what she then said, exactly: “It sounds like you took all the fuck out of everything. Like, it had this edge, and you smoothed it over.”

And that shit broke my heart (laughing). But having her honest reaction, I was so appreciative of it, and I’m going to think about it the next time I make a record. Is there still some fuck in there?

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