Nfld. & Labrador

Meet the 8-year-old frontman for St. John's punk band Banana Vacuum

He sings about Minions, hating school and his annoying sister.

He sings about Minions, hating school and his annoying sister

Mark Cherwick screams into the microphone during Banana Vaccum's set at the Rock House in St. John's on Saturday. (Submitted by Elling Lien)

It's Saturday night on George Street and the members of hardcore punk outfit Banana Vacuum are plugging in their gear for a sound check at the Rock House.

They're on at 9:30 p.m. sharp, and can't be late — their singer has to make it home for bedtime.

Banana Vacuum is fronted by eight-year-old Mark Cherwick, and the band's first album, Never Mind the Minions, does both the Sex Pistols and Black Flag proud.

Like all good punks, Banana Vacuum has their music for sale on tape. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

He's shorter than the mic stand, but Mark pushes forward and grabs the microphone, gazing out at the empty venue, which will be packed with a crowd of fans later that evening.

When the thrashing guitars and booming drums kick in, he starts screaming.

"Banana! Banana! Banana!" he roars, his voice punching through a wall of sound. 

The hardcore band is the brainchild of his older brother, 19-year-old Jacob Cherwick, and features the boy singing about all of the things he hates: school, avocados and especially eggs.

It's not every day an eight-year-old performs on George Street. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

"Eggs are the worst thing ever. Eggs are the worst kind of food that you can ever even eat. Who even likes eggs?" Mark asks after the sound check.

"I won't eat your avocados but at least they're not as bad as eggs!" 

There's also a song about his "annoying" sister, two songs about Minions, and one about microwaving pizza — pretty relatable for eight-year-olds and adults alike.

RPM Challenge standout

When Banana Vacuum released its album as part of the RPM Challenge in February, the Cherwick brothers thought it would just be a one-off project.

"The whole concept for this band was, 'I'm just gonna do everything as if I'm playing in a normal punk band but it just happens to be an eight -year-old singing with us,'" said Jacob Cherwick.

But then listeners responded, so he worked to get a full band together to play live.

"In the first three days we had it up, we'd gotten 600 plays on the album or something already," he said.

Banana Vacuum is, from left, Liam Ryan, Mark Cherwick, Damon Dooley and Jacob Cherwick. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

"A whole bunch of people were coming up to me [saying], 'We listened to the record, that's so great, it's genius. How'd you come up with that!?'"

It turns out that a lot of the things Mark sings about resonate across all ages, especially the song School Is The Worst, which he loves to perform live.

"It feels pretty good that everyone gets the message that you hate school," said Mark. "And some of them are gonna like totally agree, like, 'Yeah school is the worst!'"

Mom is band's 'biggest threat'

The band's first performance was at the Quidi Vidi Brewery's tap room earlier this summer, but Saturday's show at the Rock House marked a new milestone. 

At age eight, Mark might just be one of the youngest performers to ever take the stage at a George Street club. 

And that's a huge step toward accomplishing one of his big goals: becoming a full-fledged rock star.

"Many people are gonna know who you are," he said. "You'll eventually become famous, like, kinda." 

Mark might be small, but he can more than hold his own on stage. (Christopher Deacon)

If all goes well, the band will keep playing shows in the future, as long as the person Mark describes as "the biggest threat" to his band doesn't have her way.

"That is, of course, my mom. She just hates it when we have practices, because she's just like, 'This is so loud and this is so annoying! I wish this will break up soon. How can my son get into this stupidity?'" he said. 

But while Mark is worried about his mom, he's not ruling out channeling his frustrations with her into a future song, like generations of punks have before him.

"I might if she keeps doing that," he said. "I live under my sister's roof [too] and I wrote a pretty mean song about her!" 

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About the Author

Andrew Sampson is a journalist with CBC News in St. John's.