How the band found each other in a foreign place...

The four members of Cheatahs descended upon London from some pretty far flung places. Singer Nathan Hewitt was raised in Morinville, a tiny town near Edmonton in Canada, bassist Dean Reid is American, drummer Marc Raue is German and guitarist James Wignall made it to the capital all the way from Leicester.

Having released their debut EP ‘Coared’ via Marshall Teller earlier this year, they’ve since been signed to Wichita Recordings off the back of an electric live performance and a handful of tracks they’ve since moulded into their latest release, the ‘SANS’ EP.

ClashMusic caught up with Nathan to chew the fat about all things Cheatahs...

You guys have a pretty internationally diverse line up, how did you first get together?

Me and James have been friends for a long time, pretty much since I moved here. We used to work in a pub together and have been in and out of bands together for years. We’d just met at work and bonded over similar music tastes. I met Dean through a friend; he was over here working as a songwriter, he’s a producer as well, and he used to come to our old band’s shows. Marc met us through James, they’d played in bands together... we’re all friends who just met through following each other’s music. It’s just kind of similar minds finding each other in a foreign place. James is English but he’s from Leicester; most people in London aren’t from London and they kind of gravitate towards finding people that they like, I suppose it’s the most natural way.

We recently profiled Marshall Teller on ClashMusic, how did you first hook up with those guys?

It was really sweet, I’d just put up a MySpace page with a few demos and Leon, who was playing with Colours, got in touch. I was actually in Canada at the time and when I got back to London he’d sent me a four song cassette tape that was their first release because he’d liked what I was doing and thought it’d be cool if I could hear what he was doing. He wanted to put out a 7” with some bands that he liked and I had a rough demo of a song and I thought it’d be fun to put it out with them and I ended up designing their logo for them. It was really cool because I think they’re originally from Bournemouth but they did the same thing as us; they moved to London, tried to find people they had things in common with and just made things happen by making friends and being cool.

Personally, for me, independent labels have never been as important. I moved here and didn’t have any childhood connections, didn’t know people and the way things worked. They [Marshall Teller] just gave me the confidence that I guess you look for when you’re first starting out and making songs. To have somebody that isn’t one of your friends, that isn’t probably in a position to make a lot of money from it and will probably actually lose money by doing it... the fact that they’re willing to put the work in anyway just gives you so much more confidence

How did the deal with Wichita come about? At what point did they step in?

They happened to be at a show we were playing in May with Milk Music at The Others in Stoke Newington. I went to a Milk Music show at Birthdays and I bumped into Paul Lilley who runs SEXBEAT. He said they were doing another show on the Monday and they needed a support band so I said Cheatahs could do it. It was only the second show we’d played this year and we managed to have one practice in those three days. We were main support and the next day they got in touch. We were emailing and then hung out a few times, had a few meetings and then they heard some stuff we were working on because we had the second EP recorded pretty much. We were going to put it out just after the first one came out, kind of just for fun, but they were really keen on putting that EP out so we signed a deal with them.

They’ve been really cool , it’s definitely different, it’s gone from getting a couple of emails a day to getting 30 or 40 through, just bouncing ideas back and forwards. It really makes you feel like you’re employed rather than just writing songs for the hell of it! So far every idea we’ve suggested they’re totally into, we basically haven’t had to do anything we haven’t wanted to. For us a big pull was the fact that Dick Green was involved and that whole ethos of it being just about the music rather than anything else.

What were the recording sessions like for the new EP?

We have a rehearsal space in Hackney which has a control room and Dean produced the first EP so he did this one as well. He’s got a whole bunch of recording equipment that we brought over to the studio and we did the drums at the rehearsal space over a single weekend. He also has access to another studio in Hackney but you can’t make too much noise there so we had to record the guitar parts at night and piece together them and the vocals over the next few weeks. It didn’t actually take that much time to do but we did it mostly on weekends so we didn’t get finished until July when we’d started it in early May. We’d pretty much finished it up other than vocals, and were probably going to put it out with Marshall Teller again, before Wichita came along. They got it mastered for us at Electric in London and we’d never had anything mastered before so that was pretty cool, it really beefed it up, but we did all the mixing and recording ourselves.

How does the songwriting process work with you guys?                                              

It’s kind of changing, at the beginning I used to do everything and then I started working with James. The bulk of stuff at the beginning would be my ideas and then we’d figure out a way that everyone would be happy with it. With the second EP, James had a couple of songs on it, he wrote ‘The Swan’ and ‘Sans’ and I wrote the other two. It’s becoming more of an organic process together, we’ve just hired a cottage out in Devon for us all to go to and set up our stuff and have a total week of writing. We’re going to get the record ready and lay it out; it’s becoming a more cohesive, collaborative effort between us, rather than it being one person’s pet project.

I think now that we’re invested in it together it’s becoming easier to come up with songs that fit the band. Dean is more of a producer and less involved with the writing process but that means he can pick up on different things, he’s originally from a pop background production-wise so it makes it really interesting. The whole magic in music for me is when you don’t even have to say a word and you just start playing something and you’re communicating through the music; you come up with something and you all just look up and you immediately know where to go. We’re starting to get to that point I think, it’s hard to talk about it... that’s why we play guitars!

Words by Paddy Hughes

The 'SANS' EP was released on November 26th and is available to buy HERE.


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