Amongst a music scene filled with pretense, Rotten Cheri keep it simple by writing irresistible, hook laden songs infused with a sense of fun and sensuality that is resonating with a new and expanding base of fans. The Brooklyn, NY rock trio’s new album, 02, is both a statement of purpose and a labor of love that required some very real sacrifices to be made on the band’s part.
The seeds of Rotten Cheri were planted with the partnership of guitarist/keyboardist Kee Chung and drummer Howard Alper. The two were playing together when Howard became friendly with co-worker Stephanie St. Hilaire, who would soon become Rotten Cheri’s vocalist. Recounts Howard, “Steph and I were working at the same gym together and she knew I was working on a project with Kee. She kept bothering me at work, telling me that she could sing. She was so relentless about it that finally we had her rehearse with us – and she was perfect.” Kee and Howard immediately asked Stephanie, a California native, to join the band.
With the addition of Stephanie, the band, now named Rotten Cheri, began to find their sound, a mixture of Kee and Howard’s love of hard rock and Stephanie’s “California girl” influences of No Doubt, Blink-182, swing and ska. They also began playing the NYC club circuit, where they quickly gained a reputation as a high-powered and dynamic live act, in part due to Stephanie’s sense of drama, honed in her background in theater and years of performing experience.
After a couple of years of constant rehearsing and playing in New York clubs, the band settled down to write and record. Recording at Sugar Box studios, they quickly realized that if they were going to be able to pay for the album, some sacrifices would have to be made. Kee discovered that he would have to find a cheaper place to live in order to continue paying the studio, so he moved into a cheaper apartment. Howard sold his baseball card collection for studio time, and Stephanie, well, Stephanie made the most rock n’ roll sacrifice of all; she sold her eggs.
That obvious devotion to the music is evident in the band’s debut album 02. Intense and hard rocking, lyrically, the songs reflect the ups and downs the band was going through while recording. As Stephanie explains, “At the time I first start writing, everything is so serious. I write about serious things, but with the music we make fun of it and make light of it. My lyrics complement the music that Howard and Kee write perfectly.”
“Things I Hate About You” captures the musical and lyrical vibe of the band to a “T.” Stephanie’s vocal is immediately engaging, telling the tale of her relationship with her former roommate, a small town girl, who, as Stephanie recounts, “started working at a fashion magazine and started to change. She dumped her old life and who she was so should could accomplish things.” And as that first verse ends, the song explodes into a Kee’s guitar and Howard’s drums, supporting and expanding upon Stephanie’s immensely catchy and melodic chorus.
Kee’s ominously sensual guitar and keyboard riffs highlight “Before It’s Over,” a lament of an off and on and off again relationship. As Stephanie says, “I wrote about a past relationship that never ended, even though I thought it was kaput. He promised that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. It was all one promise after another broken promise.”
The beauty of Rotten Cheri is that they are the perfect mixture of lightness and darkness – dark enough to have depth and resonance that one can sink into, light and catchy enough that one can forget about the darkness and just sing along to their irresistible melodies and choruses. The band is now working to take their music and career to the next level – to an indie label, to music conferences and to film and television. The more that this band’s music is exposed, the brighter their future will be.