Creatively unpredictable, imaginative and perhaps undefinable in the same instance – Ten Years Without Rami Holding depicts an array of stories relating to a photographer’s long-awaited return to Cheap City.
Marked For Error opens things up, softly chaotic and circus-like in its originality and color, whilst later we get indie-rock anthems of spoken-word intensity, and something of a Tarantino vibe in the guitars and rhythm for Drag Race.
Punk-rock and alternative sub-genres a-plenty feed into the sound, which is ultimately comprised of passionate yet impressively precise arrangements of guitar, bass, keys, synth and retro production.
Ivy Cochran is another highlight, dramatic and personal, classic punk with a jazz hi-hat lead and an overall groove that’s alluring. A dash of Bowie falls into place for the stripped-back moments, alongside what has already been a plethora of influences from Frank Zappa to the Chillis to Shame. In reality though, Cheap City have carved out their own sound, and have somehow done so with equal parts explosive energy and outright musical precision.
The structure of each track is quite brilliant, allowing the intensity of certain vocal instances or shifts to hit with appropriate impact thanks to quieter and more reflective ones prior and following. The 36th Annual Meeting of the Cheap City Gravedigger’s Choral Union is another stand-out venture – one that captivates, with humour, heartbreak and horror intertwined.
Expect plenty of solos and united melodic threads alike – great musicianship, characterful stories and performances, and unwavering originality. A complex and refreshingly interesting journey. Well worth knowing about this year.
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Can you tell us a little bit about what life is like in Cheap City? What’s the travel brochure version? What’s the music/arts scene like?
I’m so glad you asked, because my literal job as a cultural ambassador of Cheap City, is to tell you all about our home.
Cheap City boasts a series of unique neighborhoods that are sure to offer something for everyone. You can visit “Candy Corner” which features a wide breadth of candy and soda counters, confectionaries, and bakeries – as long as they focus on dessert. If you’re looking for dance-based nightlife you can head to the Pierre Boulez Memorial Discotheque or for a hoedown you can visit The Hogstown Tub.
Cheap City used to be dominated by the clock industry, and by that I mean, this clock corporation actually slowly took over the government and installed themselves as some kind of fascist dictators. This has actually almost happened a couple times, but our residents really don’t stand for much bullshit and they’ll run you out of town if they have to.
Our travel brochures (which are real, you have to come to a show to get one) say: “Do you like ghosts? What about rats? We’ve got them both and depending on your outlook on things this is either a problem you can help us solve, or a fun attraction. Either way, come visit Cheap City!” We’re workshopping it. Do you know anyone who works in tourism or marketing? Most of Cheap City’s marketing department recently went on an office team building trip to the abandoned gold mine on the outskirts of town and we haven’t heard from them since.
The arts community in Cheap City is really diverse and welcoming. These days it’s actually mandated that certain houses HAVE to be punk houses. We have a very active DIY scene, full of photographers (our new album is about one of them), painters, filmmakers, and authors who are doing their best to document Cheap City.
But it wasn’t always that way. In the 1980’s and 1990’s the Cheap City town council banned all music other than what was being written by mayor-appointed songwriters. Luckily that was overturned with the “Who Made Up This Crazy Ass Rule Act of 2001.” Cheap City historians have recently uncovered evidence of an underground network of punk and hardcore bands that operated on the fringes of Cheap City during this period. We plan on releasing selections of this music as an archival compilation album titled ‘CHEAP CITY HARDCORE’ later this year.
You’ve described your sound as, “what would happen if Zappa and Fugazi were for some reason collaborating on a disco record.” How did you find that sound? Was it a deliberate mashup of styles or were you jamming and realized certain influences were emerging?
A little bit of both. Cheap City’s musical direction really came out of a desire to inspire a safe and welcoming kind of dancing at shows. I used to be in a hardcore band and I always deeply hated that when we played with other loud and aggressive bands, non-masculine folk were almost always pushed to the back or sides of the room because of mosh pits. I wanted to make music that could be loud and aggressive but also fun and safe and welcoming.
I think we gravitate towards certain influences but in general the sound really comes from being into things like At The Drive In, but really filtering that through something that’s more like Quintron.
“I wanted to make music that could be loud & aggressive but also fun & safe & welcoming.”
What’s the role of confrontation in Cheap City’s music? What about experimentation?
I don’t particularly consider confrontation or experimentation in our work. There’s a lot of music that wants to confront its audience, and I used to respond to that kind of expression really well, but now I really just want to open my arms to our listeners and say, “I feel outcast. I’m a balding trans woman and I have a Spongebob tattoo and I like writing songs about graveyards and truckers in space. I feel weird about myself and everything else and maybe you do too and we can all dance together for 30 minutes tonight and feel okay about whatever’s going on.”
I don’t know to what extent Cheap City’s an experimental band. We try to push ourselves and each other to be better. Whether it’s in our performance, or our recording, or our songwriting. I mean I don’t know any other bands that are documenting an extended universe in this way, and I feel like that aspect of the band has really given us the freedom of mind to change the way we think about being in a band.
Do you have any shows lined up beyond the Cheap City Metropolitan Area?
2/4 – News Cafe. Pawtucket, RI
3/17 – The Garden. Nashua, NH
4/15 – Hawks and Reed. Greenfield, MA
But the best way to keep up to date on our performances – since we’re about to start announcing a lot more – is to follow us on Instagram (@cheap_city_forever) or head to cheapcity.org
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How to get to Cheap City. Check out Cheap City on Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp & their Website.