They played sold-out shows in Sydney and Melbourne last year, and now Oregon swing aficionados Cherry Poppin’ Daddies are packing their zoot suits and returning again to Australia. Daniel Johnson catches up with singer Steve Perry.
Despite breaking into the charts with 1997 single, Zoot Suit Riot, and the swing compilation album of the same name, Cherry Poppin' Daddies have often been unfairly pigeonholed as a swing band. In reality, the band have always traversed a wide variety of different genres, including ska, punk and rockabilly. When they followed up Zoot Suit Riot in 2000 with Soul Caddy, a more rock-oriented album than its predecessor, it baffled many of the band's new fans, but Perry insists he has no regrets.
“Swing music was such a moment in time in the US that by the time we were ready to make another record, the idea of making another swing album seemed kind of pointless, like no one would want to hear it,” Perry suggests. “We decided let's just be what we've been for years, which is a quirky, weirdo band and put (different genres) all together like we normally do. There's a good argument that we should have probably followed the swing record with another swing record but we didn't really see ourselves as a swing band and I don't think the market would have worn it, either.
“At that time, as a writer, I wasn't interested in writing another swing record, I was interested in doing a lot of different songs and the idea of switching from genre to genre was always something that interested me. Soul Caddy wasn't what people expected from us, so I think it hurt us but I like that record among the best we've ever made.”
Cherry Poppin' Daddies are putting the finishing touches on their new album, White Teeth Black Thoughts, which is due to be released early next year. However, as Perry explains, this album will actually be an all-swing affair. “This record, to come back and make a record that was a full-on swing record … it was just time. We found a way that we could make a swing record and still expand our interests artistically, too. We recorded a swing record, which is the main record and that's what we're going to be releasing in all forms, and then if people want to get the deluxe record, which is eleven more tracks, that has guest stars on it. Those songs are a little more guitar-based [but] we still maintain the horns and stuff on the deluxe record – it's a little more rootsy but still swing-danceable.
“We ended up doing a zydeco tune with Buckwheat Zydeco. I don't know if you're familiar with him but he's basically The Man – if you're going to do a zydeco song with somebody, he's the guy. Then we also did a track with Zoot Horn Rollo of The Magic Band. I've always been a Captain Beefheart fan and I happen to have known Zoot Horn Rollo for years. I was actually walking by his house one day and he was outside working on his yard and I stopped and said, 'Hey – we're doing this song and I wonder if you'd consider playing on it' and he said 'Sure,' and he came in the next week and we cut it and it turned out really great. There are some other guest stars, like our old guitarist John Fohl, who now plays with Dr John in New Orleans – he's a super guitar player.”
For those wondering what to expect from a Cherry Poppin' Daddies live show, Perry offers the following advice. “We're very energetic, dancing, and there's basically just a lot of people jumping around, having a good time. We'll probably play mostly swing stuff and it'll be very danceable. There'll be a few things thrown in that are a little oddball, but mostly it'll be a really danceable, energetic show.”
Cherry Poppin' Daddies will be playing the following shows:
Thursday 1 November - Tempo Hotel, Fortitude Valley QLD
Friday 2 November - Factory Theatre, Marrickville NSW
Sunday 4 November - The Gov, Adelaide SA
Monday 5 November - Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC