POSTED ON MARCH 16, 2011:
Cheap Time is fast, filthy rock 'n' roll
For whatever reason -- maybe the South By Southwest festival in Austin -- there's been a pretty steady stream of garage-rock/punk bands making its way through Tulsa lately. The latest group set to stop in town is Cheap Time, a three-piece from Tennessee that's been around for about five years.
Like most garage-rock bands, Cheap Time plays a lot of loud, fast two-minute songs with fuzzed-out guitars and distorted vocals. Many of the lyrics are for the most part indiscernible under the noisy din of seemingly hastily recorded music, most of which is made up of a few simple chords and a driving beat.
One could argue that the art in garage-rock/punk like this isn't necessarily in the songs themselves, but in the energy and attitude they exude. What's interesting about Cheap Time, though, is that the band occasionally makes songs that push the boundaries typical of the genre.
Cheap Time proves not every garage rock record has to sound like The Ramones. They realize there's room within the genre for melodies outside the standard rock 'n' roll patterns.
A song like Cheap Time's "Penny And Jenny," with its characters and quirky playfulness wouldn't seem out of place on a record like the 1968 pop classic "The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society." It's an example of the kind of melodic mindfulness that sets Cheap Time apart from other garage rock/punk bands.
Cheap Time's singer and guitarist Jeffrey Novak is likely the main reason for the band's pop sensibilities. Growing up in and around Memphis, Novak couldn't help but be influenced by Alex Chilton -- the lead singer of The Box Tops and Big Star whose power pop mastery has influenced countless musicians.
Novak also draws a lot of inspiration from what he calls "pre-punk" music -- bands like The Stooges and The Velvet Underground, and British psychedelia.
"People like Kevin Ayers and Twink," Novak said. "Just kind of weirdos of the '60s and'70s. People I've been into since I was a teenager."
Like Puerto Rico's Davila 666, another garage rock/punk band to come through Tulsa recently, Cheap Time is on Los Angeles-based In The Red Records -- one of the larger and more popular independent garage rock labels. Novak says he drew interest from the label before he'd even started the band.
"I met the guy who runs the label at a Redd Kross show like a week before I started Cheap Time," Novak said. "I told him my idea for the band and he said he was interested. I sent him a demo and he sent us out to California to record our first album."
Cheap Time's recorded several singles and another two albums since then. The band's third full-length album, Wallpaper Music, is due out later this year. It's the first record they've made at Novak's new home studio in Nashville.
"We had a pretty bad experience recording our second record," Novak said. "The engineer at the studio went nuts and pulled a shotgun on us and kicked us out of the studio. It sort of soured us on recording in a real studio."
On tour, when they're not entertaining others, the members of Cheap Time occasionally take time to entertain themselves. Just last week after a show in L.A., the band stopped by the home of Misfits founder and horror-punk icon Glenn Danzig.
"We don't know him or anything," Novak said. "We just got his address from a friend and stopped by to take pictures outside his house. The place looked pretty evil. It definitely looked like there was some evil going on in there."
Cheap Time's gone through a number of personnel changes since the band's inception. Novak says some members left on their own accord; others had to be kicked out when they lost enthusiasm for being in the group. These days, Novak plays guitar and sings, Matt Allen plays bass and sings, and Ryan Sweeney Plays drums.
"The lineup we have now I think is the best lineup," Novak said.
See if you agree this Saturday, March 20, at Yellow Brick Road, 2630 E. 15th St.
Opening for Cheap Time are Tulsa's Lizard Police, The Dull Drums and Midtown and Down.
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