If I tell you that a band reminds me of the best that Creation Records had to offer, many years ago, I’d hope that you’ll sit up and take notice. But frankly, the flood of shoegaze, feedback drenched bands threatens to drown the eardrums of the most sapient music fan. I bring you the Cheatahs as an example of the best that the genre has to offer. There is a sense of urgency, of passion, an edge that pushes this band light years ahead of anyone else trying to do what they do. Their ability to meld melody and dirge, beauty and madness make them one of the bands to watch in 2013, at South By Southwest and beyond. Singer/ guitarist Nathan Hewitt and I sat down to discuss the makings of this brilliant band.
Todd: Can you give us a quick history of the band? How you came together, etc.?
Nathan: Well we all knew each other as friends who played in various bands individually and decided in early 2012 to start a band together.
Todd: Your sound certainly harkens back to the early Creation bands. Were you conscious of this as you started up as a group or was it happenstance? Do the comparisons become tiresome?
Nathan: I guess the only conscious decision was to make music that we like listening to. We were all influenced by MBV, Jesus Mary Chain, Teenage Fanclub, etc., so I guess it makes sense for that comparison. Also, I think it’s totally natural for people to compare new bands to old ones. We haven’t written that many songs or been around for long enough to have our early output be compared to later stuff, like established bands do.
Todd: We understand that you’ve completed your first album (!!!). The early singles were tremendous, but often I hear artists say that the early songs are easiest because you’ve essentially had your whole life to write them. When did you write the songs that will appear on the new album?
Nathan: Thanks! Well, we wrote the songs for the album last October. We hired out a cottage in Cornwall, which is in the south-east of England. It was a 200 year old cottage in a valley and was pretty isolated. The owners were really cool with us making noise all day.
Todd: Who produced the album and what impact did they have on the process?
Nathan: Dean our bass player produced everything we’ve done so far. We work well when we are on our own and are pretty motivated so it was relatively painless. It also meant we didn’t have to pay someone we’ve never met before to do what Dean has been able to do so well already.
Todd: Sonically, we’re madly in love with you. Can you get techy on us and talk about what guitars, amps and what pedals you prefer?
Nathan: I think all the guitars you hear on the recordings have been on James’ Jazzmaster. It’s a Japanese one from the mid 90′s. On this record we used an old Marshall JMP MK 2 head that was at the studio as well as an old Bassman. There’s tons of big muff but a lot of naturally overdriven valve stuff. We picked up a couple pedals from North Effects in East London which made a big difference. Oh and on the last day we ended up using a Marshall Bluesbreaker combo amp and ended up re-recording a bunch of stuff, as it handles certain pedals way differently then the separate heads did.
Todd: Speaking of sonics, I understand that you just did a gig with Dinosaur Jr. What was that like?
Nathan: It was great! We set up in front of J and Lou’s enormous Marshall stacks and did our best not to disappoint the Dino fans.
I don’t think any of us ever imagined our band would have been allowed to do that, so yeah, it was pretty special.
Todd: How has the process of recording evolved for you, from the early EP’s to now? More tracks of guitars, perhaps?
Nathan: Well for this record we recorded the drums to tape which has made all the difference. We spent so much time on the EPs trying to get the drums sounding ok, as we had recorded straight to tools. So I think that has set a precedent on all of our future recordings. Got to be to tape man.
Todd: Do you take into consideration how the songs will translate live, versus how they sound on record?
Nathan: Yeah for sure. I think it’s more interesting when you see a band live and they don’t sound exactly like they do on record.
We don’t have a rule about being able to play everything we record so it gives us room to experiment in the studio a little, which is fun.
Todd: How do you feel about the process of making videos? Do you get involved in their creation or leave that in the hands of others
Nathan: So far we’ve been totally involved with our videos. Our friends Fed and Tim made our first two videos. It’s a pretty collaborative effort.
Todd: This tour you’ve got with Wavves and Fidlar has got us salivating! What are your thoughts on playing with those bands and how you catch everyones attention at a gig like this?
Nathan: Yeah we are pretty excited to play this tour as well! I guess our first thought (was) thank god we are on first!
Todd: You guys seem to tour a fair amount. What’s the bands favorite activity/best way of avoiding boredom while on the road?
Nathan: We are huge Seinfeld fans so we usually have that on when we can. If we can’t, then we can usually get through an episode just by talking about it and acting it out ourselves. It’s usually funnier that way.
Todd: New album, touring, SXSW…. what else do you have in store for us in 2013?
Nathan: What else would you need?
Catch them at South By Southwest