Pom Pom Squad,
The TVD First Date

“There were two record stores in my hometown that defined my teenage experience.”

“Growing up, my family moved from state to state, but I spent most of my formative teen years in Orlando, FL. After being homeschooled for the second half of 7th grade and the first half of 8th, I made the grave mistake of requesting to go back to “real” school because I wanted to be a “normal” teenager. Ugh. Little did I know that my “normal school” would look far more like a CW teen drama than a John Hughes movie. It was a culture shock, going from public schools in New York and Detroit to a private school in the semi-south.

There were uniforms, jocks, and cheerleaders, parties in suburban mansions, matching jerseys emblazoned with the word SENIORS—I weaved in and out of unfitting friend groups until I eventually befriended the quietest girl in school. Leka, who remains my best friend to this day, was also a Florida transplant, bounced from state to state and school to school. Turns out, she wasn’t all that quiet—she was actually just really, really cool. Together, we isolated ourselves, exchanging mix CDs and blasting them from the stereo of her soccer-mom-blue Volkswagen. She introduced me to a lot of the music that informs my own to this day—That Dog, The Shins, Mitski.

The first time I went to Park Ave CDs was with Leka. Park Ave CDs was insurmountably Orlando Hipster—a highly specific aesthetic native to the area and characterized by a cluster or acceptable, stores, cafes, and venues frequented by college students with thick-rimmed glasses, dyed hair, and American Apparel outfits. I used to go there to thumb through the selection of radio-friendly indie-rock and shoplift vintage pins, packs of hi-chew, and once, a Beach House tee-shirt. I bought my much-beloved copy of Karen O’s Crush Songs there. The vinyl itself cracked a few years later as I was moving back to New York for college, but the sleeve is framed on my wall.

The real gem of Orlando, Florida stores, however, was Rock N Roll Heaven—a cluttered, technicolor dream that smelled like dust and water. The walls of the main room, each different colors from Day-Glo green to Pepto-Bismol Pink, were covered in vintage toys—stuffed animals and action figures. There was nook on the far wall reserved for movie soundtracks. In the back, a surf-green room with a cheetah print carpet, and a slew of Christmas lights along the walls. A disco ball hung from the ceiling lighting up the rows of fresh plastic. This is where they kept all the new releases.

Rock N Roll Heaven was a short walk from school, and on the days where seniors were allowed to venture off campus for lunch, Leka and I would scarf-down a meal from our favorite Cuban cafe (Black Bean Deli) and spend the rest of our designated 90-minutes requesting special records be ordered to the store just for us. I spent a lot of time running my fingers across the fraying corners of those rows, spinning stupidly on that cheetah print carpet to try to make my friends laugh, writing on the bathroom walls. As a parting gift to me, Rock N Roll Heaven delivered the soundtrack to my first chaotic years in New York, Heart’s Dreamboat Annie, and Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna.

The last week of summer right before I was about to move again, I went back to Rock N Roll Heaven, with a group of sweet, shy, music-obsessed Freshman girls who I loved and wanted to protect from the cruelest days of adolescence. I was taking pictures of them on the football field that ended up being the album cover for my first demo. We wore matching outfits—red skirts and white button-downs. I remember them walking around, picking out their favorite records, talking lightly, excitedly, while I gazed at my shoes in thoughts of firsts and lasts. I’ve never found a place that felt quite like it since.”
Mia Berrin

“Ow,” the sophomore EP from Pom Pom Squad is in stores now.

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PHOTO: MICHAEL TODARO

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