There comes a time in many bands’ lives when a change in scenery—whether temporary or permanent—becomes necessary in order to further one’s creative vision. The Beatles famously journeyed to India before composing The White Album, and Sun Ra moved his entire Arkestra from NYC to Philly before creating Space Is the Place.
And so it goes for Cheers Elephant, locally born-and-raised, who this winter will move to California—as a band—for new opportunities, new inspiration, and a new perspective on life. We caught up with the dudes of CE at one of their favorite places: Victory Brewing in Downingtown. The band’s roots lie in the Chester County borough as well, and the brewing facility is situated in the same complex as their longtime practice space at Downingtown School of Rock. Many a night involved a hike across the parking lot to jam after sharing a round, or vice versa.
It’s been eight years since Cheers Elephant came together, and since then they’ve grown tremendously—from a bunch of kids drinking variety packs in bassist Matt Rothstein’s parents’ basement (the name Cheers Elephant originated in one such session, when singer/guitarist Derek Krzywicki said it jokingly with a French accent)—to a polished, high-energy rock quartet, with a solid following, impressive tour schedule, and regular air play on local radio. They’ve become a close-knit unit who can goof off while touring the Victory hops cellar (see above!) but still churn out tight pop songs like “Doin’ It, Right.”
“We’re all basically like a family,” says guitarist Jordan del Rosario
“I’ve been coming here for years,” says Rothstein—who goes by the moniker “Travelin’ Mat.” “My parents opened the Rock School in 2004, and we’ve been practicing there almost ever since.”
The band explains that the “drinking of the beer and eating of the wings” are practically a ritual, and that once they even invented their own Victory beer called Mad Elephunky, a mix of Mad King and Golden Monkey. (Note: This sounds delicious and dangerous. -ed.)
So why—if they have such a sweet practice spot and pre-practice ritual—did they make the decision to move?
“We need a change of scenery; a new lifestyle,” says Krzywicki, explaining that the band’s discussed a move for over a year now. His band mates nod in agreement. “We’ve been here our whole entire lives,” adds drummer Robert Kingsly, pointing out that him, Krzywicki, and Rothstein were all born and raised in Downingtown, and are looking for a fresh perspective. “Plus we’re all fairly adventurous people,” continues Rothstein. “We love the ocean, and we love the mountains, and we’ll get more of both out West.”
It’s true. The men of Cheers Elephant are driven by adventure and good times—and California presents opportunities for both. Of course, the four band members aren’t the only ones moving—the band tells me they’ll have a caravan of about 12, including girlfriends, friends, managers, and family. “It will be a mass exodus,” jokes Kingsly.
The list of people and things they’ll miss about Philly is huge—friends, family, Johnny Brenda’s, Paesano’s sandwiches, Toy Soldiers, The Spinto Band, Lost Seeds, Laser Background, real seasons like fall and spring, and the amazing, supportive community. “Most people in Philly are homegrown, and tend to really support other local bands,” says Rothstein.
Still, California will allow for a slew of new opportunities, not to mention new audiences.
“We’ve been told we have a West Coast sound,” says Krzywicki, referencing, perhaps, their sunny major harmonies and psychedelics. “Playing out there has been very well-received. It’s hard to say how the scene differs from Philly, exactly. But we’re going out there with the intent of changing our lives. We don’t want to be an LA band, or a California band. We want to be a national band.”
The band hopes to sign a management deal out West, which will grant them access to a booking agent, and bigger and better tours. “We plan on touring extensively,” says Rothstein, noting that most likely, they’ll be back in Philly in a few months. But even if the management deal falls through, they’re excited for a new perspective. “We want to further ourselves as band,” says Kingsly.
Cheers Elephant will make the move out West one by one, with Krzywicki and Kingsly departing first in just a few weeks. But before they go, they’ll treat Philly fans to two farewell shows—on Friday, November 22 at the School of Rock in Downingtown, and on Saturday, November 23 at the TLA, opening up for the Kopecky Family Band. “It’s going to be a very intense, high energy show,” says Kingsly. “I mean, it’s our final show for a while in our home-town, with people—friends and family—that have been there since the start. I think it’s going to be a powerful experience.”
Post-move, the band hopes to complete a new record—“we’ve already started writing tunes, and recorded two tracks with Lenny Skolnick and Justin Chapman,” explains del Rosario—and of course, start hitting the road. “None of us have jobs yet in California,” he continues. “We’re really hoping we don’t have to get jobs.”
Krzywicki nods in agreement. “There’s so much uncertainty, but it’s a positive uncertainty,” he says. “We’re jumping into the deep end, but there are so many people in the pool telling us, ‘come on.’”
We have a feeling these dudes are gonna swim.
Cheers Elephant play the Downingtown School of Rock on Friday, November 22 — and the TLA on Friday, November 23. Both shows are all-ages and more info can be found via the Downingtown School of Rock and the TLA websites.