Sometimes the ear knows when it hears something special. It perks up, attentively absorbing audio waves from a source wonderful and unique enough to command its undivided attention. Early twenty one pilots had that effect, blending an array of instruments, production techniques and vocal patterns into a happy hodgepodge of songs that eventually peppered the Billboard Hot 100. Cherie Amour possess a similar creative gene.

Read more: Joyce Manor at their Summerstage performance on upcoming album and more

We’ll get to the music in a second, but the Cherie Amour origin story is an interesting one in and of itself. The Baltimore natives originally called themselves One Life To Lead, forming after Trey Miller connected with high school marching bandmate Ronnie Sherman. The singer and drummer, respectively, then recruited a couple of guitarists, including current Cherie Amour member Brendan Willis, and the band were born.

Flash forward to 2019. One Life To Lead are shooting a music video, and an extra happens to be guitarist Casey Reid. A quick conversation between the band and Reid at the shoot strikes an epiphany; this guy would be a great addition. These four made up the lineup when One Life To Lead changed their name to Cherie Amour and signed with Equal Vision Records.

Read more: Andrew W.K. on 'God Is Partying,' 20 years of "Party Hard" and more

Without shows during the pandemic’s gritty months, Cherie Amour built their brand on social media. Their releases of “Burn” and “Orlando” reflected a stylistic left turn. They built from the traditional pop-punk sound of One Life To Lead, adding elements of R&B, pop and emo—and did we just hear Miller rap on one of those tracks? The vocalist now has room to flex his versatility. Reid, after more than a decade of performing in the Cleveland scene, adds his incredible creativity and experience. Sherman, the ace recruiter, and Willis, the Swiss Army knife, combine their abilities to form the “nü-punk” version of the Avengers.

It seems like Cherie Amour is a French term. What does it mean, and why that name? 

TREY MILLER: “My darling love” or something like that. The name comes from the Stevie Wonder song [“My Cherie Amour”]. I love R&B. Hopefully that comes through. It also goes to my French connection. My two youngest brothers, my family adopted them from Haiti. Learning French was useful in that way.

And you changed the name around the time you joined Equal Vision Records, right?

MILLER: A lot of people think that the label put us up to changing our name. It’s like, “Y’all got rebranded, and the industry made you do this stuff.” And I’m like, “Nah, not at all.” After we had recorded “Burn” and “Orlando,” we realized the sound was changing a lot. We feel like we lost two guys, and we felt like a new band at that point.

And you call that genre “nü punk.” Whatever it is, it sounds great. But can you explain “nü punk” and why you fit that label?

MILLER: It was a term we started using in 2019. And then everyone is like, “You do music. What kind of music do you play?” And it just became impossible to describe. So we were like, “We might as well just pioneer a new genre term for the scene.”

CASEY REID: When we got into writing, I knew they would be enthusiastic [about] putting in more pop elements. And trying to be more explorative of our music. I’m happy to be in a band that is so open-minded about experimenting and trying new ideas. Kind of like reaching outside of our comfort zone.'

And I’m sure Alan Day from Four Year Strong, who’s working with a handful of bands, is encouraging you to experiment as well? 

REID: Alan is quite incredible. I’ve worked with a few different engineers [at] this point, and I really appreciate Alan’s thought process. I like discussing with Alan what our goals are versus what he thinks is a good direction, which was very refreshing. And very reinforcing of where we want to go. Alan took all of our music and brought out the parts that really stood out to him in terms of what will push [us] over the edge.

Read more: Heavy Halo premiere "Control You" ahead of self-titled recordwatch

MILLER: I’ll try to describe what I am hearing in my head, and he’ll run through a bunch of different filters and is like, “How about this one or this one?” And I’m like, “You are almost there. That one right there.” I can’t say enough about him. Alan is awesome. 

You can really hear that process play out in the music. In the song “Orlando,” there is so much to it. But the rap verse toward the end, how did you come up with that?

MILLER: It was the one song that we completely deconstructed from the demo, and we had to build it back up again. And we were all getting input from Alan Day on what to do with that song. So we were like, “How about trying this or that?” Then we said we should throw a rap verse in here. So I had the first couple of verses that were already written by the time we were in the studio. And then I was like, “All right, give me 20 minutes, and I am going to go write a rap verse.” So, I go outside and think, “What am I trying to say on this song?” So it was super spontaneous.

It seems like this spontaneous, open direction is the way the scene is trending right now.

MILLER: The versatile direction is the only real direction I wanted to go. I call Casey the mastermind. I’ll send him stuff that I want him to listen to. I’ll be like, “Check out this U.K. garage song or some Afrobeat stuff. We should figure out how to use this.” Now Baltimore club is kind of a thing—a scene here in Baltimore. And I think, “What if we threw in some club music-type breakdowns?” I just try to think of the weirdest shit possible and make it happen. 

REID: No matter how far away I try to get away from [post-hardcore], those elements from 2008 and 2009 find their way into my music. Songwriting is songwriting. You know [when] you write a good song. Doesn’t matter what genre it is. People can listen to it because it is a good song.

What do you want people to think and feel when they listen to Cherie Amour?

REID: If we can inspire someone to do something or make something, that’s pretty top-notch. And for me, when they listen to our music, I want it to have an emotional impact in any way, shape or form. Doesn’t mean you should feel sad or happy. I just want you to feel something. Listen to it. Listen to what Trey has to say. And let the story of the instrumentals create the setting. I want people to listen to it and have an emotional reaction. I want the hairs on their arms to stand up when they listen to it and be like, “Wow, I really felt that.”

FOR FANS OF: twenty one pilots, Point North, Young Culture