Women have been making a name for themselves in the music industry for years. Each one of them working hard and playing even harder just to be accepted on the same stages as their male counterparts. But what happens when an NFL cheerleader ditches her pom-poms and takes those very same stages with her heavy metal dance troupe? That’s right… she has to work even harder to be accepted. Alicia Taylor, founder and professional dancer of the Cherry Bombs was up for the challenge and ready to set the stage on fire.
It could be said that she started to dance before she started to walk. At the age of 3, Taylor began training in ballet and eagerly added classes in tap, jazz, lyrical, flamenco, hip-hop, and any other style that she felt compelled to master. “I was one of those dance kids that would leave school and come straight to the dance studio. I would even do my homework there, eat dinner there, and then wait for my mom to pick me up at nine o’clock at night,” she explains. “I was never a kid that got into a ton of trouble and I’m pretty sure it’s because I was too busy living at the dance studio. I didn’t have time to get into trouble, or to get bored.” When asked what first connected her to music she quickly answers without a second thought, “I think music was always a part of me because I was a dancer my whole life. Dancers and music are one and the same, you know? They need each other.”
Taylor grew up in the Seattle area during a pivotal time in music history, when “The Grunge Movement” was in its prime. She recalls that you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, or Nirvana being played, or mentioned. Being in middle school, which is a very impressionable time for a lot of us growing up, she was beginning to truly figure out who she was, what she liked, and what she didn’t like. But her taste in music was never something that she had to question, even into the late 90s when the emergence of heavier, industrial, and nu-metal took to the stage. “ I just remember that coming into my life, being surrounded by it everywhere I went and loving the aggression of it all. I loved the passion behind it. It just spoke to me. Like how Rob Zombie always seems to have this pushing drive to his music. It really spoke to me being immersed into that culture as a kid growing up during those times,” Taylor reminisces.
At the age of 14 when her mother threw away her prized Slipknot self-titled album after hearing it through the earphones of her Walkman, she never gave up on the music that she felt such a strong connection with. “I would have to sneak this music and maybe it made me want it even more at that point because it was the forbidden fruit, ” she frustratingly laughs as she tells the story. This experience only opened more musical doors and inspired her to dive headfirst into heavy-hitting albums by Kitty, Marilyn Manson, and Fear Factory. But as she dove deeper into this genre of music, she started to learn a lot more about herself. “I was a kid that grew up with divorced parents and my father was very alienating from my mother to me,” Taylor reveals. “As a kid when a parent alienates someone from you and you’re young, you don’t understand how you feel. You don’t understand why it hurts so much to talk to that one parent until you’re old enough to understand what they’re saying and why they’re saying it. At a certain age, you just know that every time you talk to that one parent in particular and they say these awful things to you that it hurts. And then you hurt because you’re talking to a parent who you love no matter what. I was dealing with a lot of confusion at that age. So, I think heavy metal music was an outlet for me to kind of pour into those emotions and feel myself through that. We talk all the time about how music saves us and speaks to us when we are feeling a certain type of way, and for me, that was rock and metal.” Little did she know, dance and music were about to save her again. As a young adult, she moved to Hawaii, went to college, and soon realized that something was missing. “I fell into a depression without realizing that I was in a depression. I remember waking up one day and realizing that I just didn’t have the same passion for life that I used to have and I didn’t know why. And then I went to therapy and realized that I hadn’t danced in almost four years,” Taylor discloses. From Hawaii, she moved to Georgia and knew that she had to find that light in life again. That’s when she decided to audition for the Atlanta Falcons Cheerleading Team, which would combine her love of performance, different dance technique, and football. After making the team, she built her life in Atlanta with her 40 new friends. “At first I loved it because I had missed performing so much. But after the dust kind of settled and the excitement of being an NFL cheerleader started to wear down a little bit, I thought ‘I don’t want to be out here dancing with this giant candy cane in my hand anymore.’” Taylor continues. “ I remember specifically during that game looking around at all of us on the field with these big ass candy canes dancing to a Justin Bieber Christmas song and thinking ‘I am NOT doing this anymore. I’m done. I’m not done performing. I’m just not going to dance to some shit that I don’t like anymore.” It was at that moment that the idea for the Cherry Bombs stole the spotlight.
If she was going to perform it was going to be to the music that made her the happiest; rock and metal. Taylor knew that she wasn’t the first to dream up a rock n roll dance group. Acts like this had been gracing the Hollywood scene and Vegas limelight for decades. But she knew that the act that she had envisioned was something even bigger than what her predecessors had performed. “I had this wild idea. Half of my friends thought that I was nuts and the other half wasn’t surprised at all,” Taylor recalls. In 2013, she took some of those supportive friends, who just so happened to be a handful of Falcon Cheerleaders who had retired at the same time that she did, and created the Cherry Bombs. “And they hated it. These poor girls. I have to give them credit for riding through the fire with me on my first one,” Taylor laughs as she tells the story. “Our first gig EVER was Sturgis, South Dakota – the world’s largest motorcycle rally. And let’s face it, they are primadonnas. They were used to having the red carpet rolled out for them and having amazing catering everywhere they went. They weren’t used to the dust bowl, being handed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and being told here ya go girls, fend for yourselves. One girl even threatened to go home in the middle of it.” Needless to say, the Ex-Cheerleader Cherry Bombs Team only lasted one show together, but that wasn’t going to stop Taylor from finding her dream team. She quickly realized that she needed to find dancers in the industry who were used to hustling for dance jobs and had that drive behind them. “I started looking in the professional dance realm for the dancers who were familiar with doing music videos, the ones who were doing the one-off gigs all the time, working hard and then forgetting the choreography to move onto the next gig,” Taylor explains. “That ended up working really well, but then what started happening was that these performers who were used to doing gig after gig found that Cherry Bombs was more of a… I don’t want to use the word family, but it was very much a girl gang. It was more than just doing a gig, forgetting about it, and moving on to the next thing. There was more to it. There was more of a connection there and more comradery amongst us. They were all into it one hundred percent. We had to weed out some bad apples along the way, but it takes years to develop a solid group and we figured it out.”
It wasn’t long before the Cherry Bombs outgrew the quickly diminishing Atlanta rock and metal music scene. With the active rock radio station going away and already not having enough performers who truly enjoyed this genre of music, Taylor knew that it was time to move the group somewhere that would be more accommodating to the dreams that she had. Wanting to avoid living in L.A. like the plague, she decided that Las Vegas was close enough to commute without the crazy Hollywood antics right outside of her front door. Besides, the performances that she was developing were crazy enough in their own right. Everything started falling into place and the Cherry Bombs were becoming the act that combined daredevil arts with feminine power through dynamic performances that went beyond your typical dance group. The incorporation of cirque-style techniques took the performance over the edge with aerial, fire, metal grinding, stilt walking, and more. “When I first started, I got linked up with an aerialist named Constance, who is still with me today eight years later,” Taylor says lovingly. “She used to be a magician’s assistant, so she learned how to eat fire and perform with fire while doing that. At the time she was my only aerialist and fire performer, but she took me under her wing and trained me in fire. I took that and ran with it because I loved it so much. And I’m afraid of heights, so the aerial work is not my department.” Taking fire safety into account, which has now become a prerequisite to becoming a Cherry Bombs dancer, Taylor began learning the ropes. “Breathing fire wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be, but eating fire was terrifying. It’s this thing on fire coming at your face and you have to put it in your mouth. There’s no magic to it, you just stick it in your mouth,” she laughs after giving me permission to put in a “that’s what she said” joke. “I remember asking her what the smoke and mirrors were to the trick and she said that there weren’t any… That first time putting the flame that close to my face was terrifying. I must have pussied out of that like fifty times before I was able to do the trick.” And now it’s second nature for her and her team during a performance. After cutting their teeth in the world of motorcycle rallies and small gigs, they proudly went where no other group of its kind had gone before – on tour. In 2016, they landed a national tour with Buckcherry and Black Stone Cherry. From there they went on to appear in performances and on tour with Stone Sour, Steel Panther, Corey Taylor, ForceFest Mexico, and multiple runs of Knotfest. They were also on AEW television and became video vixens in music videos with artists like 21 Savage, Corey Taylor, Fozzy, and Moonshine Bandits. Taylor’s aspirations for the group had finally started to come to fruition and with them came an unexpected love story with someone who she had considered an acquaintance for many years.
Corey Taylor, lead vocalist and lyricist for the bands’ Slipknot and Stone Sour, was a fellow artist in the industry who Taylor had run into countless times without much more than surface-level conversation. It wasn’t until they began planning a tour and touring together that a deeper connection started to form. After previously dating someone in the industry and having a nightmare experience, she swore off the idea of letting it ever happen again. But Corey Taylor was persistent in the fact that he wanted to take her out on a date and Taylor knew that the chemistry was undeniable. After wrestling with the idea, she decided to take a chance and agree to go on a date with the man who sang on the album that her mom threw away when she was 14 years old. But for the sake of keeping things professional while they were both working on tour, she made him agree that they had to wait until the tour was over. Their last show was in Las Vegas, which was where they had their first date and the rest was history. Early on, Taylor knew that she had met her match and the couple went on to work together, create together and share their lives with the world. “Working with Corey is a dream come true for me because he’s truly my best friend. He makes everything better,” she gushes. “I enjoy doing all of these crazy things in my life on my own, but having him to share those things with just makes it more fun and enjoyable for me. He’s also so great at what he does that he inspires me to be better at what I do.” Having a relentless drive herself and now sharing a life with a man who shares those same values, the sky was the limit. The year 2019 saw their wedding and the premiere of the YouTube docu-series titled Girl Gang. Girl Gang pulled the curtain back to reveal what it really takes to put on a Cherry Bombs performance. From their intense training to their ability to adapt from performance to performance, the raw storytelling and willingness of the performers to show their vulnerability in the series left an overwhelmingly positive reaction. The series also went more in-depth with Taylor’s brainchild Macabarét; the show that was about to change it all for the Cherry Bombs. It would be the storyline on their very first headlining tour. However, like many in the industry, the pandemic in 2020 forced them to cancel the tour. But like any other challenge that Taylor had faced in her life, she adapted quickly and decided that nothing would stop her from sharing the story with the world. The Cherry Bombs, paired with an incredible group of filmmakers, began to film Macabarét and would eventually premiere it virtually. The film was streamed worldwide and met with rave reviews, cementing it to become an annual event every October.
And now in 2022, Cherry Bombs finally have their chance to tour Macabarét on their very first headlining run. “It’s scary,” Taylor says enthusiastically. “When you headline, this is when you have to prove your worth not only to yourself but to venues and promoters. You don’t get to ride on someone else’s name when you are the headliner, because you ARE the name. There’s a lot of pressure on you to get asses in those seats and sell some tickets so that you can back up your guarantee price that you’re asking for to pay all of your performers. I think from the business aspect that’s a massively scary thing, but the cool thing is that when you are the headliner, it’s your crowd. Those people are your die-hard fans, they are coming to support you.” And those people coming out to support Cherry Bombs on their first run are sure to get a show… an intense seventy-five-minute show, equipped with constant movement, dangerous stunts, eccentric wardrobe changes, and a full-fledged storyline. After not doing creative writing for decades, Taylor began setting the scene and story; a deadly combination of the macabre and a cabaret. “I knew that I wanted it to take place in an old, deserted saloon in the middle of nowhere and I wanted it to have a little bit of a From Dusk Till Dawn vibe. And that’s really what the storyline is. It’s very much like Dusk Till Dawn meets Dante’s Inferno, but if Rob Zombie and Quentin Tarantino were to put it together to rock and metal music and make a big visual album of it,” Taylor spills all the details. “I knew that I wanted it to take place in this wild west saloon, but then I thought, how are we going to get here? Who is going to take us through this journey? Because I knew that each character within the saloon was going to be a creepy, menacing but also intriguing character that led you through the place as you’re trying to find your way out of it. And then it hit me. I thought, what if I made it a man?” Prior to this storyline, the group had never performed with a male counterpart. Another challenge that Taylor was eager to tackle. With a man-tagonist in play, she quickly began developing a seedy, rough around the edges type of character that needs to learn a lesson and would be the catalyst in how the audience arrives at the saloon. Which reminded her of a ghost story that she had heard while living in Hawaii, about the Goddess Pele. “The Goddess Pele is the goddess of creation, volcanoes, and fire and in this creation, she creates the islands. The legend says that when you’re driving down this road and you see an old woman or a beautiful woman on the side of the road you should pull over for her. If you pull over for her she will get in the back of your car, you’ll drive away and she will magically disappear. But if you don’t pull over for her you will crash your car, or maybe it will break down, or something bad will happen. It’s a story about karma and looking out for one another. So, I thought what if this seedy kind of guy is driving down the road, sees these beautiful hitchhikers on the side of the road, and he leaves them in the dust. In return, he ends up breaking down and the only thing in sight for him is this Saloon. He goes in to ask for help and the whole story is finding out whether he makes it out alive or not. It’s honestly like a honey trap.”
The audience will find themselves lost in the White Dog Saloon, another detail derived from the legend of the Goddess Pele. It is said that one of the omens before you see the goddess, or before a volcano erupts, is seeing a white dog appear. For someone who doesn’t claim to be a writer, Taylor crafted an intriguing tale of karma wrapped in temptation throughout every minuscule detail of the performance. Not only did she collaborate closely with wardrobe designers to create larger-than-life costumes, but she also utilized techniques from her past to design the visuals and the setlist. “When you watch a ballet, there’s a storyline to it, but no dialogue,” Taylor compares. “How do they convey that story? They do it through wardrobe, lighting, and choreography. I knew that those production aspects were going to be crucial to making the storyline very clear, especially to a rock and metal audience that may not be very familiar with this type of performance.” All of these elements take the initial Cherry Bombs performance style to the next level. “I want people to be intrigued by the beauty of the art itself and the performers,” Taylor encourages future audiences. “There are some sexy aspects, yes, but this is more about the beauty of athleticism and the danger of it. It’s a nice juxtaposition of those two things.”
You can see the show for yourself from one of their tour dates listed below, or experience it through our upcoming live review!
Be sure to stay connected with Cherry Bombs for upcoming performances, dance workshops, and merchandise!
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/CherryBombs (GIRL GANG EPISODES HERE!)
2/27 Dallas, TX – Trees
3/1 San Antonio, TX – Rock Box
3/2 Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall