CHEATAHS IN LONDON, NOVEMBER 2013. STYLING: KAREN CLARKSON. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ON JAMES WIGNALL: SHIRT: DIOR HOMME. ON DEAN REID: JACKET: DIOR HOMME. T-SHIRT: HUGO BOSS. ON MARC RAUE: SWEATER: DOLCE & GABBANA.ON NATHAN HEWITT: JACKET: BURBERRY PRORSUM. T-SHIRT: VALENTINO. RING AND WATCH: HEWITT’S OWN.
Nathan Hewitt, the frontman of U.K.-based garage-rock quartet Cheatahs, first realized that he wanted to be a guitarist in an unlikely place: at church. Back home in Morinville, Canada, when Hewitt was 8 years old, a traveling Christian-contemporary band had come through town. Hewitt saw them perform, and thus began his lifelong romance with the ax. “I just saw this guy play and was like, ‘I have to be able to do that,’ ” Hewitt says. “I got guitar lessons about a year later. There’s a tape at my mom’s house with the first song I ever recorded. It’s called ‘Angel of Love.’ ” This information proves of particular delight to Hewitt’s bandmates, and when he further divulges that the song included Christian rapping over its bridge, a jokey plan is immediately hatched to bring “Angel of Love” back into Cheatahs’ repertoire.
Hewitt’s tastes have changed considerably since then, as church concerts gave way to hardcore shows, and a move to London at age 20—”I wanted to live in Europe, and England was the easiest way to do that, and it still had castles,” he explains—led to stints in post-punky outfits like Little Death and Male Bonding, while he worked on his propulsive Cheatahs material on the side. In the last few years, though, Hewitt has assembled a United Nations of like-minded collaborators for the project: British guitarist James Wignall, German drummer Marc Raue, and American bassist Dean Reid, all of whom, like Hewitt, are now in their thirties. “I have never understood people who say, ‘I’m going to make music until this certain age, and then I’m going to settle down, have kids, and get an office job,’ ” Wignall says. “That just says to me that you didn’t want to do it enough in the first place.”
It’s easy to hear the influence of seminal shoegaze and alt-rock albums like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless (1991) and Dinosaur Jr.’s Bug (1988) in the group’s self-titled debut (out this month on Wichita), as fuzzed-out vocals and deceptively pretty melodies lurk behind grinding guitars awash in liberal reverb. And sure enough, Wignall mentions formative experiences seeing both “Dino” and “The Valentines”—like a true fan, he’s on a nickname basis—when they re-formed in the late aughts. “That was as close to a religious experience as you can have, in a way,” Wignall says before checking himself. “Well,” he adds, “I’ve yet to hear ‘Angel of Love.’ ”
WE ARE PLEASED TO OFFER AN EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE STREAM OF CHEATAHS’ “SONGS OF LAST SUMMER” SPOTIFY PLAYLIST, ABOVE. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, PLEASE VISIT ITS FACEBOOK PAGE. SPECIAL THANKS: HOXTON STUDIOS, LONDON.