Interview The Cast Of Cheers: ‘Sonically, This Album Is Leagues Ahead’

Brothers Conor and Neil Adams, John Higgins and Kev Curran talk Colm McAuliffe through the new album.

When we encounter The Cast Of Cheers near the rather grim surroundings of the Olympic Village in Stratford, the foursome are on the verge of escaping the impending capital punishment for sunnier climes in St. Tropez and Australia. Behaviour befitting the members of the classic Bostonian comedy you might say, except this Cast Of Cheers have mastered the pop arts in a far classier style than Norm, Frasier and Woody could ever imagine. ‘Family’, the band’s kinda-debut release, is a marvellous statement of intent, soaked in kinetic pop hooks, sautéed in urgent rhythms driven and directed by a relentless forward propulsion. Released on Schoolboy Error Records, the band have just finished with the festival circuit on this side of the pond before embarking on their tropical excursions. Brothers Conor and Neil Adams, John Higgins and Kev Curran talk Colm McAuliffe through the new album, production quirks and, of course, the origins of the controversial band name.

What are The Cast Of Cheers doing right now?
Conor: Well, we just played at the Latitude Festival which was brilliant and we’re off to St. Tropez to play the Plage de Rock Festival. Then we’re off to Australia to play Splendour in the Grass a really cool festival. After that, we’re playing some shows with Django Django.
Neil: In Australia, the line up is incredible – Smashing Pumpkins, At The Drive-In – and we’re also on the main stage. But we’ve a festival in Derbyshire the morning after so the only way we can play this festival is because of the time difference – it’s a bit mental!

The new album ‘Family’ is out on Monday. What are your expectations at this point? It’s not exactly your debut…
C: Hopefully people will like it! We’ve been really lucky so far, album of the week on XFM which is great to have and the press has been excellent.
N: The feedback in general has been great, especially because we’re known well in Ireland but not so much in the UK. We recorded ‘Chariot’, our first proper album, ourselves and released it for free.
C: So ‘Family’ is the ‘difficult’ second album in Ireland but our first album in the UK. We took ‘Chariot’ off Bandcamp because we didn’t want people to mistake one for the other. We’re hoping it gets a deluxe release in the next six-to-eight months. We want to remaster it and iron it out especially seeing as ‘Family’ has turned out so good production wise.

‘Family’ was recorded in Hackney with Luke Smith, ex-Clor (who also produced Foals’ ‘Total Life Forever’). How much of an influence did he have on the sound?
C: Sonically, this new album is leagues ahead.
John: It’s interesting taking someone into the fold who has a different take and also so much experience with recording because we’re fairly new, we’ve had a DIY approach ‘til now so to have someone with that experience guided us.
N: He has a real love of music. Everyday in the studio, especially if one us was doing something that we weren’t 100% convinced about, he’d pull up iTunes and pick some crazy obscure song or even some mainstream song as an example of where we should be heading.
Kev: He’d say ‘listen to the drums here’ and it could be some mad Berlin electronic stuff that we’d never think of.

Did he have a big influence on the arrangements in the album?
C: To an extent yeah. For example, on ‘Trucks At Night’, when we started to record it with tons of loops, Luke said, “Woah! Loads of that doesn’t need to be there” so it was a case of stripping it back. We took out more than we added in. On the very first song we recorded with Luke, he got us to just play an acoustic version as if we were buskers. His idea was if a busker can play it, it’s a good song – you never see buskers doing intricate guitar bits. So everything was stripped back to what the core of the song was. Then you can see exactly why there’s no need to that four minute weird bit at the end!
N: Luke did a great job just getting everything to sound right and have its own place. There are all these little details that no one will ever hear but which are melted in together so well.

At this juncture, are you still able to enjoy the album after such an intense gestation period?
C: Naah, we still like it. The first album we got a bit sick of but not this one.
J: We were getting weekly mixes when recording it but it was only when it came back mastered that we had a really good listen so it’s still fresh.
C: I actually heard us on the radio yesterday, it was weird because you have the live sound in your head but then you hear it nice and polished…it’s like ‘whaaa?’. We’re more used to the rawer sound now.

How do you find recreating the songs live?
C: It’s easier. Once we figured it all out, it’s like we have muscle memory. We just had six weeks off – our biggest break in a long time – and instantly it all came back to us on our first jam.
J: And touring with Blood Red Shoes in Europe ensured it’s all ingrained in our muscles.

Was there any other music which informed the making of ‘Family’?
C: The Police. We were really into them during the year we recorded Family, especially their first two albums, the more upbeat and reggae sound. Although we probably were listening to their whole catalogue.

Speaking of that era, to these ears, the band resemble Swindon’s finest popstarts, XTC.
C: That’s the weird thing – people kept mentioning this and we were like ‘who’s XTC?”. But last week, we got a copy of ‘Drums and Wires’ (1979 album featuring ‘Making Plans For Nigel’) and it’s so cool.
K: It’s great to discover a band on that level.
J: Yeah, we listened to that on the way back from Latitude and haven’t listened to anything else since.
C: We’ve been reading loads about them but it’s funny being compared to a band you’ve never heard of. We’re also huge fans of a band called the Redneck Manifesto, we’ve been listening to them for years.
K :I think they were big in Japan.

Does this appeal to the band? Far Eastern adulation?
N: We’d love to be big in Japan. Although if it was the whole world and not Japan we’d take that too. We’re kinda obsessed with the place, we’ll probably go mad the day we get there and lock ourselves in our rooms because we’ve talked about it for so long!

And finally, the most pressing question of the day. What’s the response been to the name? Are people disappointed to realise you are not, in fact, erstwhile cast members of Cheers?
N: Some people love it but some are like ‘you gotta be fucking joking! The state of that band name!’

But what’s the actual origin? Were you all just massive fans?
N: Me and Kev were in school together and we had these Cheers pencil cases with ‘The Cast of Cheers’ on the front of them so our teacher used to call us that. Actually, if you Google the name, you get a clip of the entire actual cast being drunk on Jay Leno! But I’d never seen Cheers when I had that pencil case.
C: I used to watch re-runs of it when I came home from tomato picking.
K: I preferred Seinfeld. I wouldn’t have been watching Cheers when I was five years old!

The Cast Of Cheers new album ‘Family’ will be released on 23rd July via School Boy Error / Cooperative Music. Their new single ‘Human Elevator’ will be released on 20th August.

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