June 17 2009 12:00 AM

London calls Cheap Girls: Drummer Ben Graham talks touring the UK


Local bands work hard to catch the eyes and ears of people in their home city. Eventually, if they have catchy songs, people attend their shows, drink and sing along.

When a band manages to conquer a foreign country, it’s a new level of accomplishment. The Cheap Girls, who recently returned from headlining a successful UK club tour, are a Lansing indie band that has managed to do just that.

Performing songs from its acclaimed 2008 debut LP, “Find Me a Drink Home,” the band was surprised at the positive crowd reactions throughout the tour. “It was nuts having people singing along every night,” said Ben Graham, the band’s drummer. “We were headlining every night. We’re somewhat used to it here, but we didn’t expect to do it over there.”

The band stayed busy throughout the tour, playing 10 shows in 10 days. “All of them were DIY (do it yourself) shows, [booked by DIY] promoters at a few rather notable clubs. Mostly we played pubs similar in size to Mac’s Bar,” Graham said. “No huge clubs, but great turnouts and lots of fun.”

The band circled the country, making stops in Brighton, Portsmouth, Wales, Exeter, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Cambridge, London and Southampton.

Aside from drinking and playing rock shows, the band members took time to visit historic sights. “We saw some old stuff. Stonehenge was cool,” Graham said. “We saw a little bit of London’s south side. I had been to London before, but not all over the UK like this time.”

Graham said some of the smaller cultural differences intrigued him the most.

“Just going to their stores and buying crumpets and seeing things, like twoliter bottles, that are a little different was some of the coolest stuff,” Graham said. “I never thought something as random as package engineering would be of interest when I’m in the UK.”

Before landing in London, Graham said the band had some jitters concerning customs, but overall were anxious to get started. “We’d heard of a lot of bands getting denied access into the UK, which had us a little scared,” he said. “Besides that, we were just really excited. None of us get nervous about playing shows anymore. Ian and I have been playing shows for over a decade now, and Adam has for a few years now.”

After spending nine hours on a jet plane, the Lansing natives arrived in London, where UK band and tourmates Chillerton picked up The Cheap Girls and rushed to Brighton, where the first gig was booked to start later that night.

Inside a nine-seat cargo van, the band, which also includes Ian Graham (vocals/ guitar) and Adam Aymor (guitar), rode with Tom Hussey (driver) and Time Greaves (tour manager) on its jaunt across the country. “We had someone getting us where we were going and someone telling us what time to get up and be to the van,” Graham said.

Having friends familiar with the UK helped the band get to shows on time, Graham said. But it also allowed the band to partake in other, less constructive, activities. “Playing shows in the states, we have to be somewhat responsible,” Courtesy photo he said. “We have to drive and get to places on time. Over there, we could drink all we wanted to, including in the van, which apparently is not illegal.”

In the end, Graham said the band, “Didn’t have a single bad show,” and is planning its second UK tour for early next year in support of its second album, set to be released this fall.