Meet Your New Best Friends: Cyberbully Mom Club, Stars of Philadelphia DIY

“I want the turntable!” calls Sam Becht, drummer of Cyberbully Mom Club. In the electronics section of Philly AIDS Thrift, Becht finds a pile of decrepit, decades-old Fisher-Price instruments and passes one to each of his three bandmates. Beneath an array of second-hand disco balls and Christmas lights, the goofy University of the Arts students rock out on their dusty, plastic instruments.

With a name like Cyberbully Mom Club, it’s not surprising that the Philadelphia DIY group doesn’t take themselves too seriously. The project formed when singer-songwriter Shari Heck recorded a demo in her one-bedroom studio apartment late one night and uploaded it to Bandcamp on a whim. “I just thought – it wasn’t a good thought – wouldn’t it be funny to start a project called this? And it stayed that way.” Heck continued to post what she calls “genre-less” music to Bandcamp and tumblr, and her music’s raw honesty earned her thousands of followers across various social media platforms.

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“It’s actually amazing how much social media can help anyone in a band these days, because it just helps stuff get spread so easily,” Heck says. “You can just make your work, share it, and get immediate results. It’s rewarding.”

Now that Cyberbully Mom Club has become more than just a late night music venture for Heck, a graphic design student, she added Becht, guitarist Alex Melendez, and bassist Peter DiMeo to the group.

“Hey, let me join the band!” says a Philly AIDS Thrift volunteer as he picks up a toy guitar. The forty-something-year-old struts through the room in palm tree-print pants and a pink cartoonish blazer (“I don’t want to look like everyone else,” he says). His name is Jason, which he only mentions after recounting a lengthy story about his college punk group. He brags about his band’s twenty-year reunion show, and when Heck congratulates him, it’s genuine. She doesn’t even mention to her new, outlandish friend that she’s in a real band (aside from the newly-formed Fisher-Price group­), let alone a Stereogum “Band to Watch” with plans for a full-length East Coast tour this summer.

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What launched Cyberbully Mom Club to such fast success is their music’s accessibility. The UArts students take the rawness of DIY punk, complement it with the gentle charm of bedroom pop, and pull together the loose ends with refreshing, confessional lyricism.

“I find that some people’s favorite thing about the music is that it’s relatable,” says Becht. “For a ton of people, the lyrics are a big part of it.”

As the band’s main songwriter, Heck captures the awkward, uncomfortable space between adolescence and adulthood. Some songs are light-hearted, like “Drunk Text Romance,” which takes place at a “[crappy] house party in South Philly.” Yet Heck also confronts the emotional, grimmer aspects of growing up. In “Girl Walk,” off of the most recent EP Amy Locust Whatever, Heck laments the prevalence of violence against women and sings, “Since I’m not a guy, every time I go outside/I gotta be afraid to die.”

“As light and heavy as both of those subjects are, I feel like they’re also both really casual, you know?” she says. “We all get drunk in college, but we also all get cat-called, at least twice everyday sometimes in a big city like this.”

Melendez agrees. “In one track, you can talk about things as silly as drunk text messages, and then in the next track, discuss a real social issue that you want light to be shed on.”

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Once the comedy of the Fisher-Price instruments wears off, Cyberbully Mom Club continues on through the store, stopping to try on various oversized coats and hats. When Melendez finds the one-dollar section, he tries to see how many tattered Twilight books he can carry, only to end up spilling seven vampire novels across the floor. Later, the band challenges each other to find the funniest ironic t-shirt, but despite the task’s ridiculousness, they are focused and determined. Their music is the same way – the band is passionate and hardworking, even if the project may seem silly while recording songs about frozen yogurt or Adderall. Though being in college limits how much time the band can spend recording and touring, their breaks from class become periods of intense effort – Cyberbully Mom Club spent their brief Winter Break on a “mini tour” around the northeast.

“Boston was crazy,” Melendez says. He remembers a house-show-turned-New-Years-party as one of the band’s strangest experiences so far. “And there it was, in front of my very eyes: two people on acid, painting themselves with their genitalia.”

It can be frustrating to have to wait until summer to record their first full-length, studio album, but Cyberbully Mom Club feels fortunate that they get to study at UArts.

“UArts has completely changed the way I look at music and play music since I was in high school,” says Melendez. “I was just playing bad stuff. Everyone had a high school ‘butt rock’ band.”

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As of now, Cyberbully Mom Club is signed to Too Far Gone Records, a small indie operation run by a college student in Massachusetts. Once the band releases their studio album and tours the East Coast this summer, it’s inevitable that they’ll explode even more across social media. That doesn’t mean the band is about to jump over to a major indie label, though. Heck doesn’t want her project to lose its initial honest connection with fans.

“When I first started the project, I’d record rough demos and put everything on Bandcamp, but now we only post things that we’ve all been working on together,” she says. “But I also still post personal, late-night songs that I write on tumblr, under the name Cyberbully Mom Club. And you know, I feel like having those two… That’s the really cool treat of this project.”

As the band walks down South Street back to the University of the Arts, they stop to listen to a vape shop’s outdoor speakers blast Arctic Monkeys’ single “R U Mine?” Melendez, who has a tattoo of Arctic Monkeys’ latest album AM on his bicep, jumps around and dances to the chorus. The door opens, and a man in a pink blazer walks out of the store with Mardi Gras beads around his arms – naturally, it’s Jason again.

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“That’s why this place gets business,” Jason says, dancing with Melendez across the slippery, ice-coated sidewalk. “They play real [music] down the street, and every other store plays the same three Sinatra songs again and again.”

The eccentric Philly AIDS Thrift volunteer has a point. Like Arctic Monkeys, Cyberbully Mom Club plays “real [music].” It’s not likely for a group of art students posting songs to tumblr to move from North Philly house shows to a full-fledged East Coast tour. But Shari Heck has the rare ability to write songs that make you feel like you’re her best friend, and the two of you are playing guitar while watching Netflix in a college dorm. Cyberbully Mom Club erases the barrier between musician and listener in a way that few bands can manage – and it’s safe to assume that even if Cyberbully Mom Club becomes the next big indie band, you’ll always be able to drop them a line on tumblr.

See more photos of Cyberbully Mom Club’s Philly AIDS Thrift adventure below!

 

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  1. Pingback: Dynamic DIY Duo Diet Cig Shun Scenes and ‘Just Wanna Dance’ - Rock On Philly

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