This month Cheap Girls will release their third album and first for Rise Records, entitled Giant Orange. It was recorded by Against Me! singer/guitarist Tom Gabel at Total Treble Studio in Elkton, Florida. The record sounds polished yet full of energy, and displays a band that’s improving at an impressive rate. They continue to redefine their own unique mix of power pop, alt rock and melodic punk, and the end result is sure to please old school fans and newcomers alike. We spoke with singer/bassist Ian Graham and discussed how the album was recorded, their new label, touring, the band’s hometown of Lansing, Michigan and more.
Bill – What was it like recording your new album with Tom Gabel at his studio?
Ian – It was good. It was the first album he recorded there, so we were kind of breaking the place in. Everything worked really well and it was fun. It was in the middle of nowhere, so we were somewhat isolated, but it was cool being that secluded. The town where the studio is located is called Elkton and it’s about 15 miles outside of St. Augustine. The building used to be an old post office, but it doesn’t look like a post office inside anymore. There are only a few buildings in the whole town; there’s the studio, a restaurant, a car repair place and a Christian bookstore. It’s a pretty basic brick building that he just kind of gutted the inside of and transformed into a studio. We were there for about three weeks and really had a good time. It was cool because I feel like we were able to collaborate more with each other compared to on our other albums. We tried a few different things with the vocals and different guitar tones. We did some more stuff with multiple vocal tracks and stuff like that this time around. We were a little more adventurous I guess. I think we’re all pretty happy with how it turned out. Granted it’s still pretty new and fresh, but I think it’s kind of exactly what we intended to do.
Bill – Cheap Girls spent most of last year on tour and pretty much wrote all of your new record on the road. You were also able to test a lot of the material in front of live audiences. In what ways do you think this helped the songwriting process for Giant Orange?
Ian – Well, we always write and learn our songs at home. Since we never really have that long of a break, we’ll get a few songs done and then go back on tour. We’ll typically try one or two new ones on each tour. I don’t think it necessarily determined what went on the record this time around; they weren’t really tested in that sense, but this was the first time where we cut songs from the record. We recorded more than we actually put on there and were able to pick certain ones. These songs had been played a lot more, just in general, whether that was at practice or on tour. Where before, there’d always be one or two at the very last minute that were learned very quickly, sometimes even minutes before we started recording them. Every song on this one, we went into recording it and pretty much knew and were really comfortable with the structure of each song.
Bill – What’s the meaning of your new album’s title?
Ian – Oh, it’s just a punch line to an inside joke from a couple years ago. It’s a really long joke, but the name kind of stuck. It actually works well as like a standalone title and it sounds alright, so we just went with it.
Bill – How would you say the new record differs from your previous material?
Ian – I think it’s more thought-out. Even though we recorded more songs than we put on it, I think we knew a little more of what we wanted it to be in general. We wanted to have a little diversity between the songs, but also establish some common themes with the music. I think the record is a little longer than our previous ones, but I don’t think it’s like a long, slow record or anything. Overall, I would say the songs are a little more deliberate and more detailed.
Bill – Tell me about the album’s first single, “Ruby.” How was it written and what do its lyrics deal with?
Ian – Lyrically, it’s a little confusing. I’m not sure if it’s all that cut and dry. It’s a song that we wrote last winter and one that we kind of knew from the beginning was going to be one of our favorites. I know we were all really excited when we finished it. It felt good and it felt like we achieved what we were going for. We actually just made a video for that song with Travis Dopp from Small Brown Bike. He’s wanted to make a video with us for a long time and he kind of came up with everything. He wrote the story and filmed a lot of it in this antique shop in Marshall, Michigan. We just showed up for an evening and that was it.
Bill – Giant Orange is your first release for Rise Records. What do you like best about your band’s partnership with the label?
Ian – They’re very easygoing and they let us make whatever record we were going to make. They didn’t really ask to hear it or anything until we were done, like entirely done with it and mastered and everything. They put a lot of trust in us. They had heard demos of course back when we started talking to them about putting out the record in general. They were pretty trusting, so that was nice. They let us make a record and we just handed it in and they were totally cool with it.
Bill – What’s the music scene like in your hometown of Lansing, Michigan?
Ian – It’s calm, there’s not a lot of venues. They’ve got about two or three, if that. There’s like one main venue, this bar where we play all the time. Then there are always one or two others that are new or kind of changing. There are lots of bands and a lot of bands within bands. There’s a core group of musicians and they just kind of have a bunch of different bands. As far as bands that tour a lot, there’s not really too much of that.
Bill – Last fall you guys played Riot Fest in Chicago and opened for The Descendents and The Suicide Machines. What’s your favorite memory from that show?
Ian – That was a fun day in general. We had a lot of friends on that show, like The Flatliners and The Menzingers. We’ve known both of those bands for as long as we’ve been a band, if not longer. It was a cool day though. We played early and we all had a really good time playing. It sounded really good too. The day just got better from there. We got to see The Menzingers and The Flatliners play, and hang out with them and have drinks. I think the Rise Records people flew in for the show, so we hung out with them a bit. With The Suicide Machines being a Michigan band, we had grown up seeing them a lot, so it was great to see them and of course The Descendents too. It was a pretty unique, standout day. It was like the better parts of playing a three-day festival, but it was all focused in on one day. It was pretty cool.
Bill – What are some of the things that you’re looking forward to regarding your upcoming tour with The Sidekicks?
Ian – Well again, they’re really close friends and we just extended the tour. I think we’re going to go out for about six weeks now. It’s exciting to be headed out with people that we’re already really good friends with. I’m really excited just to be playing the East Coast. It’s kind of like a new start in a sense when you have a lot more songs to choose from. That way it’s never stale. You can play some new songs when you have a new record out, we’ve always typically done that, but it’s a lot different when the new record has been out for a little bit. That way people might actually be as much or more excited to hear the new ones as they are the old stuff. It’s like with each record the pool of songs to choose from just gets larger. It’s fun to have more to choose from that aren’t just fun for you, but for the audience as well.
Bill – What else do you guys have planned for the remainder of the year?
Ian – Well, we’re doing a full U.S. tour with The Sidekicks and after that we’ll probably head out west again. We’re on our way to a show right now. We’re actually playing with Smoking Popes tonight and were just talking about what else we might do this year. I’m sure we’ll play some more shows in the U.S. with some other bands. I think this is our first record that officially comes out worldwide. We went to Europe last summer and we’ve played there before, but I think we’ll probably go back before the end of the year. Hopefully we’ll play a few new places too and that should be exciting. I want us to stay busy in the sense of doing new things, rather than being on tour for the sake of being on tour. After a while it becomes pretty easy to do. You can usually hop on a tour and be gone all the time if you want to be. I think we’re more curious to see what kind of different tours we might be able to do. We naturally get offered a lot of tours that are pretty punk rock-focused, because a lot of our peers are all kind of punk bands, but I think we’re just curious to see what different bands we can tour with. We’re open to different music crowds and things like that, so we’ll be curious to see what that does.