There’s no Simon Cowell-like Svengali involved in Netflix’s “I’m With the Band: Nasty Cherry,” which the show’s cast and creative team hope makes a world of difference.
The six-episode reality show and music documentary hybrid, which debuted last week, follows pop singer-songwriter Charli XCX and friend Emmie Lichtenberg as they handpick four musicians ― singer Gabbriette Bechtel, guitarist Chloe Chaidez, bassist Georgia Somary and drummer Debbie Knox-Hewson ― in hopes of creating a badass female pop act. (Catch the trailer for “I’m With the Band: Nasty Cherry” above.)
The premise, of course, borrows heavily from MTV’s “Making the Band.” Then there’s Nasty Cherry’s communal living arrangement (in this case, the four band mates reside in a Los Angeles bungalow), which recalls “The Real World” and “Big Brother,” among other reality programs.
Still, by emphasizing women in musician and artist management roles, there’s plenty about “I’m With the Band: Nasty Cherry” that feels current. In the end, the concept proved successful. Nasty Cherry have thus far dropped four, super-catchy singles, including “Live Forever” and “Win.” Their full-length debut album is slated for a Nov. 22 release, meaning that all members managed to resolve their differences as seen on the show and successfully coalesce in the studio.
HuffPost chatted with Knox-Hewson, who was a session drummer for Charli XCX prior to her stint with Nasty Cherry, days before the show debuted on Netflix. She recalled plenty of on- and offscreen mishaps, but said her queer sexuality couldn’t be less of an issue.
On the one hand, the show affords you the opportunity to be a part of Charli XCX’s new band. On the other hand, you have to live your life under a microscope. Why did you want to be involved?
[Charli XCX and I] have the same inspirations, like “Josie and the Pussycats” and the Spice Girls. It’s really fun and empowering to be onstage with another woman. I trust everything she does. I respect her as a musician and a business woman. So it felt like a no-brainer to jump on. I learned a lot about myself in the process.
The show really explores the depth of female friendships. It was challenging at times, but so rewarding. I’ve found three sisters.
There’s a subset of TV audiences who’ll dismiss anything that’s defined as “reality TV” as gimmicky. Was that ever a concern for you?
I don’t know how these things become gimmicky, but I imagine it’s from the external pressures of how one should look or behave. We never had that. Charli said, “I picked you for this. You are four women who inspire me. So just do you.” So we just did what we wanted, really, and got to make amazing music at the same time.
In the pilot episode, you mention having to leave your girlfriend behind to be a part of this project. Was living authentically ever a concern for you as an artist?
I’m from London. I’m from a very understanding family. I’m aware that’s a privilege. I’m very lucky with everyone involved in this project, and everyone I surround myself with in life. I know this isn’t the case for a lot of people in the LGBTQ community, but I’ve never felt pressured to be or behave any differently than I am. I’ve got a lot of love and support around me. The band feels like a very supportive spot.
Compared to your bandmates, you have the most experience working with Charli XCX before joining the show. How did that impact the perspective you brought to the table?
I’d only worked with Charli as someone who was employed by Charli. I’d been the hired gun who turned up and did the job. I’d never worked with her as a collaborator, so this was very different. We all had [at least] one thing we were doing for the first time. I was songwriting, Georgia just learned bass, Chloe was playing guitar and Gabs hadn’t ever sang. So we all came in with naive enthusiasm.
We’ve reached a point right now where it feels like women in all realms of the arts are having a cultural moment. With regard to that, what do you most hope viewers take away from the show?
I used to always get young girls who’d come up to me after the gig and be like, “I’ve never seen a girl drummer,” and I always enjoyed that. We had a clear purpose as to why we’re together, as opposed to, “These are the people I see at the pub every week.” It started with work — a joint goal, a shared goal. We built respect for how we work together and how we make music.
We didn’t really have the space to do anything other than face everything head on. Everything we felt, we talked it out. That has led to some incredibly rich, deep friendships I think a lot of women can miss out on.