Singer/guitarist Xenia Bleveans-Holm reflects on the local indie-rock act's first full-length, which may also be its swan song
For Xenia Bleveans-Holm, Cherry Chrome’s first (and possibly last) album didn’t come together until she heard crickets.
The 21-year-old singer/guitarist began recording Place of Love with bandmates Mick Martinez (guitar), Amina Adesiji (bass) and Dave Holm (drums/dad) at Musicol in the first few days of 2018, when Bleveans-Holm was 18. But the songs’ origins stretch back further, to 2014 and 2015, when Cherry Chrome’s members were beginning high school.
“I've gone through so many different phases with those songs — first writing them, and then being really young and just super excited about being in a band. I think we were playing two shows a weekend for a while,” she said. “It got to a point where you just get a little sick of it. It gets repetitive to play the same songs, and I wasn't really writing a lot of new music.”
Once Cherry Chrome (an Alive Band to Watch from 2017) got into the studio, Bleveans-Holm said the band got a new burst of new energy that infused the sessions. But over time that, too, began to wane.
“We spent some time trying to get the songs to sound like the live band, but that was hard to do in that situation, because we weren't really playing as a live band. So when we let go of that and decided, ‘OK, we're gonna work on this as an art project, and we're just going to make it sound like how we want it to sound, not necessarily how the band would sound if we were playing live’ — that's when it sparked with me again,” she said. “The last song on the album, ‘Rooftop Drummer,’ has this cricket track on it that my dad had recorded in our backyard the previous summer. And when we added that and this piano drone to it, I just remember sitting there listening to that for the first time and being like, ‘OK, we're getting somewhere.’ … We can put crickets on here and we can add two extra guitars. We can play around a little bit more. That's when I got more inspired about it and felt like we could make it into a new thing even though they were old songs.”Get news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
The lengthy recording process for the debut album, which is out today (Monday, April 6) on Bandcamp, was also complicated by geography and the various life stages the three youngest bandmates were navigating. “From week to week, things changed so much during those years. It’s a big transition period, especially having been a band when you were 15 and 16. Our lives are starting to look different than they did when we're playing a whole lot,” said Bleveans-Holm, who moved to Los Angeles and enrolled in culinary school in November of last year, putting those plans on hold when the COVID-19 crisis hit, returning to Columbus to ride out the pandemic. Martinez is still local and playing in Band to Watch snarls while Adesiji finishes college in Cincinnati.
Reflecting on Place of Love’s nine songs now, Bleveans-Holm, who also performed in the band Golomb for a time, is struck by how she was able to conjure feelings and images and scenarios she hadn’t yet experienced at such a young age. On hypnotic standout “Jewels and Binoculars,” she hears her musical biography coming out of the speakers. “I was deep into the Strokes for a long time when I was younger, and they had this song with Regina Spektor that was a duet where they kind of sang at the same time, but they sort of sang over each other in this way that I thought was really cool,” she said. “The chorus of ‘Jewels and Binoculars’ came from that, with the two different vocal parts.”
“Sorry (I Want You So Much),” on the other hand, came directly from Cherry Chrome supporter Lydia Loveless, who gave the band the unreleased song to record.
Place of Love is likely a farewell album. Bleveans-Holm plans to finish culinary school in Los Angeles when the program reopens, and Cherry Chrome doesn’t have future plans to record. Plus, performing a release show isn’t even an option under the current “stay at home” order. But releasing this record brought Bleveans-Holm a welcome sense of closure. “It was something that I really needed to do to be able to move on to a new thing. I just needed to get them out on the table to feel like I could do something else,” she said. “It feels like getting it out of my head and into the world so it can be free now.”
Listen to Place of Love below.