Maxton Cunningham

Instrumentalist/ Producer

Molly Annelle 


The latest hidden gem in the Vancouver music scene is the indie neo-soul band CHEEYA, whose phenomenal lead singer and unique production are putting them on the map. The band is made up of Molly Annelle, and Maxton Cunningham, two incredibly talented Vancouver based musicians that have joined forces to create a new project that is as fun as it is groovy. The two have been friends for years, and have collaborated before this, as Max worked on the demo for Molly’s song “Tennis”. Their friendship is a highlight in the energy shown in their music.

Solo artist Molly Annelle has been making music her whole life, rising to success from the early age of nine years old when she was named Young Composer of the year. She continues to make music in Toronto, as she works on both her solo music as well as working on CHEEYA with Max both virtually and in Vancouver. She is signed with 604 Records for her solo projects and has released through them her 2021 RNB pop album Elevator Music. She has also released a 2018 EP entitled Pick Me Ups featuring one of her top hits “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”. She has collaborated with a number of artists, including Young Friend, Sahati, James Weaver and Cam Blake.

Maxton Cunningham is an exceptional musician, whose musical talent is highlighted in his multi-instrumental abilities, as well as his music producing, both for his own projects and for other artists. Max has been in several bands before his work in CHEEYA as he also plays with The Escapes, and one of my personal favorite Vancouver bands, Ludic, both bands also featuring his younger brother Rhett Cunningham. Ludic’s funky indie pop vibes are a must listen in the Vancouver music scene, and their debut EP “Grown?” released in April of this year. He has also produced the track “Press One” by MARA. Lately his production skills are a staple in the whimsical fun of CHEEYA.

Near the end of last year I had the pleasure of sitting down with Molly and Max, to discuss their creative process, the creation of CHEEYA, their goals for the band in the future, and much more. The interview took place before the band’s first ever show, in which they played at Donnellan’s Irish Pub alongside Vancouver locals Still Living at Home (in which Molly’s father Howard Mickelson is the front man), and the incredible Toronto post punk band Motel 67. The two’s fun-loving energy truly made for an interview that felt like a conversation between friends, as they cracked jokes and complimented each other’s talent throughout. The following quotes are highlights from the interview and insight from the members of CHEEYA:

I think a lot about the impact that art has on people, and I wanted to know, what do you two want people to gain or take away from listening to music that you’ve created?

Max: First of all, my approach to music has shifted a bit, and the focus has shifted to just evoke an emotion. That’s my main approach now, I think that’s the main thing that I want to connect with people on is just getting them to feel something at all. And also, just to have a great time with the music and have fun with it.

Molly: I agree, and I think its important for people to understand how much fun we have when we make our songs, its just about our awesome friendship and how we wanna make awesome music and hope people enjoy it. That’s all its about, at least for me.

How did the band form? What made you two decide to collaborate and create this kind of sound?

Molly: So, Max and I have been friends for about four or five years, and I met Max through the label 604 because he came in and played guitar on “ALL IN” (a song off Molly’s album Elevator Music), and we just connected as friends. That year or a couple years later I started coming to your [Max’s] place to show you [Max] my songs. The first song that we wrote together from the ground up was “goingthroughit” and we were like “wait this really works for the two of us”. I would come over last summer all the time and we made the EP just because we had so much fun writing together.

Max: That’s basically it, Molly got it, but really its just that we had a great time working together and I wasn’t really looking for another project, but it just happened. And that’s the approach I want to have when I’m making something, for it to just come naturally and I think that’s reflected in the music too. Not a lot is forced in the music, and I think that’s how our creative relationship is.

Me: Did you write “goingthroughit” before you decided to do CHEEYA?

Molly: Yeah, we did! It was just a random song we did for fun, and he had the instrumental and I thought we should do something with this.

Max: We write in the room together, like I’ll work on the instrumental and Molly will write the melody and lyrics pretty much at the same time.


How do you feel this band is different from other projects that you have been a part of?

Molly: Well for me I’ve been working on my solo stuff since I was nine. I was in studios in LA when I was nine just doing Molly Annelle, so I’m nineteen now and it’s been ten years and I’m getting so tired of my own stuff and working on my own, so its so good to have a project with a friend and really talented musician. And its cool to have a project that you share with someone else that’s not all about you. But I know you’ve [Max] been in bands so its different.

Max: For me it was nice cause it kind of opened my eyes to not strangling something musically or creatively cause I’m kind of a control freak and that’s kind of gotten better since starting this band, at least creatively. This project has helped with the flow of making something. And realizing how to bring out different people and their strengths. Thinking like “what is Molly good at?” and “how can we bring out her personality?”.

Molly: In our new song and some of our other songs I rap, and I would have never rapped before, but Max was just like “you should try this”. When I’m on the SkyTrain or the bus I just write little raps in my phone, and I think the “Ski Goggles” rap was one I wrote on my phone and just whipped it out and had forgotten about that rap.

Can you shed any insight on what you two envision for the band in the future? Whether that’s more shows, a tour, or an album?

Molly: I’d love for us to make an album. And I want us to win a Grammy. And I want us to do well but just keep having fun like we do.

Max: Yeah, I think that’s true.

Molly: I want a Grammy.

Max: She wants a Grammy.

Me: Or an Oscar for the “Ski Goggles” music video.

Molly: Yeah, especially the part where I fall.

Max: Back to the question sorry, just continuing to push things forward musically and I like that our sound is the same but also different from stuff you’ve heard before. I like to push people’s expectations about what their music taste is while also catering to them if that makes sense. So hopefully we do that, and I want to continue doing that.


Do you have any artists that you’ve drawn musical inspiration from for this project?

Molly: We really like Steve Lacy, and DOMi & JD BECK and Hiatus Kaiyote. We would listen to them in the car a lot.

Max: You would show me RNB stuff too, so your influences and mine.

Molly: Sometimes just whatever we were listening to that day, sometimes you’d [Max] pick me up and whatever was playing in your car would subconsciously be in my brain

Max: I think the culmination of our musical brains work well together.


Is there anything that you can tell us about the next single?

Molly: Well with this song I like to make a disclaimer: its not true, its not about anything. The new song is called “I’m Gonna Kill You” and it’s a little like “She” by Tyler, the Creator. Its like “I’m gonna murder you” and it gets more intense as the song goes on. There’s also a really awesome feature from my roommate and super awesome artist called Sahati.

Max: Its like 6 minutes of ideas pushed into 3 minutes, but I think it works.

Molly: It totally works, and I rap for most of the song which is really funny.


What is your song writing creative process like?

Molly: Max does all the stuff that I hate doing. I produced for myself for years and I hated doing all the production and instrumentals and drums and guitars and stuff, but he does that, and he likes doing that part, so it works. He’ll send me an instrumental like for example he sent “iNdiGo” and I was in Whistler with my family and went into the bathroom and was singing the lyrics into my AirPods, so that’s kinda how we make everything. But “I’m Gonna Kill You” we did from scratch.

Max: It works better when we’re in the room together, but it works both ways. Its very fast, I don’t think I’ve ever written a song that fast. With Molly its like no braining it in a good way, its like fuck it, it works, its great, it feels good, continue.

Molly: A lot of it is he’ll set the mic up and play something and I’ll write two or three words in my phone and riff off of those and we usually keep the first of second take.


And to wrap up this chat, what are your goals for CHEEYA?

Max: My goal is to continue what we’re doing and just get people to listen to it. Big goals I do think-

Molly: Grammy.

Max: Grammy is awesome, I don’t need a Grammy-

Molly: I need it.

Max Ok Molly needs a Grammy, but I think I would just like people to hear it and connect. Just come to shows and hang out and connect

Molly: Definitely want to do more shows, I wanna do a world tour!

Cheeya social links:


Banner photo by: Simone Chnarakis