Drummer Debbie Knox-Hewson On Nasty Cherry, The Pop Girl Gang Of Your Dreams

GO Mag chatted with Debbie Knox-Hewson about everything from missing her girlfriend in London to navigating the music industry without a road map.

Looking for a new band to get into? Look no further than Nasty Cherry, a four-part pop group formed and supported by superstar gay icon Charli XCX.

Nasty Cherry features vocalist Gabbriette Bechtel, guitarist Chloe Chaidez, bassist Georgia Somary, and drummer Debbie Knox-Hewson. The band released a few singles at the beginning of the year and took to social media with a guerrilla marketing strategy to introduce their music to the world.

But it’s the new Netflix series “I’m With The Band: Nasty Cherry” that could potentially propel the band into stardom. The series follows the four members of the band as they meet, learn how to play together (or, in some cases, learn how to play at all), and develop Nasty Cherry into the band they and Charli XCX want it to be. It premiered on November 15th.

Heavily inspired by bands like The Runaways and Spice Girls, Nasty Cherry manages to fit a handful of musical aesthetics into one sound without muddling it into something unrecognizable. The group maintains their cheerful individuality while presenting with the look and grit of Joan Jett. Though they pull inspiration from a spectrum of artists, Nasty Cherry achieves a sound that is entirely their own. The lyrics have a sense of vagueness that makes them easily relatable, but they’re also specific enough that they feel fresh. With sultry vocals and punchy drumlines, this is the kind of music that makes you want to get up and dance until you’re sweaty and out of breath.

On that drumline is Debbie Knox-Hewson, a dedicated drummer who met Charli XCX when she began touring in the star’s backing band. Knox-Hewson, a London native, was nervous about traveling all the way to Los Angeles to gamble on a brand new band’s success. But as a strong advocate for female musicians, she eventually scrapped her doubts for excitement. In the first episode of the Netflix series, Knox-Hewson recounts what it was like to be in Charli XCX’s all-woman backing band on tour: “Everyone turned up expecting us to suck, and when we didn’t, people wouldn’t come up to you, like, ‘Great job, man.’ They’d go, ‘That was actually really good.’ It’s that ‘actually’ — it’s that surprise — that shows why you need to be so much better than your male counterparts in the music industry.” Over the course of the series (and in their resulting singles), Knox-Hewson and Nasty Cherry’s other three members prove that they can be twice as good in half as much time.

Fresh from the release of “I’m With The Band: Nasty Cherry” and in anticipation of their upcoming E.P. release this month, GO Mag chatted with Knox-Hewson about everything from missing her girlfriend in London to navigating the music industry without a road map.

Tell me a little bit about how music became such a large part of your life.

I grew up on a small Greek island, where my mom and dad met. My mom was on holiday, and my dad had this bar-slash-restaurant-slash-music venue. I’ve just always been around music. I remember my dad used to just have these massive boxes of cassettes, and he used to let me put together the songs that we played in the store that night. So from a very young age, [I’m] listening to a lot of different kinds of music and I’m also watching it live. I used to set up the ashtrays and spoons and make a little drum kit.

In the first episode of your show, you talk about how you get so into it when you’re drumming and that you’ve even fallen off your chair from going so hard. Where do you think that overwhelming passion for drums comes from?

I don’t know. I really don’t remember where [it] started but I’ve been told that I’ve been playing since I was three or four. I saved up to get my first kit [with] my pocket money in my early teens, and then when I was a little bit older — 17, 18 — I thought, ‘I can’t imagine doing anything else.’ There is a real gap in the market for professional female drummers, so I decided to take it seriously and try and learn how to read music and that sort of thing.

And you actually toured with Charli XCX for a few years before Nasty Cherry was started. What is it like working with Charli as part of her ensemble and as part of Nasty Cherry?

I have so much respect for her as a musician and as a businesswoman, and there’s no better way to move into a new project than really believing in the people that are also part of the project. So when she said, “I’m thinking of putting together a girl band, do you want to be part of it?” I thought, “Well, if you’re doing it, definitely.”

It was crazy. It’s very strange to go from like hired hands, as such, to a collaborator. But also really really exciting. The whole process and the transition was made so comfortable by the fact that Charli was instantly championing us. From the start, she was saying, “I picked you four for a reason. Just do whatever you want. I trust it.”

I wanted to ask you about what it felt like to be in L.A. during the formation of the band when you were basically plucked from London. Obviously you had toured before, but being locked down in a house must’ve felt a bit more concrete. How did that feel to be working on something so exciting like Nasty Cherry, but knowing that the people you love were so far away?

It had its moments. I think in the first episode, I crack. Georgia’s talking about something like Marmite, and I start crying. It was like, “I’m not crying about Marmite!” It also just puts a good amount of pressure on the project, because you really want it. It’s not like something you do for three hours on a Wednesday night so you can carry on with the rest of life. It really did feel like a departure from my life to do it. I really wanted to make it worthwhile and I think we all felt like that. We all had sacrifices that we had to make to really give it a go.

And how does that experience of living and evolving in one place compare to the constantly changing cities of tour?

Really odd. That was the weirdest thing. When you tour, it’s not personal. It’s a different hotel room. But with the house, I had my yoga school, and I had a houseplant. I started to make friends, but it was just really strange to not be able to share them with other people. I felt like I was making a new life without so many people that I’d need to be there for it to feel like my life. But, you know, I’m really lucky. I was really supported throughout the whole thing and I came back feeling very loved and supported by everyone close to me.

One of the things I really loved so much about how you talked about your relationship in the show was that it was presented like “Oh, I’m a queer woman. Here’s my whole life struggle. Here’s my girlfriend.” It was just, “Oh, I miss my girlfriend.” It was just so natural. But I wanted to touch on that a bit and ask you if there was ever a question about being open on the show, or if you were just like “This is me and this is my life.”

I’ve been very fortunate that that’s always been my approach. I don’t even think I had a coming out moment, I think I just suddenly told people that, “This is my girlfriend now.” I’ve never really cared. Also with that, I’ve had a lot of love and a lot of acceptance. It’s never been a problem, but also there was never anything to suggest I shouldn’t be myself from the start. … It’s like, “That’s why we picked you.” It’s not really discussed. It just feels natural — very natural.

One thing that the show touched on a lot that really made me think was that Nasty Cherry’s whole thing is that you guys are trying to make your way in an industry that doesn’t really have a roadmap for success at the current moment. What’s navigating that like?

It’s kind of lucky, really, because it just further validates the idea of “just do what you want,” because there’s no sure way that anything works, so just do what you want to do. That feels like the best thing: to stay consistent in an industry that’s always changing. And fashions are always changing; the way that people consume music is changing. The best thing you can do, really, is just do what you want and hope people latch onto it.

I think that’s what we’ve really tried to do from the start, and luckily a lot of people seem into it. We’ve got an E.P. coming out on the 22nd of November — really excited to share that with people. The singles that we’ve put out so far have been quite amazing. [I] remember our first show in L.A., and we just had one song out. It felt like, “Oh, well, this might be an interesting gig if no one knows anything we’re playing.” The second — I think it was the first note of “Win” — like 50 percent of the people there were screaming the lyrics back at Gabi, and that was really emotional. It’s something I’ve never experienced: having a song that I’d helped write shouted back at me. And it’s something we haven’t ever shared in together either. And then you’ve got the [Netflix] show; you get to see that. I know I’m going to look back on the show. It’s like I’ve paid for someone to make a family scrapbook for me. Netflix has made me a Nasty Cherry scrapbook that I can keep going back to.


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