Across the pond, guitar music’s coming back with a vengeance. At the end of last year, the head of Universal Music in the U.K. predicted a resurgence in British rock. Alongside acts like Savages and Palma Violets, Cheatahs are leading the pack. Last week, the London band re-released its first two U.K. EPs, SANS and Coared, as a compilation titled Extended Plays on Wichita. It’s an eight-track assertion of no-frills garage rock that’s already been well received at home, particularly with SANS single “The Swan.”
“It’s really weird. We started getting played on mainstream radio and stuff,” says Canadian-born singer/guitarist Nathan Hewitt, a veteran performer who previously saw critical acclaim for his work with Male Bonding. “I’ve been doing music my whole life,” he says. “Now is the first time that I’ve had a label that’s been on my band.”
A couple of years ago, Hewitt launched Cheatahs into full swing with guitarist James Wignall, also of the psych-pop band Weird Dreams. Whereas Hewitt’s sound in Male Bonding was best when tightly wound, his own songs take a more laid-back approach. There’s still a familiar crunchiness, thanks to bassist Dean Reid’s production in the band’s home studio. Drummer Marc Raue rounds out the group with his jittery, dance-ready rhythms.
While the quartet excels at the hazy and acid-washed, it also knows how to ratchet up the intensity level when necessary. There’s the pummeling intro to “SANS,” which goes on to showcase some sharp riffs veiled in reverb. A certain brightness bleeds out from under the rough edges. “We’ve got a sunny sound, sentiment,” Hewitt says.
Indeed, on SANS’s “Fountain Park,” he sings, “Fill my lungs with English sun,” but there’s a balance between the light and the dark, as Hewitt repeats, “I know I’m drowning.” “Flake” turns retro vocal harmonies into something less innocent, questioning, “And then I wonder why am I such a fuck up? Maybe it’s time that I grow up.” The first EP let Cheatahs’ darker, moodier side show more in the music, like the faintly mournful “Jacobi,” though “Froshed” hinted at the direction going forward.
Cheatahs will be touring the U.S. extensively this spring, setting out first with Veronica Falls, then with Wavves and FIDLAR on a journey that’s sure to leave massive destruction in its wake. “Just being in the States, the whole thing, it’s really exciting,” Hewitt says.
At the suggestion that now is the time to break in America, the frontman stays unassuming. “Right now, our goal is to just have fun and play shows and just write and finish up our first record. We don’t have a major plan of action other than just writing songs and playing.”