By Murphy McFadden
Photos by Olivia Vaughn
Rooted in and out of Philadelphia with a history that dates back to a middle school punk band, Cheers Elephant is Derek Kryzwicki, Roberto Kingston, Jordan del Rosario, and Travelin’ Mat. Origivation recently had the opportunity to casually share a brew with front man Derek (that is, after the group headlined Origivation’s Music Series at World Café Live back in June) to learn more about who they are, where they’re going and…what’s up with those lyrics?
Conceived in 2007, Cheers Elephant has by this time developed a solid footing in Philly’s music scene, of which Derek Kryzwicki notes a healthy community-feel built on mutual respect for fellow bands. “In my mind, the same number of bands are coming out of Philly as any other city,” he says, “but the view is warped. People’s perception is that there aren’t many bands in Philly.” Locals do feel that these home grown bands should be expanding more because we, as Philadelphians, know and love them and so should the rest of the world.”
Obviously. (It’s the typical Philadelphian attitude: holding our ideals superior and blindly misinterpreting why the rest of the world doesn’t get it.)
Well, let’s just say that the rest of the world doesn’t get it just yet, as the band doesn’t receive nearly as much brotherly love in other places compared to Philly. Cause let’s face it; fans feel the same way about the lack of openness in other cities. If you’ve ever been to a show in New York and the crowd surrounding you stands pretentiously cross-armed as if they don’t know how to feel a beat, then you know what I’m talking about. However, universal acceptance is a result of “sheer odds and mathematics,” notes Derek. The more you put yourself out there, the more likely people will know your name.
The eclectic feel of the group’s first album makes it difficult for both Cheers Elephant and their fans to hammer down the sound. Depending on the song to which you listen, the genres could include bluegrass, folk, psychedelic rock, alternative and country.
This eclectic sound is often reminiscent of epics like The Beatles, Beach Boys, and The Kinks not only because of similar song structures but also for the utilization of 3 part harmonies.
Derek’s lyrics are greatly inspired by science, philosophy, and the world around us. The theme of the first album, which never hints to love found or lost, is all about “inner peace and experiencing your own personal grace amongst the universe.” The sentiment of a hippie? Perhaps. But Derek has never relied on imagination-enhancing drugs to answer life’s big questions. In fact, he reveals that the song “Continuation” is about not finding solace in drugs for your own happiness or self-acceptance.
“You don’t need drugs to celebrate life,” he says. “You never know where music comes from when it comes to you appropriately,” says Derek. “It doesn’t involve thought. It just comes out of the sky. Somehow, it’s like all our brains are radio transmitters.” The song “Space and Time” for example, a classic crowd favorite, came to fruition randomly during a practice session. “Beats just starting coming out, vocals started coming out of mouths, and the next thing you know we all looked around, and King pointed to all of us and said ‘SONG! NEW SONG!'”
Despite the band’s easy-going personalities, relaxed views on life, and the fact that dates are illusive and irrelevant, the foursome has been in the studio recording a “proper” album for “two years too long,” says Derek. Perhaps the band’s most critical member, Derek feels that the first self-titled album – which was really a collection of demos – lacked continuity because it was recorded in multiple locations. This perfectionist attitude leaves him a bit restless about the details of the album, feeling like they coulda-woulda-shoulda done things differently. “John Lennon and Paul McCartney, for example, were never able to hear their own greatness as an outsider,” says Derek.
Cheers Elephant are proudly known for their lively and eccentric shows that appeal to all senses, but recognize the difficultly translating this energy into a recording. And frankly, that’s not necessarily what the band is trying to accomplish.
Derek clarifies that in the right state of mind at a show, you can let go of your emotions, but there is something truly intimate that’s captured in the studio that can’t be portrayed in a club. Nonetheless, Derek boldly states, “I am striving to be the best front man in Philadelphia.”
Derek may have answered life’s big questions for himself, but the band is still exploring new realms and defining who they are musically. Cheers Elephant is progressing the first album’s eclectic feel and embracing a style that’s uniquely their own. The world can expect the new album to be much more melodic, less rhythm driven, and to be released in late September. Of course, keeping in mind that dates are illusive.