A glossy flier advertising a show at Wasted Space inside the Hard Rock Hotel this Saturday featuring local rock band Cherry Hill doesn’t stand out from any other gig handbill, save for an odd juxtaposition of terms beneath the band’s name: “album release & final performance.” Say what? That’s akin to being invited to a couple’s simultaneous wedding reception and divorce-paper signing.
To uncover the mystery behind this bizarre booking, I head to a warehouse district on the southern edge of town to check in on Cherry Hill, which has been rehearsing nightly in preparation for the “final” show. The atmosphere inside the hourly rental space is relaxed and casual—it’s obvious that interpersonal conflict isn’t the cause for the band’s pending dissolution. So what is?
“I’m moving to Austin,” says singer Brandon Kiser, his lithe, boyish frame contrasting with the gray in his beard. “It’s very bittersweet for me. I just feel like I need a change. It seems like there’s an abundance of opportunities out there.”
It’s been almost 14 years since the core members of Cherry Hill got together to play music. It wasn’t for fame or fortune or any other measure of success. It was, says guitarist Matt James, “just something to do.
“We started playing music as an excuse for us to get together,” he says. “It’s been like that ever since.”
For a bunch of guys wanting nothing more than to hang out, they’ve done pretty well. Initially known as Copperpot, the band gigged all over Las Vegas for years, nabbing a deal with now-defunct indie label WindWard Records in the late 1990s. After making the rounds in the Los Angeles scene and surviving the folding of WindWard, the band changed its name to Cherry Hill before self-releasing two albums, one of which spawned a single featured on CBS crime drama Numb3rs.
New album Awakenings has been in production for nearly two years. Cherry Hill didn’t plan for it to take so long, but recording was paid for by gig revenue, so the band only got into Atwood Studios with producer Trevor Mayfield as funds allowed. Along the way, Cherry Hill picked up a new guitarist/keyboardist, Seth Floyd, and wrote a gang of new songs, so the studio disc is being accompanied by an acoustic EP called Words Left Unsaid.
However, despite the “final performance” declarations, the band assures that Kiser’s move does not spell the end of Cherry Hill.
“We don’t look at it as a break-up,” says Kiser. “I fully intend to try and book some Cherry Hill shows in Austin.”
In the meantime, James has already been making appearances around town with his wife as an acoustic duo, and though the rest of the band has no specific musical plans, you get the feeling the musicians are not about to stop making excuses to hang out. And in the eyes of Cherry Hill, that’s good enough.
“We got a lot further than a lot of other bands,” Kiser says. “Music’s not about competition or making millions of dollars. It’s about creating something people enjoy. I think in the end, you get the same feeling.”
Cherry Hill plays Wasted Space on June 13 with The Clydesdale.