Interviews

Interview with Cheer-Accident, Exclusive Track Premiere, “Trying to Comfort Mary”

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We are truly honored to feature Cheer-Accident, one of the few bands that truly defies description, here at Proglodytes. Cheer-Accident was founded by multi-instrumentalist Thymme Jones in 1981, and has been one of the most influential groups in the American musical avant-garde movement ever since. With 19 studio albums and having inspired countless bands and individuals, Cheer-Accident continue to push boundaries and blow minds.

Returning to their longtime label SKiN GRAFT Records (who also released album’s from Thymme’s bands You Fantastic!, Brise-Glace and Yona-Kit), their latest album, Fades, features a large cast of collaborators and an ambitious scope that is sure to inspire, exhilarate, and provoke the world. Cheer-Accident’s current lineup features Jeff Libersher (who plays guitars, along with a host of other instruments) and Thymme Jones (who handles the drums as well as countless other instruments…are you noticing a pattern?), along with numerous other singers and instrumentalists, labeled the 21st Century Wrecking Crew on their Bandcamp page (full listing can be found here).  We were able to ask Cheer-Accident some questions about their general approach to art, their amazing new album Fades (which will be out on May 25), and the nature of “progressive” music. We also have the distinct honor of debuting an exclusive bonus track from their new album: “Trying to Comfort Mary”. Listen below!

If you had to describe Cheer Accident’s artistic mantra what would it be? Has your mantra changed over the years?

If we have a mantra, it’s a wordless mantra, and it’s embedded in our nervous systems. What it feels like it might be saying, should it be translated into words, is something like: keep discovering, continue to utilize the energy that springs forth from learning; remain attuned to the unique alchemy created by the people in the band; nurture the distinctive life of the band by not letting it become a band; keep one foot in the past and one in the future, while treating the process as an improvisation.

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Cheer Accident has been around since 1981, and has 18 studio releases, which might be intimidating for someone just getting into your music. If you were trying to introduce a new fan to the music, would you have any recommended entry points?

I would maybe get a feel for what the person is like who is asking, and direct them accordingly. People do ask where to start, while standing at the merch table at shows (and you’re right: it can be a challenging little quandary), and I find that I usually point them toward the most recent release. Otherwise, Introducing Lemon, Fear Draws Misfortune, and Putting Off Death, come consistently to mind. If people are more interested in the “pop” side of what we do, head toward The Why Album or What Sequel? Heavier rock? Dumb Ask, Babies Shouldn’t Smoke and Not A Food. Kitchen sink, yet conceptually cohesive? Enduring The American Dream. And I have a soft spot in my heart for the atmosphere and emotionality that can be found in all three installments of Variations On A Goddamn Old Man. (Spend some time on their Bandcamp page to check out these albums– you won’t be sorry)

The new album, Fades, has been described in press as one of your most ambitious albums to date. Would you agree, and why?

I feel that we have invested a similar dose of ambition, inspiration, and perspiration into all of our releases. I don’t necessarily consider this release to be any more ambitious than any of the others. This release, DOES however include more guitar tracks on it than most if not all of the others, which should perhaps serve as some sort of one-sided victory for the guitar player, right?

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Can you describe your writing process as a band?

Ah, there are several approaches. Jeff writes loads of stuff on his own, as does Thymme, but there is a pretty healthy percentage of “group compositions,” which involves spending lots of time in a room together, with whomever is in the band at the time, with everyone two-centsing. Notable examples of this latter category are “Trading Balloons,” Salad Days,” “The Autumn Wind Is A Pirate,” “Humanizing The Distance” and “The Past’s Ass Has All The Money.”

There are a number of incredible guests on this album, ranging from Carla Kihlstedt to Julie Pomerleau to Nils Frykdahl. Were the pieces they are featured on written with those artists in mind? Were they more collaborative tracks?

The songs that feature the guests were not written with any sort of predetermined nod to these great artists. We have had the fortune of having access to an extraordinary pool of amazing musicians here in Chicago who have been kind enough to lend us their collective talents on many of our releases throughout the years. Knowing that we have a host of go-to collaborators willing to step up and help out when asked certainly helps circumvent the notion of writing anything with a specific guest artist in mind beforehand (not that we are against doing that!). Having said that, we have always wanted to collaborate with Carla (Kihlstedt), Nils (Frykdahl) and Dawn (McCarthy) on something/anything (not the Todd Rundgren album – although what a great record!), and we were fortunate enough to have each of these fine folks add their sonic magic to some of these songs (although, strictly speaking, these tracks were not any more collaborative than the others; all of the music was fully realized before the respective musicians got their vocal cords and violin bows on it).

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The album cover for Fades is very evocative. What is the story there?

The image is from a photo taken by Scott Rutledge, who writes a good portion of our lyrics. When he shared it with us for the first time, I had an immediate visceral reaction to it. On first glance, though it read as simply two beings shaking hands, I was very aware of the feelings it evoked. Firstly, I think that it reads much more like a departure than a greeting – as if two individuals are not merely saying goodbye, but have come to a point where they have realized that whatever connection they once had is now fading away. Taking that same sentiment to a larger scale, it seems to reflect an aging generation saying goodbye to its entire past – all of its traditions, culture, etc. (I think that this quality is amplified by the eroded quality of the stone in the image). It’s as if all they ever knew has been slowly fading away generation by generation – and the realization of this is now very apparent. I really wanted the cover to reflect the album’s lyrics, and I think it does just that. I also think the image gives the title a real sense of weight…it evokes the subtle, secretive, mysterious aspects of that word. It tells me that there is more than likely something timeless inside. There is something grandiose in these songs. Something immemorial. They are about that which endures. Endurance is grounded on some sort of agreement or bond. That which exists outside of time. The human on a historical scale – the weight of memory.

Cheer-Accident, has always had many of the characteristics of progressive rock, but has not often been described as such in press or marketing, instead opting for other terms such as “art rock” or “avant garde” or “experimental”. Do you all feel like a genre label like “progressive” sort of an oxymoron?

The word “progressive” has become almost invisible to me from overuse. When I first began branching out to find new music that word had some energy, because I felt like the people behind it were interested in forging new ground. Or, to be more precise, forging a path that was unique to them. After decades, however, the term has become a bit quantized and easily consumed. I like the danger inherent in music that is a bit more difficult to classify. I’m still excited by the idea of a group of humans getting together, locking themselves in a room for days at a time, and coming up with something that only they would come up with. We all have our influences, which work as springboards, but synthesizing those influences and creating a distinct aesthetic is where the fun really begins. Nowadays, when people ask me what kind of music we do, I just tell them, “ya kinda have to be there.”

Cheer-Accident will begin their tour in late May (click here for tour dates). Make sure to catch them live! You can order their new album digitally, on vinyl or CD from SKiN GRAFT Records, and if you want to support them directly, consider pledging to their online subscription page here. 

“Trying to Comfort Mary” from Fades

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