On the Road with Cheap Time

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Nashville’s Cheap Time hit the road this week on a full US tour that spans 27 states and 58 cities in a little under three months. With only 212 miles between Nashville and Memphis, the band has made the Bluff City their second home during their career, playing venues like the Buccaneer and the Hi-Tone CafĂ© every few months. Former Memphian Jeffrey Novak (the band's songwriter and founder) also collaborated with the late Jay Reatard many times, and Reatard produced Novak’s first solo record in the house the two shared on in Midtown.

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Although Wallpaper Music, the group's third album for the Los Angeles-based record label In the Red, came out in May, this is Cheap Time's first tour in support of record. I got Novak on the phone while in the tour van en route to the band's kickoff show in Chattanooga:

Flyer: How do you prepare for a tour of this size, mentally and physically?

Novak: There isn’t really a way to prepare for a tour this big. Being in this band over the years it seems like no matter how much we try to practice before tour it never works out, someone’s gone or there are scheduling problems. Right now we know more songs than we’ve ever known before, which is good. We know a whole new album that no one’s ever heard. Before a tour I always get filled with anticipation and I cant sleep a few days before we leave. There is also the excitement of being on the road and playing every night. It’s also nice to be in a position where things are being taken care of by our publicist and tour manager and we can just focus on the music.

You’ve toured the U.S. extensively over the years. Are you hitting any places for the first time on this outing?

There are tons of places we’re playing on this tour that I’ve never played before. It is inevitable when you tour for this long but we told our new booking agent Todd we wanted the longest tour possible with the fewest days off. Our European tour later this year is the same way. Once you’ve been doing this for a while and you can tour on a name, the doors open to more places you can go. We’ve stuck to this for seven years and it keeps getting a little better with every tour. There’s never been a major change before; everything’s always been really slow for us.

Was there a reason you waited so long to tour in support of the album?

We fired our old agent because he completely slacked off. We were supposed to be touring back in May when the album came out. He refused to show us the dates he had booked so we fired him. We hired a new agency but they needed three or four months to do a proper tour. This should be a better tour so I think it’s worth waiting. We were frustrated that we had to wait, but touring in the summer kind of sucks, especially when we play college towns.

The new video for Cheap Time's song "Another Time":

In the past your solo recordings have differed greatly than the songs you write for Cheap Time, but the new album sounds like you might be trying to blend those two styles together. Is that a conscience effort? Will you be playing any of the songs from your solo catalog on this tour?

One song that we’ve been playing is a brand new solo song, but I like the song and it made sense to play it on this tour. I did an interview earlier where I said I first made solo records because I was passive aggressively upset with someone in the band and I could make a solo record without involving anyone. Each solo record is made for the same reason: Someone quit or got kicked out. If I made another record it would probably be for a different reason because I really like the current lineup of this band.

I noticed you’re playing a few shows with Memphis transplants Useless Eaters, are there any other Tennessee bands you’ll be matched up with this on this tour?

Were playing with [Nashville's] Turbo Fruits in Cleveland but I don’t think there’s any others. It’s rare that we play with other Memphis or Nashville bands but it seems like Turbo Fruits are the only consistent band we’ve played with over the years.

What are some of the other bands you’re looking forward to playing with?

Some of the dates in the Midwest are supporting Bob Log III and the West Coast dates are with the Unnatural Helpers, who I just heard recently. The band we're most excited about playing with is the Cheater Slicks in Columbus. It’s the first time we’ve been in Columbus in four years. People have written me over the years asking when I’m coming back so that’s one town we’re excited to get back to. We’re also really excited to play with Reigning Sound in Asheville, North Carolina.

Ok, I have to ask: Why isn’t there a Memphis show?

We’re not even playing Nashville on this tour! I don’t know if our agent tried to get us a show in Memphis or what. The last show at the Hi-Tone was just dismal. There were more people there during the sound check than our set. I like to play there so I'd like to believe it was a problem with our former booking agent and not the Hi-Tone. n

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