Pep Squad on the genre's merits
Published: May 16, 2012
Fun Fact: Carlos Herrera, sonic architect of smartypants dance outfit PepSquad, is greatly inspired by the professional lives of his sisters. Gloria Herrera spent years as a Spurs Silver Dancer, and Celina Watson cheered for the Texas Mavericks. Growing up as his sisters’ younger brother, Herrera was subject to being dressed by them in tights and leading cheers for the family.
“We were a pep squad,” he said, plainly.
So it’s no wonder that his debut EP Get Outrageous is almost entirely composed of M-80-caliber shout-sung floor anthems. Being that Herrera crafts ear-wormy songs with a conflicted love for his source material, it seemed appropriate to prod him about what makes good pop irresistible.
“I don’t know, I guess anything is good when it's good,” he said recently via email.
Consider the Drums, Herrera said, referring to the Brooklyn-based indie band known for melding ’50s rock melodies with ’80s textures and rhythms. While the Drums have toured nationally, they’re not about to be bookended by OneRepublic and Lady Gaga on an airwave.
“But their songs definitely have a formula to them that screams pop,” Herrera said. “So I guess … pop music is really confined to a structure that allows a song to define itself within the allotted radio time (usually three minutes). And there is an art in convincing people that a three-minute song has artistic value.”
Herrera dropped that revelatory nugget before admitting, “What the hell am I saying? I have no idea!” Trying to get to the bottom of the issue created a quandary, especially as it led to the use of deflated words like “powerful” and “wicked.” We could only agree that Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In The World)” simply lights up pleasure centers in the brain.
“It's really the way that the lyric, vocal line, and synth interact with each other when the chorus hits,” he said. “A great song makes a physiological change happen. Your heart rate increases. The hair on your arms stands up. You get that feeling that you can't hold still.”
But can pop radio offer us anything teachable regarding the study of music? His answer was as mixed as his attitude towards his chosen genre. “Probably not anything lasting,” Herrera said. “[But] not every song has to be an essay on the existential nature of being. Just enjoy life. Let go and let yourself have fun and be dumb.”
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