Hannah and Nyree of Derry punk pop band Cherym told David Hennessy about their new single, how the band has encountered racist and transphobic hate and dealing with the topic of domestic violence.
Derry band Cherym have just released their latest single Taking up Sports with support from none other than Derry City FC with a video filmed at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium and featuring Derry City players like Jordan McEneff, Sadou Diallo and Cameron McJannett.
The band have also just announced a tour of the UK for October.
Vocalist and guitarist Hannah Richardson describes Taking Up Sports as a love song about a time when she had a huge crush on a sporty girl and about hilariously attempting to join the football team just to get close to her- despite not being athletic in any way.
Hannah told The Irish World: “It is a bit of a cheesy love song but we just wanted it to be fun.
“We’re the kind of band that don’t take ourselves too seriously.
“It’s just an extention of the ridiculous lengths that women in woman loving woman relationships will go to for the person that they think is worth it.
“So there was a sense of sincerity there as well.”
Bass player Nyree adds: “It was some craic. I remember the day that Hannah brought the song in and I was like, ‘Oh my God, you have literally wrote another banger’.
“Hannah can’t write a shite song.
“It’s not in her, it’s not in the DNA.
“She just always writes really hooky songs that just grab you straightaway.
“When I heard it for the first time, I just fell in love.
“Getting to do the music video was some craic as well.
“Because obviously we’re from Derry and Derry City Football are such a huge part of our community and the people that live here.
“So getting to play on the football pitch and meeting some of the players and stuff, it was just so surreal.
“I never would have thought when I was walking around the streets being a wee hoodlum that I would finally be in a band with my best friends standing on the Brandywell Stadium getting to record a music video.
“But the thing that really brought us together was the band.”
“And it’s a queer love song as well too.
“So it was a real full circle moment.”
Hannah continues: “Derry City have just been so lovely and so supportive of us and our band.
“We knew we wanted to do it in the Brandywell Stadium but we just didn’t know what way we wanted it to happen.
“And Derry City were just like, ‘Come on in and we’ll work something out’, they just wanted to really be involved so we were absolutely delighted when they agreed to just get some players and stuff in for us and do the whole thing. It was amazing.”
Taking up Sports is not the band’s first time to pay homage to Derry City FC.
When the band performed at the NI Music Prize 2022, all three members did so in full Derry City FC strip.
Hannah says: “You support your own, you know what I mean?
“Derry had just had their big win. They just won the cup and that was a big deal for the people of Derry so for us to be able to go to Belfast, the big city, represent where we’re from meant a lot to us.
“It felt right. It felt right to do that.”
Cherym is made up of Hannah Richardson, Nyree Porter and Alannagh Doherty.
How did you all meet? “Me and Nyree met when we were in school,” Hannah says. “Nyree was a year ahead of me.
“And then Alannagh played in bands around the town and stuff so we always knew of Alannagh but we just weren’t friendly with her.”
Nyree would join after the original bass player left.
Nyree says: “Whenever I heard that the bass player was leaving I was like, ‘I might try. I don’t play bass but might as well give it a go’.
“I went up and the other ones were like, ‘You’re in’.
“I was so buzzing then.
“That was just the start of it because I had to learn how to play the bass then.
“I swear even now I still don’t think I have a clue what I’m playing.
“We did an interview with one of The Undertones Mickey Bradley and he was like, ‘You’re so good’.
“And I was like, ‘What? I’ve only started’.
“He was like, ‘Are you serious?’
“I was like, ‘Aye’.
“And he was, ‘Oh my god’.
“And I was like, ‘This is the best compliment ever: One of the Undertones saying that I’m good’.
“So I stuck at it then,” Nyree laughs.
“And I’m still going. I’m still trying to play the bass.”
Hannah continues: “Then obviously, the time came when we needed a drummer and Alannagh was the missing piece of the puzzle.
“We took Alannagh up to the practice space and she just blew our minds.
“So we’ve all kind of known each other from we were very young.
“But the thing that really brought us together was the band.”
With their catchy punk pop sound, it was unlikely Cherym were ever going to channel The Bangles.
But it was one member’s idea at the start.
Nyree says: “I said to Hannah, ‘Oh, I’d love to join a band. I really just want to join a band. I want to make a band and I want it to be just pure class and I want it to be female fronted, female led’. Just to give women a chance to get up there and do what the mostly male dominated scene was doing.
“At that point, I was a girl. I’m not anymore.
“I was like, ‘I love The Bangles. We should start a band like The Bangles’.
“And Hannah was like, ‘Aye’.
“And then a week later, she’s like, ‘I’m in Cherym’.
“And I was like, ‘You f**king bitch, we were meant to be a Bangles cover band, we were meant to be The Bangles 2.0. What the f**k?’
“One of these days we’re going to do a wee Bangles cover,” Nyree laughs.
Hannah responds, “Walk like an Egyptian wasn’t doing it for me. I’m sorry.”
Nyree offers, “Eternal Flame maybe?”
Nyree mentions that she is non-binary. Alannagh also uses the pronouns she/they.
These and racism are among the reasons the group have encountered a lot of hate.
Nyree explains: “Hannah’s black and would face a lot of racism, and then there’s transphobes that don’t like the way I live my life and they have something to say about that as well.
“We still face a lot of comments whether it’s being female, being black, being from council estates and being poor, me being trans: People have a lot to say about it.
“Derry City have just been so lovely and so supportive of us and our band.”
“We just take it on the chin.
“(Or) We try to, it still hurts obviously but we take it on the chin and we understand you’re gonna get comments. People are not going to like the music, they’re not gonna like you and that’s their problem. That’s not our problem.
“We’re trying our best to do what we want to do and make people happy, and create inclusive spaces for other fem, non-binary, trans, any ethnicity or anything at all.
“We just want people to feel safe in the crowd.
“So although it did start a bit sh*tter, I think that we have tried our best to pave a road of inclusivity for our fans.
“I think we’re very lucky though because the majority of the people that come to our shows understand that they need to respect other people and if you’re going to sit and judge people and be a d*ckhead and say slurs or anything like that, then you’re not welcome.
“So I think that our crowd members have sort of come to notice that they’re gonna feel very safe and if anybody’s f**king about and trying to be a d*ckhead, they’re getting thrown out.
“There’s no question about it. We don’t allow people to come in and to treat other people like that because we’ve been treated like that.
“But we have control of our shows. We have the power to be like, ‘No, that’s not happening. This is our safe place. If you want to do it elsewhere, go and f**k off because they can deal with it and I’m sure that they won’t like it either’.
“We just try to make our shows as safe as possible so that people don’t have to feel like they’re gonna be up against people who have things to say about them, that have comments to make.
“We’re trying our best and I feel like we’re doing a really good job with that.”
So if the ‘d*ckheads’ get shown the door, does that just leave the keyboard warriors? “In this day and age with the internet people feel like, they just need to put anything up there,” Nyree says.
“They start to say things that maybe they don’t even truly understand themselves.
“A lot of people will have a lot to say about me being non-binary and I do try my best to sit down and be like, ‘This is the way it is. If you don’t understand that, I get it because most straight people don’t actually have to look at their sexual identity and that’s just the way it is but my life is more complicated than that. I’m just a wee bit gay.
“Just a wee tiny bit,” Nyree laughs.
Hannah continues: “We didn’t have this kind of representation growing up, especially in Derry.
“Whenever we were just kids that wanted to be in bands, there wasn’t really space for people like us to make music.
“There wasn’t really a space for people like us to be able to socialise or even just getting to meet each other.
“There was no sense of community really for queer musicians or queer people in music or just queer alternative people in general.
“In Derry we don’t even have a gay bar anymore.
“They burnt it to the ground.
“There is definitely a demand, I think, for just somewhere where we can be together.”
Nyree adds: “I love Derry. It’s my hometown but we definitely have a long way to go.
“But that’s how it starts, the revolution’s coming.”
Hannah continues: “I would like to think our band has helped other people in their journeys as well with their queerness and their identities and how they feel about themselves.
“I would hope that we have been one of the bands that would launch other bands that are like us.
“I would hope that we just made a bit of an impact here in our community.”
The band dealt with the topic of domestic violence in Gone Girl. The song was based on Nyree’s personal experiences and would go on to be nominated for awards.
What did the reaction to that song mean to you?
“I don’t really know how to put it into words,” Nyree says.
“Because I feel so many emotions about it.
“I couldn’t believe that something so personal to me impacted so many people, and it resonated with them.
“Because that song came from the darkest time for me.
“I was in an awful relationship.
“And then after that I was like, ‘I’m gonna go get my head sorted. I’m gonna go and do the counselling’.
“And my counsellor was like, ‘You know, you should try and write about this. Because you’re musician, I think if you try and write about the situation, it could really help’.
“That’s when I sat down and wrote Gone Girl.
“I think if I was to use one word for the reaction and how it all went after it came out, it would just be beautiful.
“It was just nice to see so many people standing up and saying, ‘Yeah, this is a topic that’s okay to talk about’.
“Because it’s not taboo, it’s something that happens every day.
“It’s a real thing that affects people and you wouldn’t know to look at them that they’re going through the worst of their life and they’re so strong.
“It was just a really nice moment and a really beautiful thing that came from such a dark time.”
The band promise more music to coincide with their UK tour later this year.
Hannah says: “We’ll have another song out around the same time as the tour and I hope that the Irish fans know as well that there is something brewing in the mix too.
“We’ve just announced the UK tour but there is something coming for the Irish fans as well.”