Eight years ago, ex-Rat Traps vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Jeffrey Novak envisioned a Garage-stained band that would nod toward Glam Rock and Power Pop influences, fueled by the Punk he’d been playing since his teenage years.
Recruiting bassist Jemina Pearl and drummer Nathan Vasquez, on a busman’s holiday from Be Your Own Pet, the Nashville native formed Cheap Time and the trio churned out their debut three-track 7-inch single in 2007. The vinyl was barely cool when Pearl and Vasquez jumped ship to focus on BYOP. Undaunted, Novak replaced his rhythm section and forged ahead, recording another 7-inch and Cheap Time’s well-received self-titled debut full-length in 2008.
In the intervening years, Novak has maintained a fairly consistent sonic profile — The Quick, Sparks and The Kinks filtered through Wire, The Voidoids and The Stooges — while dealing with a revolving lineup that has included two bassists and three drummers in six years.
The drama hasn’t been limited to Cheap Time’s personnel rotation. In the midst of recording 2010’s Fantastic Explanations (and Similar Situations), the band was forced out of the studio by their gun-brandishing engineer. The album was ultimately mixed by former Sparks guitarist-turned-renowned-producer Earle Mankey, who polished the band’s newly-minted complex simplicity to an appropriately dirty shine.
Since 2012’s bristling Wallpaper Music, Cheap Time has enjoyed a stable lineup; Novak and drummer Ryan Sweeney, who signed on in 2009, were joined by Jessica McFarland, who Novak has cited as the most passionate and committed musician he’s ever met. Last year’s Exit Smiles showed the evolution of this new iteration of Cheap Time as Novak attacked the mic like Johnny Rotten in melodic Power Pop mode and tore through The Big Book of Punk Guitar Chords with gleeful abandon, while McFarland and Sweeney anchored the mayhem with a thunderously incessant pulse.It’s the live arena where Cheap Time does its most brutally effective business; if there was a sonic version of sunblock, it wouldn’t stop Novak and company from blistering your hide.
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