POM POM SQUAD – ” Death of a Cheerleader “

Posted: June 23, 2021 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
Tags: ,
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When Mia Berrin started her band Pom Pom Club in high school at age fifteen, the band name and social media handles preceded the music. “It’s like the people who buy web domains with the hopes that they’ll be worth a million dollars in a couple of years,” she jokes of grabbing the Instagram and Twitter handles before recording a single song. “That was me.”

Make no mistake: Despite the order of operations, Berrin valued music above all else. The Orlando-raised singer-songwriter had been learning guitar while messing around in GarageBand, and inspired by riot grrl — specifically, the idea of “being in a non-men band” — she asked around at her Orlando school to see if any other classmates were interested. Unfortunately, the “one girl who played bass in the entire school” turned her down. “I didn’t know off the top of my head that I would turn it into something,” Berrin, now 23, remembers. But with her claim to the name in her back pocket, she graduated from high school and moved to New York to study production engineering. She also progressed from playing and singing alone in her room to performing live, first solo, then with a full line-up female bassist and all.

Within a few years, Pom Pom Squad was officially “something” indeed.

Berrin who is soft-spoken but quick with sarcasm, oscillating easily between humour and sincerity — cut her performing teeth first by singing with other bands around Manhattan and Brooklyn prior to forming her own group. (Bassist Maria Alé Figeman, drummer Shelby Keller, and guitarist Alex Mercuri round out the current Pom Pom Squad line up.) “I felt like I hopped into this stage persona. I had no idea who I was, but I was very extra and that was great,” Berrin says. “It was a lot of self-discovery and picking up a skill that I had no idea I could do.”

Berrin released singles and EPs through Bandcamp, gathering momentum with 2017’s “Hate It Here” and 2019’s “Ow“. Drawing upon indie rock, alternative, pop and grunge influences (at any given moment, Berrin’s sonic mood board might contain musicals, Ariana Grande, Weezer, or Kathleen Hanna), Pom Pom Squad quietly established itself as one of the most riveting rock acts to emerge over the year.

The way Mia Berrin can nod to her influences—be they of the iconic 60’s girl group, characters from a John Waters film, or cutting edge fashion from today, while simultaneously spinning a beautiful and original story in her songs—is absolutely thrilling. This is the kind of record that makes you not only excited to see what you can do with an artist in a post-pandemic future, but also how you can build their career in the present circumstances.

It’s a razor-sharp bite of cathartic punk that the Brooklyn four-piece’s powerhouse frontperson Mia Berrin wrote in the traumatic throes of her adolescent feminine awakening while realizing the ever-present gaze of the male patriarchy.

“Crying” sounds like a sentimental breakup ballad but Mia Berrin doesn’t seem hung up on anyone but herself in the lyrics. It’s all self-flagellation for failing in attempts at relationships, castigating herself for making “a game of breaking promises,” feeling nothing, losing arguments, and obsessing on people who she thinks hate her. Berrin sings it all with convincing feeling, but it’s also clear she’s playing up the melodrama and winking at the audience a bit. The song effectively has it both ways – it indulges your self-pity, but also gently nudges you to notice that maybe the reason connecting with other people has been so hard is that even aside from all the ways you self-sabotage, you’re just too caught up in yourself to really notice or care about how anyone else feels.

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Music and lyrics by Mia Berrin

Except for:
“Cake,” music by Henson Popa (ASCAP) and lyrics by Mia Berrin and Henson Popa

“Crimson + Clover,” music and lyrics by Tommy James and Peter Lucia Jr. (Originally performed by Tommy James and the Shondells)

“Forever,” music by Mia Berrin and Garret Chabot (ASCAP) and lyrics by Mia Berrin
Violin arrangement for “Forever” by Camellia Hartman

“Shame Reactions,” music by Shelby Keller (ASCAP) and lyrics by Mia Berrin

“This Couldn’t Happen,” music by Lionel Newman and lyrics by Dorcas Cochran (Originally performed by Ida Lupino) based on the version by Doris Day

Bass: Mari Alé Figeman
Drums and Percussion: Shelby Keller
Lead Guitar: Alex Mercuri

The band’s first release via Germany-based indie label City Slang, “Death of a Cheerleader” (out June 25th) is the impressive culmination of Berrin’s musicianship to date.

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