Pom Pom Squad: A Journey From Packed Apartments to Packed Venues
Photo: Sammy Rae Nelson
Pom Pom Squad frontwoman Mia Berrin’s journey as an artist started long before she picked up a guitar. "I’ve always been a music fan, first and foremost," says Berrin. "When I was a kid, my family would take really long road trips, and I figured out that if I pretended to be asleep, I could listen to the music they played 'after hours.'" In her parents' "after hours" playlist were musicians like Prince, The Smiths, Eric B. & Rakim, and Lauryn Hill.
"It didn’t occur to me until later in life that I could actually make music myself. I sort of fell into playing live in college," shares the singer. She initially attended NYU to study acting and met a couple of guys studying music technology. They asked her to open a show and agreed to be her backing band. "I practiced for hours in the mirror leading up to the show, and when I stepped on stage, it felt like something completely took me over," she recalls. "I basically pivoted my whole life after that. I left acting school to learn everything I could about recorded music and put it all towards Pom Pom Squad." With an early iteration of the band, she released the 2017 EP Hate It Here.
Berrin linked up with drummer Shelby Keller, bassist Mari Alé Figeman, and guitarist Alex Mercuri early in her gigging pursuits. The group found their footing in packed Brooklyn apartments before soon finding themselves in packed Brooklyn venues alongside artists like Soccer Mommy, Adult Mom, and Pronoun. Pom Pom Squad released her next EP Ow in September 2019, the excitement of building critical buzz, landing multiple SXSW showcases, and supporting tour dates with The Front Bottoms and Disq. was quickly cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but nevertheless, she persisted. In 2020, Pom Pom Squad released a series of covers and her single “Red with Love.”
On March 2, 2021, Pom Pom Squad announced that she had signed with the Berlin indie label City Slang. Along with the announcement, she released “Lux.” In June of that year, she dropped her debut album, Death of a Cheerleader, to critical acclaim. The cinematic record is a 14-track project that passionately explores love, anger, and growing up. "When I’m first conceptualizing a project, I think a lot about texture and color," says Berrin on creating the album. "I also draw a lot of my inspirations from movies. When I was working on Death of a Cheerleader, I was watching a lot of movies by Sofia Coppola, David Lynch, and John Waters."
In December of last year, she put out a cover of Nada Surf’s cult hit “Popular,” featuring the original band's vocalist/guitarist Matthew Caws on backing vocals. The accompanying music video replicated Nada Surf’s 1996 video shot for shot and was even filmed at the same location as the original video. "I feel really grateful for what I’ve gotten to do in the past year. Being in Rolling Stone in print was definitely a highlight, and being on a Billboard in Times Square,“ confides Pom Pom Squad. "Although, I do feel like the album itself was a major highlight. When we finished it, I felt a lot of pride. It felt like a vision I’d had inside myself was finally exorcized, and it felt so complete and realized. I’ve never had a process that was so satisfying.”
Fans of the band have a lot to look forward to in 2022, COVID-pending of course. Pom Pom Squad will be hitting the road and opening for Illuminati Hotties in February 2022 through March and going on her own headlining tour starting in April.