INTERVIEW: Cheatahs | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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One thing that almost every band has to deal with is being pigeonholed. Very few are immune to the journalistic art of slapping a genre onto something that sounds a little bit like something else (guilty).

Cheatahs are a band that know all too well about labelling. They’ve been described as shoegaze, alt-rock, noise-rock, indie-rock…the list is endless. Yet guitarist, James Wignall seems to think music journos have missed one off. “I think we’re probably better described as being an ambient punk band, but it’s best not to get too hung up on it.”

At first, James doesn’t seem to mind all the MBV and Slowdive comparisons and the fact that the band’s self-titled debut album was hailed as a sort of revivalist 90s genre piece, but the more I bring it up the more frustrated he sounds. “In an ideal world it’d be better if people didn’t do that – they’re trying to write about this abstract artform and trying to pin a name on it. You know, when people say shoegaze, it’s kind of a reductive term really because it can mean anything from Cocteau Twins to Jesus And Mary Chain and they’re at opposite ends of the spectrum. I think anyone at the moment who picks up a guitar is seen as a retro act.”

But it’s not all bad blood; James is optimistic about the band’s sound, which is constantly developing. “With the early stuff we were just kind of having fun. I think the influences are much more obvious. The album was taking influences from types of music other than alternative guitar music, experimental drone stuff and ambient kind of early Aphex Twin stuff is quite a big influence.”

2014 has been a busy year for the band. They’ve played countless festivals and toured around the UK with Eagulls. The band’s aim now is to push for more UK dates, starting with an autumn tour that sees them head to Sunderland’s Independent on Friday 21st November. Gigs in the UK are a bit of a priority for Cheatahs, who aren’t exactly familiar faces round here. “We’re probably better known in Europe and America than we are in the UK which is something we obviously wanna rectify.” In terms of their live shows, they seem to be aiming for less static, ‘shoegaze’ fare – but sometimes that depends entirely on the audience their playing to. “We’re quite heavy live – a mix of ambient stuff and full on pretty loud and hard. You can go to Sweden and the crowd will just be standing there staring at you and you’ll be thinking ‘I wonder how this is going down’. Then you go to Scotland and people are just going crazy. I prefer people moving around, stage diving is always fun.”

Cheatahs sound like they’re well on the way to loosening the earlier associations sewn on by the press and forming their own identity, as an internationally renowned band. They just need to break these shores a bit first.

Cheatahs play Sunderland’s Independent on Friday 21st November.

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