Glorious Noise interview with Cherielynn Westrich - 2001
The Glorious Noise Interview with Cherielynn Westrich
By Jake Brown
Cherielynn Westrich is responsible for giving the first Rentals album, Return of the Rentals, at least half of its charm. Her vocals added real humanity to the sometimes sterile sounds of the synthesizers and the formulaic nature of the entire album (big crunchy guitar intro - melodic synth riff - verse - chorus - violin solo - repeat). I've got to admit that despite the repetitive song structures (or maybe in part because of them) it's one of my favorite albums of all time. Those who are quick to write off Return of the Rentals as gimmicky drivel need to give it a few more listens. Only on a very surface level does it sound like the Cars or Gary Numan; those albums didn't sound anything like this album.
And even if Cherie herself (pronounced "sherry") has never really liked The Rentals' music, it's impossible to deny her influence on its sound. Before her stint with The Rentals, she played bass and sang with Supersport 2000, a band which produced one single ("Pinkslip") and a contribution to the Hear You Me compilation CD. Three-quarters of Supersport (Cherie on vocals and Moog, Rod Cervera on guitar and Mike Fletcher on drums) went on to tour with The Rentals.
Now Cherie's got a new band, The Slow Signal Fade. They've got a demo with three originals and a cover of Tool's "Prison Sex." MP3s are available in the Internet Underground Music Archive. There's no Moog, but there's plenty of cool vocals and great lyrics. Definitely worth checking out.
We conducted an email based interview between May and June 2001.
The Slow Signal Fade
Glorious Noise: Hello, I was wondering if you would be willing to do an interview for Glorious Noise... I really like your band Supersport 2000's Pinkslip EP. I wish there was more of your stuff available. Any plans to record or release anything anytime soon?
Cherie: Thanks, I can't believe anyone actually remembers us. We only put out that one CD, even though we had like 42 songs, or some crazy number like that. I don't think the other guys from Supersport are playing anymore. I have a new band called the Slow Signal Fade. We have a demo CD out.
GN: Who's in the band?
Cherie: Slow Signal Fade is Ron Ulicny from a band called the Marci Hull Trio and me. That's it, just us two. My friend Chris Warren plays drums on the demo. Ron plays guitar and most of the bass. We both write pretty much even. We haven't played out yet, but we are thinking of doing some shows in L.A. in the next couple of months.
GN: How did you get together?
Cherie: We started playing together 'cause our mutual friend Todd Hickey always said Ron and I should play music together. So we finally did.
GN: On your demo CD, is the title of the song "Have You Got a Flag" a reference to the Eddie Izzard routine? And what is the dialog in that song taken from?
Cherie: Yes it's Eddie Izzard. I wasn't sure if people would get that. The voice over is [Charles] Manson at a parole hearing.
GN: Some friends were making fun of me last night because I was telling them that I had never heard Tool. Apparently Maynard is from my hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Regardless, I really like the song you cover ("Prison Sex"). I'll have to download the original version so I can compare. What made you choose that song to record for your demo?
Cherie: Ron actually chose that one and I was really happy 'cause it's one of my favorite Tool songs. Ron is a big Tool fan and I've also liked them for years. I hope they don't mind what we've done to their song. That's funny you don't know Tool. I think you will be surprised when you hear the original version. I'm glad you like the record.
GN: Back to Supersport 2000... How did you get together?
Cherie: Supersport was actually called Magpie when I joined and was fronted by a girl named Debbie Diament. She approached me one night at a bar called Smalls and said, "I like the outfit you're wearing and you have nice shoes. Too bad you don't play bass, you could join our band." At the time I had never played bass, so I lied. I told her I had been playing for a year and a half. I got my friend to help me learn the songs and auditioned five days later. Don't ask me how I did that - I don't know. Then the boys kicked her out of the band a few months later, we got Graciella, and I started singing. The whole boring story is true!
GN: Did Supersport release anything other than the Pinkslip EP and the song "Faster Kiddies" on the Hear You Me: Mykel & Carli benefit album?
Cherie: Supersport only put out that one CD, but we have recorded probably somewhere between 35 and six million other songs; we recorded them and never did anything with them. Maybe one day we will release a 42-song CD called The Worst of Supersport. We did put out two other singles as Magpie in the early 90's. That's it.
GN: What's the story with the pictures on the "Pinkslip" single?
Cherie: The photos were just some snapshots of my friend Dakota and me. We were pretending the Bronco was a spaceship to the moon and his mom Shelley thought it was funny and took some pictures. When I saw them they made me laugh, so I made the cover art with them. Now people like to poke fun at me and my face.
GN: There are references to surfing on the Supersport disc. Do you surf?
Cherie: We used to say all Supersport songs are about surfing, cars and girls. Rod Cervera, Graciella German, and I used to surf about three times a week. We would go long boarding in Malibu. We all sucked very bad. One time I tried to surf at County Line. I was so terrible that a local yelled at me and hit me on the head with his board.
Then we all got lazy and took up golf. Me, Mike Fletcher, and Rod would go five times a week. Okay, maybe not that much, but way too often. I guess we were smart enough not to write golf songs.
GN: Did you grow up in California?
Cherie: I grew up in St. Louis. I lived in San Jose, California, for a while and then came to L.A. I always said I hate L.A., but I've stopped saying that 'cause I guess if I hate it so much, why don't I just leave?
GN: What's keeping you there?
Cherie: I think I'm here 'cause I can't seem to choose a new home. I like a lot of places and I know wherever I go first, I'll probably get stuck [there]. So I stay. At this point I am definitely here for the music. Just to play in Slow Signal Fade.
L.A. has great mountains to hike and you can pretty much find or do anything here. There are a lot of great golf courses and bowling alleys. What else do you need?
GN: Besides being in bands, what else have you done to keep yourself occupied over the years?
Cherie: All I do is work on cars; it has taken over my life. I had a 1966 [Dodge] Charger, 1970 [Dodge] Coronet 440, 1969 [Dodge] Superbee, and I have been restoring a 1970 Superbee. I just put in a new motor and I can't wait to never ever see another car part again. When I get this car back on the road I am going to throw out all my Mopar magazines and get a bicycle!
When I bought the Superbee, it wasn't running and was completely torn up inside and out. It had a worn out 400 [cubic inch V8 engine]. So I got a rebuilt 383 and, apart from the machine work, have put the car together pretty much by myself. Ron helped me drop the engine in 'cause that takes two people, but he can't even pump gas. He hates cars; he's the best. Anyway, I'm doing a full stock resto[ration].
One day I hope to own a 1969 Dodge Daytona, blue with white trim. But those cost a pretty penny. My first car was my Uncle Raymond's, a hand-me-down 1965 [Ford] Fairlane 500. Then I got a '70 [Mercury] Cougar XR7, and that's when I found Dodge.
I guess I just got into it 'cause the cars kept breaking and I don't trust anyone, especially mechanics, so I would just fix them myself. After I did, I started to like doing it.
GN: What kind of music do you listen to?
Cherie: I've listened to Black Sabbath my whole life. Nazareth's "Hair of the Dog" is my favorite song. My first concert was Journey, and then Triumph. Journey was in my senior year at school, I was 17 and saw them at Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis, the same for Triumph. Now I listen to At the Drive In.
GN: Do you prefer to listen to music or to make your own music?
Cherie: I don't listen to music very much. I think that's a bad thing; I'm going to change that. I usually pick one album and play it 'til I hate it. Sometimes one song 'til I never want to hear it again. Marvin Gaye's "Lets Get It On" for like six months. Old Dirty Bastard over and over, but only for a few weeks. You get my drift. You know, I don't think Marvin Gaye made one single mistake in that song; I dare you to find one.
GN: How did you end up in the Rentals?
Cherie: Originally, Rod had played on The Rentals' first recording just for fun and to help Matt out. At that time, Matt was just trying to get someone to put out an indie single. So he asked if I would pretend to be in the band so we could meet with record companies. I hadn't even really heard the songs at that point, but I helped him out. He then asked if I would sing on the album, so I said sure and I spent a few weeks recording the album. After the album was complete, Rod shot a video for him and we all pitched in and that was the black and white "Friends of P." video. I think that is what got the interest of Maverick Records and Guy Oseary. At that point Matt had to really get it together or else. We all were friends and so we all just pitched in and said we would help him out and tour with the Rentals. Rod, Mike and I wanted to help Matt do his band so Supersport was on hold for a while.
I didn't play any of the Moog on the Rentals record, and I'm actually not sure how much was Matt and how much was Tom Grimmly. I think Tom played and wrote and came up with ideas for a lot of the Moog stuff. I'm sure it was Tom's Moog that we used originally. I got all the other Moogs together for the band. Jim Richards did some keyboard stuff as well.
Then Matt pretty much tried to take credit for everything that anyone would let him. He changed the album cover from the original design to a picture of just him. I think he even tried to take producer credit all to himself. I really think Matt was being kind of a big jerk to a lot of nice people. Tom really did do quite a lot on that album. Yes, Matt also did take all the writing credit, and all the publishing money that goes along with the writer's credit, although you are right about "My Summer Girl." I wrote the lyrics and melody. Oh well.
GN: Did Supersport get back together after The Rentals album and tour?
Cherie: Supersport were together for a while after The Rentals. We played around L.A. and opened for Blur at the Palladium and the Palace. Then we just quit. I don't know why; I think I was the one who said we should quit. I don't know why really. Maybe because I am a big quitter.
Cherie: Opening for Blur was great. We went almost everywhere you can think of in Europe. Blur and all the people who worked with Blur were the best. They were very popular, so it was very rock and roll, being rushed into a van from the backstage entrance and whisked away to some exclusive European club with VIP treatment. Weird. I mostly stayed drunk on gin and it was like being in a cartoon. Really. I don't think anyone liked us; we were just kind of along for the ride, which was better probably. I don't know, I just know it was the best, funnest thing I've ever done.
Alanis was a fun tour and the band she played with were so funny and nice. We would all just hang out and laugh and do fun stuff. We went all over America and saw nearly every middle state and some of the corner ones. The Chili Peppers shows were pretty huge and rocked! Silverchair was opening. Now those guys were rock stars for real. They had their mom and dad with them. It was pretty terrific to play at Madison Square Garden. It's a very big place. It was so weird though, playing those big stadiums.
GN: Did rock and roll change your life?
Cherie: The only real memory of rock affecting me is as a kid I was sitting at my cousins Chris and Patty Palmer's house in the basement and watching them act out the entire Rush 2112 album. I couldn't believe how cool they were; they knew every word and they also wore boots like the girls in Abba.