Pageant shows and rock ‘n’ roll are two things you probably wouldn’t picture together, but Cinema Hearts are proving that a beauty queen can rock a tiara while shredding on guitar.
Based out of Fairfax, Virginia, Cinema Hearts are Miss Mountain Laurel 2017 Caroline Weinroth on guitar and vocals, her brother Erich on bass, and new addition Dylan van Vierssen on drums. Equal parts sugar and spice, the band combines a modern pop take on 50s nostalgia with rock-leaning electric guitars and accentuated drums that cut through the sweetness.
While an undergrad at George Mason University, Weinroth started a solo career doing open mic nights on campus. It wasn’t until 2015 that Erich joined her on bass and their mutual GMU friend James Adelsberger rounded out the group on drums.
Since then, the band has released two albums, 2016’s Feels Like Forever and 2017’s Burned and Burnished; parted (on good terms) with Adelsberger, who was later replaced by van Vierssen; and will soon be performing at the Black Cat, one of their biggest performances to date. Cinema Hearts will be joined by local band Julian and New Orleans-based New Holland at the Black Cat’s backstage on December 12.
“It’s our first time playing Black Cat as a band so I’m really excited,” Weinroth says. “This is our first traditional venue show in a few months and we have some new songs that I think people will really enjoy.”
She adds that with Cinema Hearts shows, she tries to make it a “glamorous affair” with all details centered around having a well-rounded, sensory-visual experience. Part of that glamorous setting involves her wearing her crown and sash to go with her pageant queen onstage persona, which Weinroth says started as a joke.
“No doubt that there’s a very strong presence of women in music and there’s so many different, talented, diverse artists who are women who are playing guitar or other instruments, but you don’t really see that in the mainstream. And at the time with Cinema Hearts, I was like, ‘What if I took this super masculine instrument – the electric guitar that has a very male-dominated history – and I combined it with the most feminine thing I can think of?,’ which to me was the Miss America pageant.”
For that reason, Weinroth says even from the beginning of Cinema Hearts, she has always played in a sequin dress and high heels.
“I really want to show that, though I’m a very womanly person, I can play electric guitar and convey the song’s message that I want to convey.”
Eventually, she wanted to stop being a poseur and signed up for a pageant and won. But dressing like a pageant queen to prove a point isn’t Weinroth’s only feminist move. On songs like “Fender Factory” off of their last album, she sings to her male antagonist that just because she’s a girl doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her way around a guitar – a true story of the time she went to the Fender Factory in California and had to deal with a pretentious tour guide.
But “Fender Factory” is just one of the many songs off Burned and Burnished that deals with growing up and innocence lost.
“The overarching theme of the album was a lot of disillusionment and letting go of naïveté,” she says. “If our first album was more of coming-of-age, I felt like our second album was much more ‘Alright, I really feel like an adult!’”
As for the album title, it pays homage to one of her favorite quotes from the play The Fantasticks, which goes, “The play is never done until we’ve all of us been burned a bit and burnished by the sun.”
Erich, who studied music technology at GMU while producing both albums, added that mixing proved easier the second time around, having gained more experience but also having a clearer sense of what he wanted Burned and Burnished to sound like.
As for where Cinema Hearts goes from here, Weinroth hopes to see the band spread out from the DMV scene and share their music with more people.
“I’m really excited and hopeful that we’re the kind of act that will be able to make an impact in the music scene of America,” she says. “And being able to inspire other women and girls through our music and being able to hit bigger stages where we can share these messages with people would be astounding.”
Catch Cinema Hearts at Black Cat’s backstage on Tuesday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. Learn more about the band here.
Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; 202-667-4490; www.blackcatdc.com