“If you couldn’t tell from the album, I’m a fan of big productions,” says Mia Berrin, singer, songwriter, and mainperson behind Pom Pom Squad. This Wednesday, November 3rd, the Brooklyn-based band kicks off their first-ever tour, which has them supporting ‘90s alt rockers Nada Surf, at our very own World Café Live. “I’ve never been on tour, so all of it is completely exciting and scary. It’s kind of like a dream come true. It’s what we all dream of, as musicians,” Berrin tells me during a recent phone chat. She’s touring behind the release of Death of a Cheerleader (named for Jamie Babbit’s quintessential queer teen rom-com, But I’m a Cheerleader), her debut full-length, which dropped this June on City Slang.
Pom Pom Squad has become known for the grungy, garage sound found on their two EPs (2017’s Hate It Here and 2019’s Ow), inspired by ‘90s heroines like Kathleen Hanna and Courtney Love, and playing Brooklyn venues alongside artists like Soccer Mommy, Adult Mom, and PRONOUN. However, for their first LP, Berrin was leaning a little more on her pop influences, including musical theatre, Motown, and “‘60s pop and ‘50s novelty music.” “I definitely wanted it to feel like a more elevated experience. What I made before just sort of sounded like a band playing in a room, which is what it was, but I wanted this to be less grounded in a physical reality and a little more fantastical,” she tells me.
Like the film that inspired its title, Death of a Cheerleader tells the tale of Berrin’s journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, both as a queer individual and a woman of color in an industry largely dominated by white males. This is perhaps most notable on “Head Cheerleader,” a rollicking indie popper, which features backing vocals from Tegan and Sara’s Tegan Quin: “Tegan and I have become friends through Twitter, which is just so cool… and it’s a song about my own queer coming out, so it was so cool to have such a huge queer icon on the track.” The album also features Sarah Tudzin of illuminati hotties as a co-producer, alongside Berrin herself. “It was amazing working with her. I wanted to work with someone who could do the things that I couldn’t,” says Berrin of the illuminati hotties mainperson. In fact, the two get along so well that they decided to team up for a tour next year, which will have them at First Unitarian Church on February 26th, where Pom Pom Squad will be opening for Tudzin’s crew and Fenne Lily.
Although Berrin’s fascination with cheerleaders (in addition to her moniker and latest album title, she also often dresses as one) may seem largely tongue-in-cheek, in a June interview with Consequence of Sound, she admits to having a sincere admiration for the too-often cliched high school stereotype as a, “powerful, feminine figure that I admired and that I strived to be and that I was attracted to.” During our chat, she also tells me that iconography of this level is something that she hopes comes through on her latest batch of songs: “I wanted something fantastical and not grounded in the mundane of everyday life, like getting up and doing the dishes [laughs].” And while Mia Berrin and Pom Pom Squad still primarily exist in the sphere of indie music, she tells me that she fully intends to be a pop star and, when I ask her about some of the highlights of her still young career, she reveals that recent accolades lead her to believe she just might be on her way: “The print issue of Rolling Stone recently was pretty crazy. I grew up with Almost Famous as my favorite movie… and just having that realization that I’m a really, really small percentage of people that will ever get to experience that.”