You can’t really do the same thing over and over again,” vocalist Chad Cherry of The Last Vegas told me during an interview a few weeks ago, “because personally it would be boring.” For a young rock & roll band like The Last Vegas, they have tried to stay true to their harder-edged roots while at the same time allowing their creativity to explore new regions. Their latest record, Eat Me, which comes out this Friday, March 18th, they hoped to go another step forward. “There’s a lot of feeling in this record,” guitar player Adam Arling recently said in a statement about the upcoming CD. Describing it as “an American hybrid album,” he proclaimed that, “It’s fascinating what you can express musically when you record songs quickly, never second-guessing your gut instinct … But let’s not get too serious. I mean the album is called Eat Me after all.”
Formed in Chicago, they released their first full-length in 2004, Lick’Em & Leave’Em, and by 2008 had caught the attention of not only Spin Magazine, who named them Best New Discovery at SXSW that year, but Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx. The bass player, along with Dj Ashba and Marti Frederiksen, would go on to produce the band’s next offering, Whatever Gets You Off. In 2012, they would open some dates for Guns N Roses during their first residency in Vegas.
Although Cherry is not the band’s original singer, he has settled in nicely as the frontman and each album has proven better than the last. And the band is especially excited about their latest group of songs. Glide talked with Cherry about the new record, his punk roots and being a fashion designer on the side.
The Last Vegas has a new record coming out. What can fans expect on this one?
There is a lot of variety on this one for sure. It’s kind of a mix between everything we’ve sort of done, like hard rock, but experimenting a little bit more. I think that all of us together have so many different styles and so many different kinds of music that we listen to that it all kind of generates and comes out to whatever the hell it is (laughs). It’s rock & roll! But this one was really smooth, a real fun record to make. We had demoed the songs early on in our career and then kind of revisited some of the tracks and guitar riffs that we liked that we never really had a chance to shine the light on and it generated into something bigger and better than it originally was. We kind of shoved them into the light and, I don’t know, it came out really easy and fast and is probably the smoothest record that we’ve done in a long time.
Why do you think it happened like that?
I think we wrote so many songs together and a ton of them have been really good and a ton of them have been like yuck (laughs). So now we know what we like and what we don’t like with each other’s writing, the creativity, so when you have that premise of songwriting friendship it’s kind of easier and smoother as time goes on.
You guys did the producing this time.
Yeah, we did this whole record ourselves and it was stuff that we figured didn’t really need a whole lot of work on it. We didn’t really feel like changing a whole lot of what we had initially created with it so we left it as bare bones as we could. It sounds a little bit raw but at the same time I think that the mix is really aggressive and slamming.
It’s very energetic but you’ve got a few of those ballads that everybody loves. For the most part, though, it’s straight ahead rock that you can pop in your car and listen to all the way down the road.
Right, it’s definitely cool music for stuff like that. I always get these messages from people saying that they’re in the gym listening to The Last Vegas. It’s kind of interesting that people listen to the Last Vegas while they are working out (laughs).
Which song on the new record changed the most from it’s original composition to it’s final recorded version?
Let’s see, I would say “Along For The Ride.” It was a real, straight-forward acoustic singer-songwriter tune that became just a real sonic track.
Who changed it?
You know, it was all of us just sitting around and playing the songs live to see how they would sound if we were going to record them. So we would rehearse over and over again and get them really locked in and that one, we were just experimenting with it and instead of just having an acoustic song, we plugged in and started really bashing it and it turned into just a whole different animal after that, more of an aggressive kind of rock song. So we had to do that. It couldn’t be an acoustic song anymore.
Tell us about the song “Anything It Takes.”
That was me coming off a really long tour, hanging out in my apartment in Chicago, and I had a lot of time to reflect on everything that was going on in my life. I was playing the guitar quite a bit back then and it just kind of flowed out naturally. It’s sort of like a love song, a little desperate, maybe sad and emotional. I think it’s just about being in love or kind of fooling yourself that you don’t want to be in love.
And then you have a wild song like “Hot Fudge.”
Oh yeah, you have to mix it up (laughs). You’ve got to be heart-warming and then you’ve got to be aggressive and a little sleazy and a little sexy. You’ve got to have it all in there. But I think “Hot Fudge” is a really fun song. Danny Smash and I used to play that song in our first band The Nastys and we never got around to recording it and we were thinking about songs to go on the record. Danny and I used to write a lot of like really trashy/glam rock type of music and we were thinking that that song was so fun that why don’t we bring it to the table and see what happens and make it almost like a dance-y, a little disco-y or whatnot.
You just released “Bloodthirsty” as a video.
Yeah, that was filmed out here in California in Los Angeles. All the guys came out here to do a video around Laurel Canyon and downtown and on Hollywood Boulevard. The original concept for that video, I actually know a couple of people that make these huge monster costumes for movies and a friend hooked me up with this guy that makes these Godzilla outfits and we were going to be chased around by Godzilla through the Hollywood Hills. But our manager was like, “You know if you think Godzilla is scary you should meet Godzilla’s lawyer.” (laughs) So we couldn’t use Godzilla in the video so we came up with what “Bloodthirsty” is right now. It’s a pretty fun video.
You’ve been in the band for a while now. Have you changed a lot since you came into the band – the way you write, the way you perform?
Absolutely, for sure. I think I’m the type of person who changes all the time. I’m always trying to learn something new or pick up on a new style or whatever my brain gravitates to. It’s a constant. Change is a great thing. You can’t write the same music all the time and you can’t read the same books all the time. There is so much to see and do, I don’t see how you can’t change. And I think it’s a natural thing for people, musicians, to change up what they are doing at the moment. There are so many different kinds of cool music and influences everywhere you go that it’s hard to not pick up on anything that is brand new or creative. That’s how new things come about. You can’t really do the same thing over and over again because personally it would be boring. You have to be constantly doing something creative or playing music or doing live shows. It’s part of something that you have to do.
What do you think is the biggest mistake a young band can make?
Well, I think the worst thing they can do is NOT go for it. You have to go out there and just completely eat shit for like a long time and you have to tour and you have to play in front of thousands of people or just five people. You have to just get out there and do it. If you’re really, really into what you do when you play music then you just do it. And really the only business now is how you can figure out how to sell your band and you can do it for free on social media. I think a lot of bands think that once they get signed to a major label that it’s all like fucking awesome with limousines and tour buses and this and that. Some labels, yeah, of course, but I think a lot of musicians or kids coming up, they should be just playing it for the music and not really trying to capitalize on a record deal that will probably screw you over in the long run and set you back. I think that’s a mistake, that a lot of kids are having that impression that you’re going to be this arena band if you get signed to a major label.
What was it like when you first started?
I started out playing bass in a punk band when I was sixteen years old. I think that was the first time I got a bass. I was involved in some serious aggressive punk rock music. Then I was playing heavy metal music and I just gradually gravitated towards the roots of it all, which is rock & roll music. But I definitely started off playing punk rock music. It’s easy to play punk (laughs). You can just scream.
We’re going to have to ask Iggy Pop or Johnny Rotten if it was easy.
Oh my God, I love Johnny Rotten. I love Iggy Pop too. Those are just the greatest. I listened to that Sex Pistols record so much, probably more than any record ever.
What did you like best about it?
It was totally attitude. I think a lot of my favorite music was mostly attitude over the talent, you know. That always seemed so real, and still does. I think that’s why I loved the first Guns N Roses record. It was just so attitude driven. Stuff like the Sex Pistols and the Ramones and especially the New York Dolls, they were just cool. Iggy Pop, he might not be up there with singers like Freddie Mercury but he doesn’t have to be because he was just cool.
When did you first start writing songs?
I think I was probably sixteen years old and I got a bass guitar and I just started writing Ramones type of music, kind of like punk rock stuff. Put some lyrics to it. I was playing the bass and this kid was a really incredible drummer, he was in my neighborhood and I went to school with him, and one of my oldest friends ever, he played guitar, and we would write all this punk rock music together; like the UK ska, punk, rock & roll type of stuff.
You didn’t sit back in your room and do love songs?
The first time that I ever started to do that type of stuff was when I got an acoustic guitar and there is just so much more of a personal vibe with an acoustic guitar that it’s just easy to write songs that are rhythmically as pretty as you can get it with lyrics that are either about love or the lack of love. There is always something that everybody likes about slow songs or something that is really deep. It’s a good mixture. I like to listen to just about any kind of music.
Did you get a lot of encouragement from your family and friends to keep singing and keep writing or did they want you to go in a different direction?
I was always playing music, I was always doing art, I was always doing something creative as a kid and I think being in a band was just an extension to have more of my creativity spill out into because I like to write original things, to come up with something that doesn’t exist, challenge myself all the time. Both my parents were okay with whatever I wanted to do. They never told me that I needed to go to school when I was supposed to be going to college and I was on the road with a band or following a band before I even started playing music. They never once were like, “Well, you shouldn’t do that.” So I was pretty lucky in that department, I guess. I got to kind of do whatever I wanted and figure out what I wanted to do, which was obviously music and everything that has to do with pop culture.
What was your first “I can’t believe I’m here” moment?
I would say probably Madison Square Garden. That’s kind of a big deal and that day you’re doing interviews in the same building the Howard Stern Show is in. You’re on a big budget tour and you’ve got your own bus and that feels cool. I know that’s like surface, rock star type of fucking shit but it was fun. But I also think you can ground yourself with your music. I don’t think being a huge rock star, I don’t think anybody really cares about that stuff anymore. I mean, they do but I’ve seen some really, really big rock star guys who are absolutely cool and then I’ve seen some guys that think they’re rock stars but are the biggest jerks ever. And everybody always remembers the asshole. So everybody just needs to be respectful to each other and it will be all good.
Tell us about your clothing line.
I started this clothing thing about three years ago, on my birthday in January, and it’s just been gradually getting momentum and getting a little bit bigger. I need my own sweatshop at this point (laughs) so I’ll put the band all to work. But it’s for people that are onstage, musicians, people that enjoy rock music and dress up to go to concerts. A lot of my stuff is horror movie genre based so I have a lot of rock & roll crossover horror fans. I don’t even know what the hell you call it (laughs). It’s just fashion.
What it was like working with Nikki Sixx and Dj Ashba?
Those guys are so great and I learned so much from working with Nikki. He’s like a master songwriter. And he’s so funny and really, really talented. It was an honor to work with him.
What did you learn from him?
How he could take a structure of something and make it more of like a pop sound instead of just an aggressive hitting, beating something over your head all the time sound. He would take pieces of a song and rip it apart and put it back together and it would make it flow so much easier and so much better and sound really good. Then Dj, he’s kind of the same way when it comes to doing guitar stuff. He knows how to make a lot of really good guitar hooks and he’s such a smooth player. But Nikki was just the coolest dude ever.
So what is coming up for you this year?
We’re hopefully going on some big tours. We’re doing the Midwest at the end of March, like to Michigan and Chicago, Wisconsin, a couple of those states around there. That’s like our little headlining Midwest tour. The band all live in Chicago and I live in Los Angeles now so I’m flying out there and we’ll probably rehearse in the studio and then do this little Midwest tour. Then we’ll be touring in the summer and then in the fall we go to Europe.
Live photographs by Leslie Michele Derrough
Great and really interesting interview, thanks Leslie and Chad! See you in Europe this fall, hopefully we can do it together again, brother.
What a great interview. It’s also great to see Chad doing what he was made to do.