Photography by Lauren Dennis
Interview by Abbey Miller
What do you get when you pair a shock-mama neo-soul singer from Brooklyn, and a too-cool-for-school reggae DJ… a bass bumping fusion act that’s been winning hearts of large audiences at SXSW. Check the math! Reggae DJ extrodinaire, Fernando Cardoso and neo-soul sister Shock Mama Cherry (Cherokee) have teamed up to put the F.U. back in fusion sound.
What is your AMMO?
Fernando Cardoso: I am inspired by music that amps me up. Whenever I hear beats or a melody that gets me going, it makes me want to start making something equally as electrifying.
Cherokee: I’m inspired by my life. Everything I write is a true story.
How did you guys meet and decide to team up?
FC: We got started because I was working with Neal Pogue (Cherokee’s husband) making Reggae beats. He passed them on to Cherokee. They really got her attention and Neal suggested we do a duo project.
Cherokee: I was hesitant at first because I had a following with my solo project, where I was doing neo-soul. But sometimes the right thing is right under your nose. It was like two worlds coming together. It’s fresh and new.
Cherry, how is being in a group different from being a solo artist?
Cherokee: When you work in a group you feed off of each other’s energy. It’s great to have a fresh perspective on things, I really trust what Fernando says and I respect what he does. Working together has been an amazing process. It’s practically seamless. But, we’ve only been together for a year. I really had to learn to let go of control. I’m still learning to do that- in every aspect of life, not just in music.
So what is the writing/music producing dynamic like in Esprit De Corps?
FC: Cherokee writes the lyrics and I do the beats/programming. I do the beats live so it’s never the same song twice. What I think sets us apart is while a lot of reggae songs are pretty straight forward, Cherokee’s lyrics are full of metaphors. She is a great songwriter.
Cherokee, what is your songwriting process like?
Cherokee: I write looking in the mirror a lot. I don’t know why. I write about dreams and my life experiences. I just feel like i have to get all my emotions out somehow. If I don’t get it out, I’ll go crazy. Song writing is like therapy in a lot of ways.
Why do your songs/lyrics contain so many metaphors?
Cherokee: I just find it fun to have people curious. It’s just how I write. I just don’t want to be obvious all the time.
FC: I told you she was a true artist.
Fernando, how do your reggae roots play into the sound of Esprit De Corps?
FC: Well I’ve been doing reggae for 15 years and I really respect the genre. Some people wouldn’t think to take us seriously because we aren’t “from the islands”… But this isn’t my first reggae rodeo.
What was it like to perform together for the first time?
FC: Our first big show was at South by Southwest, I was kind of like “how is this going to go down on stage…” she just started like, going crazy and she really won over the audience. I really like that because I’d rather just hang back behind my “mad professor” DJ set up and do my thing.
Cherokee: It’s crazy grabbing the attention of a crowd at some place like SXSW. We like doing festivals because there are more people, and they are in the mindset to discover new music.
So what is next for Esprit De Corps?
Cherokee: We just want to get our music out in front of people and finish our album. We would love to do another festival or open up for an already established artist. I’m really confident in our music.
FC: We want to play venues with really good sound systems, because our music is more conducive to that environment. Our music is meant to shake. We’d love to open up for MIA, or Santogold.
Meant to shake huh? If you could sum up your music in a few words, what would it be?
FC: Sexy. Sexy bass.
For more from Esprit De Corps go to, click here.