Interview: Cheap Teeth | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Edinburgh’s post-punk flavoured garage rockers, Cheap Teeth are a band doing alright at the minute, with their sold-out Edinburgh and London Shows, mentions in the NME, Spotify playlisting and championing from BBC Radio’s Vic Galloway. COVID-19 might have tried to slow down their rapid rise, but alas it was in vain, as the four-piece are set to get even more kudos with the release of an excellent new EP, Give Me More, Show Me Less (out Friday 22nd May).

We catch up with bassist Jack Sharp, who is currently on lockdown in Newcastle, to chat about the latest EP.

Sum up Cheap Teeth’s sound? Who are your musical inspirations?
The sound comes from a bit of a mix and match. We all bring different influences to the table, but there’s a few bands and artists we all share love for, like Television, Bob Dylan, and some of the stuff currently going on in Scotland, like Sweaty Palms (our mates from Glasgow). The list goes on. 

What would you have been up to around now had COVID-19 not spoilt everything?
Just looking forward to a busy summer of gigging around our ep release. And just the normal stuff of writing, getting in the studio with new songs and trying to flog merch to pay for our next service station Greggs. In particular, we had a few city festivals lined up, like Live at Leeds and Stagg and Dagger in Glasgow. But it looks like they’re getting rescheduled for November, so we can wipe some of the sweat from our foreheads on that front. 

It’s important to say on the subject of Covid-19 that bars and venues seem to be getting hit hard and we just hope our favourite venues and watering holes make it out the other end okay. We’ve all worked pulling pints for big stints of our short lives so we feel for the people working in the industry. It was flimsy enough before all this, so they’re the ones you should feel for. In other words, Tim Martin is a snake.

You have been separated from your band who are in Edinburgh, whilst you are in Newcastle. How come you are here? How are you finding lockdown in Newcastle? Are you keeping in touch with the other members regularly? How are they holding up?
I’m here studying an MA in creative writing. I have a bit of a side passion for all things John Cooper Clark and Tony Harrison, so it’s been nice seeing what’s going on in the spoken word scene in these ends, before the lockdown that is. Turns out it’s really going on, freshly squeezed and pantisocracy to name a few, are monthly nights that happen where you can meet some real characters. 

In terms of being here specifically for the lockdown, I couldn’t really think of anywhere better. My rent is well priced, my windows are big and I live right across from Heaton Park for my daily exercise. In which, people are always dead polite and keep their distance. Sometimes you forget it’s the lockdown for a minute and just think you smell really bad.

We’re in touch all the time. I couldn’t imagine if something like this happened before the invention of the free video conference call. We’d die of heartbreak. Nahh, in one sense it’s invaluable that we can keep putting our heads together and work on stuff. But at the same time, we already had a lot of material in the bank. So, on that front, we’d have probably been okay. Mainly I’m just itching to get in a sweaty practice room with my mates. But we’re all doing alright. We’re all healthy.

Tell us more about your new EP, Give me More, Show me Less. What are the themes within the EP? Where was it recorded?
Out of a bunch of songs we have at our disposal, they were the ones that seemed to go together thematically and musically. The peg fit the hole as it were. We were bothered about how it would sit as a whole, it’s not just four random songs that we happened to write at that time. We made sure they ran on from each other in a way that made sense to us, and that we liked. 

Religion is a running theme in the ep. Mainly criticism of it, I think, but it can probably be taken in a few ways, which is intentional for obvious reasons. But it’s a mix of themes really, stemming from weird real-life situations, or a brainchild that turns into a strange character. We try to sprinkle them with laughs but they tend to be dark. I don’t quite know why. 

The artist who did the artwork, Eliot Greenwald, if not an influence on the themes, has been a great optimisation of them. With confusion, convolution and absurdity all springing to mind when looking at his work. You should give him a butchers, he’s really good.  

It was recorded at a studio just outside Glasgow called Chem-19, by a good friend and frontman of esteemed Glaswegian rockers Catholic Action, Chris McCrory. Not long before we properly met Chris, CA played over at Surf Café in Tynemouth. I really regret not going to that, but I was pretty skint.

What was the songwriting process like for the EP?
The songwriting process is, as touched upon before, mostly writing about weird things. Sometimes from real experiences, and sometimes from scenarios and characters that we think up. Songs come from pointing out the absurdity of stuff I think, and that’s also the case in a lot of the music I listen to. Usually, Joe (lead singer) will come at us with a song or an idea, and we will all work on it through practice. We all write our own bits and/or contribute to each other’s. The main thing is that it’s a collaborative process, we’re mates, so we’re comfortable getting songs to where they need to be without fear of offending each other or anything daft like that. It also means that we all take impetus freely and can just relax and have fun with it. We enjoy what we do, which is the main thing I suppose, without that you’re never gonna make anything worthwhile. It’s worth saying that books help me personally with lyrics. I’ve been put onto some weird books, like some Kafka stuff, that gets me in a nicely strange headspace for songwriting.

What is the first thing the band is going to do once normality is restored?
I think the first thing we will do is go for a pint if I’m honest. I’m already fantasising about what I’m going to order at the bar. But yeah, not being able to play gigs is awful and it’s’ put into perspective how lucky we are to be playing them at all. That, mixed with some severe cases of cabin fever, should make for some charged performances come the impending restoration of normality, so keep your eyes peeled.

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