Almost Famous With Mia Berrin of Pom Pom Squad

 
 

NYU.Fashion sat down with Mia Berrin of Pom Pom Squad (Alex Carr- lead guitar, Zoltan Sindhu - bass, Greg Tock- Percussion) right before the band’s first ever acoustic set at Candy Studios NYC. The show was one week after the release of the band’s EP Hate It Here, in which Berrin’s polished Mitski croons wash over wandering melodies and hard-hitting guitar riffs for the quintessential female-fronted indie punk record.

 
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Simultaneously fearless and bashful, fierce and elegant, Mia tells us about living between selves and spaces, bedrooms and stages, and how both her style and her favorite movie reveal the multitudes that she so eloquently explores.

Katie: Can you say a few words about the new EP?

Mia: Well, I wrote this EP called Hate It Here (laughter). I wrote it in the aftermath of a really shitty breakup, so it’s sort of an exploration of being in that space, but also of being a teenager and trying to be an adult, if that makes sense.

 
 

Something that I was definitely trying to reconcile with while I was writing it was living in New York City for the first year ever, and being kind of thrown into the world as an “adult” and still having teenage feelings. So, yeah, releasing the EP is super emotional for me, it’s really strange that it’s out in the world, but people have been really nice about it, which is cool.

 
 

Katie: How do you feel about performing tonight?

Mia: Well, so I started the project sophomore year of highschool, didn’t release any music on it until the end of my senior year of high school, and this is actually only our fourth performance ever with the current set-up. I played a couple of the early early early songs live at friends-backyard kind of events in Orlando, Florida, but this is our first ever acoustic set which has been fun and challenging.

 
 

We’ve had a pretty short rehearsal process, so I’m excited to see how it turns out! It’s always fun figuring out what we’re gonna do with the guys; the event promoter was like “think Nirvana unplugged” and I was like, “sold” (laughter).

Katie: Do you want to talk about what you’re wearing? What is your process usually like for choosing your show outfits?

Mia: Yeah, actually, I had such an existential crisis about my outfit last night. I was going through my closet and I was like, “Nothing is right, nothing is correct.” I had this beautiful white vintage Edwardian dress, and I was like, “This is it, this is it!” I texted my mom like, “I feel so good, this is what I’m wearing to the show,” and she was like, “...it’s so literal. Don’t be so literal” (laughter).

 
 
 
 

It got so in my head! I texted the guys in my band, they were like, “What are we wearing?” And I was like, “Have you guys ever seen the movie Almost Famous? That’s sort of what we’re doing tonight.”

Katie: That’s interesting because I know you’ve mentioned earlier the significant concepts of dress up and of domestic spaces in your work, and it’s interesting to think of that in comparison to a movie like Almost Famous. The entire plot is based off of the characters sort of running around, and not so much as having a home or a space. Could you talk a bit more about those themes?

Mia: Well, when I started this project, I was in highschool. I went to prep school, I didn’t really enjoy myself. I had one best friend and the two of us sort of bonded over watching all these movies about teenagers and feeling like we were having this perfect TV existence.

 
 

We sort of had this split brain mentality where half of us was trying to live in the actual experience of being in high school, and the other half was super aware and hypercritical of what it was like to be in high school. You kind of get to a point where you hate everything so much that you love it so much, and that was my whole existence.

I wrote all of Hate It Here in my teenage bedroom, which was strange because I went from living in my tiny dorm room with this girl who was a complete stranger to me before, to going back to my old room. I moved around a lot as a kid so making domestic spaces my own has always been really pivotal to me, it’s always been a huge defining detail of my life.

So I would be in this space, and when I was sixteen, Almost Famous was this ceremonial movie for me where I would like sit in my room, I would light a candle, and I would watch Almost Famous on, like, a cold winter night. Seriously, it was a whole event. I actually wrote a paper on this, so, yeah! (laugher)

 
 

I’m still really inspired by the style of that movie and I feel like it does really remind me of that domestic space, because I feel like when I’m alone in my room, I can kind of be anyone. There’s that kind of dress up element in that way, where I practice in my room and I’m always like, “Okay, I’m gonna do this on stage” and I make this whole idea of what the performance is gonna be.

 
 

You actually go [to perform] and it’s something entirely different than what you envisioned each time, but, you know, I really like this idea of combining public and private spaces in performance. How do you make people feel like they almost shouldn’t be watching it because it’s so intimate and personal?

Katie: Eloquently said. Is there anything else you do to prepare your look before a show?

Mia: Something that I always do before I get dressed for a show is I text my mom. She actually studied fashion design, so she’s always like, “What are you wearing onstage?” Sometimes she would be like, “Mia, that’s too pedestrian. When you’re onstage, you need to be.. More.” So that’s always something that comes in. When I’m onstage I need to be on another level than myself on the street, in terms of the way I dress.

 
 

In terms of the actual looks, I think my favorite one I’ve done so far is I bought these navy satin pajamas on Amazon. I wore them with a ribbon choker and big disco boots, and I think that look was my favorite because people were just like, “Are you wearing pajamas?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’m onstage, I can do that. You put the boots on, and then the choker on, and it’s a look.”

Katie: Any aspects of the Almost Famous style that define your aesthetic as a performer?

Mia: That’s really interesting because that’s sort of been in transition. When I started the project it was so focused on Americana 50’s high school aesthetics. All of my early cover photos for the songs feature my friends from highschool on our high school football field in these red tennis skirts with white shirts. So I have a lot of tennis skirts and cheerleading uniform pieces, and I’ve been so shy about wearing them lately.

They still feel so key to this project, but I am growing up and can’t stay in that highschool space forever. I still relate to the feelings of teenagers and I think that’s something that I’m always going to be fascinated with–that heightened emotional state.

 
 

Now that I’m getting older, I’m like, “What is that fantastic element to adulthood?” There’s such an interesting aspect to why people who aren’t teenagers watch teen movies. What are you trying to reclaim or re-create? In terms of Almost Famous, it’s that heightened self.

Who’s the character? Something I asked myself really early in the process of the EP is: “Who is Pom Pom Squad as a person?” And I think I’ve decided that she’s the version of myself who gets too drunk at the party and just says too much–it’s an emotional outpouring–but you kind of go home and you’re like, “That’s sort of...true.”

 
 

Interviewed by: Katherine Borkov

Interviewee: Mia Berrin

Photographed by: Denise Tien

 

 

 

 

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