Not Your Typical Pom Pom Squad
>> The Pom Pom Squad features frontwoman Mia Berrin, bassist Mari Alé Figeman, drummer Shelby Keller, and guitarist Ethan Sass. The NYC based band will be releasing their EP 'Ow' on September 6th! Enjoy Jared Curtis' interview with Mia below where they discussed go-to food spots in NYC, artists that inspire her, and memorable band bonding stories!
What’s the origin of Pom Pom Squad? What are some details that people might not know?
Pom Pom Squad was born in my teenage bedroom the summer after high school. I had tried to start a band in high school with my best friend, who plays drums, and the only girl in the school who played bass. Originally, I wanted to call it “Lisbon Girls” after the sisters in one of my favorite books/movies-- The Virgin Suicides. Our bassist strongly objected on the grounds that it sounded too much like “Lesbian Girls” at which point, I changed the name to “The Lesbians”-- and that’s how my first band broke up!
Pom Pom Squad, in its current form, started when I was in college. I actually came to New York to study acting and despised it. Music became sort of an escape from that-- and eventually, I realized that I loved it. I started playing my song with a couple of guys that had helped me produce my first EP, and eventually was skipping rehearsals to play shows. It was kind of like acting, except that I got to write the script and pick the costumes and nobody was telling me that I should lose weight.
What are some messages in your music that are really important to you to convey?
A lot of the music I’ve released so far is centered around trauma and healing. First and foremost, I write to teach myself something. Once it’s in the world, I feel as though dictating what someone should take away from it spoils something... There’s kind of a sacred relationship between listener and song that may or may not have anything to do with me, and putting myself in the middle of that feels like your english professor tapping you on the shoulder in the middle of the high school dance to make sure you leave room for Jesus.
What would you consider your major influences to be for your sound as a group?
I grew up with a Dad who was obsessed with/on the forefront of hip-hop in the late 80s and a Mom whose favorite bands are The Smiths and The Cure. I found my footing as a teenager, in alternative and particularly grunge and Riot Grrrl Punk. Some of my major influences are Courtney Love, Kim Gordon, Kathleen Hanna, and Mitski. As a group, our sound comes from all of our combined, eclectic musical upbringings-- Shelby grew up playing jazz, Maria grew up listening to Guns’N’Roses and Led Zepplin, and Ethan grew up on Bowie and Neil Young.
What are some contemporary artists, both in music and maybe in general, that you really enjoy/look up to?
I think the new Mannequin Pussy album is fucking genius. It’s been a long time since I got really excited about an album in that way. I tend to be late to a lot of contemporary stuff, for whatever reason, but I definitely have my own strange lexicon of artists/art pieces I come back to. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for clothes lately- one of my favorite design houses of all time is Meadham Kirchoff (RIP). I managed to obtain one piece from a 2010 collection and I majorly treasure it, but a lot of the stills from their runway shows end up on my mood boards. I’m also inspired by dance and performance art-- I really love Pina Bausch’s work even though it stresses me out. In stark contrast to that, I watch a lot of reality TV, and lately storytime YouTube vloggers.
What are some of the best/most memorable experiences you’ve had since you’ve begun touring as a band?
We’ve actually yet to tour, mostly we’ve just been bouncing around Brooklyn and Manhattan, but that could be changing soon (wink wink). Meeting Shelby and Maria were particularly memorable. There was a period of time where I was playing solo, which I hated. This was about a year ago-- I was second-of-three playing this show at Elsewhere in Brooklyn. I had broken up with somebody that morning and didn’t really know how I was going to get through the set. Turns out I was mostly fine, but it did activate this manic, fuck-it energy in me. They were playing in the opening band-- they used to be in this metal band-- and when I walked into the green room, I got basically naked in front of them, which I don’t remember doing at all. They came up to me later and complimented the outfit, they had literally watched me put on, and I was like, “Thanks! I just broke up with somebody!!” Basically, we spent the rest of our time in that green room spilling our guts to each other, I played them a demo of a song I was working on, and at the end of the night, they both, separately, drunkenly came up to me and were like, “When are we playing together?”
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten whilst in NYC?
Here is a comprehensive list of the best pre and post-show snacks in Brooklyn/Manhattan: Alphaville Chicken Tenders (although they don’t give food tickets to musicians) Union Pool Tacos (they DO give taco tickets to musicians) Two Boots by Mercury Lounge Veselka after any East Village show (unbeatable)
What’s your favorite show you’ve played so far?
I played a show on my 22nd birthday on the rooftop of Our Wicked Lady-- that was a really special night. My bandmates surprised me with a cake, and so many friends and strangers came to celebrate with me. We also got to open for Soccer Mommy at their Gov Ball after show in Brooklyn, which was sort of surreal. I really love Sophie’s writing, and we’ve been internet friends for a while. The venue was packed and I sort of thought the crowd would be lukewarm to us, but they were super enthusiastic and inviting.
What do you enjoy most about performing live, and contrasting that, what is the studio recording process like, especially with such a punk and grunge sound?
I kind of love everything about playing live-- it might be my favorite part of the process. In fact, I love it so much that I did everything in my power to make sure the recording process of the EP sounded as live as possible. We did all the basic tracking as a full band. I overdubbed a lot of the vocals two-weeks later in my friend's closet-turned vocal booth!
What creative achievement are you most proud of?
Finishing this EP was a big one for me. This was the first time I could have an educated hand in pretty much every aspect of the process of making it-- in between 'Hate It Here' and 'Ow,' I learned how to produce and mix. Knowing how to ask for what I wanted for the first time was very freeing. I also feel like I took a lot of risks in my guitar work on 'Ow' and am super proud of myself for that.
What are the big things coming up for Pom Pom Squad? What can we look forward to?
We’re playing the EP release show on 9/15 at Baby’s All Right. After that, more music ;) <<
Listen to Pom Pom Squad HERE!
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