All The Alt Things sat down with Brayan M., guitarist of Philly punk rock band Cheer Up Dusty, to discuss their latest single, “Everybody Hates Me.” The song, which dropped on March 4, 2022, packs a real pop-punk punch full of angst.
Often a music video band, releasing funny skits reminiscent of early 2000s acts like Sum 41 or blink-182 for a majority of their singles, Cheer Up Dusty took a different approach with “Everybody Hates Me.” This time around, they dropped the song with little fanfare and let the music speak for itself. Debatably their best endeavor yet, it’s no surprise that it’s already hit the top spot of their Spotify page and proved that the band’s confidence in the song was justified.
Cheer Up Dusty is now working on their most ambitious, angry, and genuine songs so far. During this conversation with Brayan, we were able to uncover what makes this first single from that partnership with Zen so different and how the band is going through an exciting evolution. Though the lyrics discuss the fear of letting everyone down, this latest effort shows that the band is setting out to do the exact opposite.
How has the response to your newest single been?
The new song seems to have been received well, which is really exciting. I joined the band right before “Randy Savage Would Be Disappointed” dropped in 2020, but “Everybody Hates Me” is the first song we’ve released that all of us wrote together. We connected with Justin Humenik (vocals) through Facebook, and he was very upfront about where the band was at that time and what his intentions were moving forward. Basically, he said, “We’ve got all this music written and ready to be recorded. So, if we start making new material together right now, it might not see the light of day until later. You’ll be in our Instagram posts, you’ll play our live shows. But we’ve got to get the music we have written right now out first.” And so finally, about a year or so after we met, “Everybody Hates Me” is finally here. It’s been a long wait for this one, but I feel really good seeing it received so well.
What was the writing process like for “Everybody Hates Me” with it being your first time writing collaboratively as the band?
As I mentioned, I met Justin around March of 2020, which feels so long ago. At that point, we dropped “Randy Savage Would Be Disappointed.” Then he had a couple of songs he wanted to drop sporadically throughout the year. He really wanted to make sure we gave each song time to flourish and be in the spotlight. All of the songs released during 2020 and 2021 were written by [Humenik] and our bassist, Patty Desiato. Some songs turned out really cool too, such as “Shirtless and Afraid” and “I Believe in You.” and so on.
“Everybody Hates Me,” however, began when I approached the guys with this demo I was working on. I basically said, “Hey, I’ve been forming this song for a while now and it’s gone through many different iterations. How would it sound if we worked on it together?” The guys immediately got excited after listening to it. We started talking about things more in-depth and formed a game plan. I showed them what I had put together, then it was up to [Desiato] to come up with something on the bass. After that, we handed it off to Justin and told him to spill his guts on a piece of paper. Then we all reconvened and played it a bunch of times with Paul Berthold (drums) until it sounded just right. It was a really cool experience and truly was our first song written like that.
Was your original song idea just a lick or riff or did you already have a full skeleton built? How did it blossom into what it is now?
There was a chord progression I had that I really resonated with. I remember our first obstacle writing together was that [Desiato] said he couldn’t jam. However, when you’re in a band, you’re going to be pushed out of your musical comfort zone. Pretty soon we figured out that Patty can jam and be creative on the fly. He was making stuff up on the spot and we kept playing around to this progression as we tried to find something that stuck.
“Everybody Hates Me” has taken on a new life of its own. It sounds like a completely different song than what I’d written on my own. If you were to listen to the original version and then play what we have now right after, you might not recognize their similarities. It’s night and day. When all was said and done, it was just good to hear that everyone got a chance to put what they feel on it. I think that’s what makes it a good song.
The bass side took many forms as we were writing it. Patty was really driven to deliver. We were always trying to think what parts were best-suited for a new listener’s ear. [Humenik] finally got something a lot more punk rock out of me. We’d tried writing [together] before. But, as you’re still getting to know each other, you’re going to write a couple of trash songs first. We always said, “Who cares? That song will never see the light of day. It dies today with us, but we’re going to jam on something really cool tomorrow. It’s not going to be a problem.”
As you said, this was the first punk rock tune to come out of you. Do you usually play in other genres?
Not necessarily. I’ve always grown up with some type of punk influence. But besides some of our shared favorite punk and pop-punk bands, I know that a lot of the music I listen to is quite different. I listen to a lot of reggaeton, hip hop, funk, and jazz. So, when it comes to songwriting, I’m always trying to bring some funky stuff to the music. I think as a band we all really try to push boundaries. Some songs have gelled together really nicely and blend influences. Actually, I think it would be fun to read this back once our future releases drop just to confirm what I’m talking about here.
We don’t like to put ourselves in a box musically. This song really changed things and made us decide that. It was the first time that Justin said, “This is the one. This is raw, this is our next step.” We’re evolving as a band, but we’re not going to get too weird right away. We’re going to move forward with care and maturity. That’s what I love about this era. It’s really nice to see what everyone put into this song.
The first thing I noticed as soon as those guitars came in was that this track is heavy for Cheer Up Dusty. Would you say this is the kind of sound we might expect on future releases?
I’ll just say that I think everyone will be excited to hear the next couple of releases. I don’t think we’re too far away from putting out new music. It’s going to be really cool.
There’s a lyric in “Everybody Hates Me” that says, “I used to throw punches, but now I’m all black and blue.” Is that a reference to the band’s first single “We Get It, You’re Sad?”
Yeah! We thought that would be really clever. I love that you picked up on that. It’s absolutely a reference to a verse from that song. We thought the song would be that much more heartfelt that way.
Since you’re newer to the band, have you played a show with Cheer Up Dusty before? Or will these shows that you’ve got lined up now be your first?
I think the last show we played was in November 2021. It’s been a while. I think that was also the first time that all four of us played together too. We had been practicing for hours and hours in [Desiato]’s basement. We played with Goalkeeper, Win By 2, Sweep Echo, Panic Sets In, The Washups, and Brandon Richie. It feels like such a long time ago now, but it was really cool. So many people came out. And then the show we had on March 18th was our second show together as a band. That was with Out of Service, Wild Mothers, and Aftyn. We were really excited to play with them on top of playing the new song for the first time. The first time we played together live we really got to feel that chemistry and that energy. This second time, I think we just kept building and growing on that.
Do you have any other shows planned in the future?
We’re hoping to do a 21-and-over show on April 20th, but the location is still TBD. That’ll be a lot of fun for the adults (sorry, kids). After that, we’ve got a Weekender Tour with Goalkeeper, Driveways, and Promise Game May 20th through the 22nd, with local support on each show. Our first stop is in New Jersey with All Systems Go and The American Standard, then Connecticut with Pull the Curtain and Scooped Up, and finally we’ll finish the weekend off in Boston with Planet Mercury. It’s going to be amazing to be in Boston for the first time in so long. I think it’s been 15 years since I last visited. I believe there might be something coming in June as well, so you can get your monthly dose of Dusty pretty easily.
Ever since the day he discovered Sum 41 and realized this was “his music”, Dustin embarked on a journey of auditory exploration, never once thinking to look back. As a songwriter himself, and someone who believes in celebrating art rather than tearing it down in the vein of the common critic, Dustin hopes to bring a unique perspective to a scene that could benefit from a bit of positivity.