Nov. 21 2013 12:00 AM

Lansing power pop band returns for homecoming show after world tour

It’s been a year since Cheap Girls last played Mac’s Bar, the venue where the Lansing-based power-pop band cut its teeth and quickly developed a dedicated following. The road warriors haven’t been hanging around Mid-Michigan much – as usual, the band’s been busy gigging across the United States and other continents.

After six-and-half years of playing genuine, hook-driven rock‘n’roll the trio has started recording its yet to be titled fourth album. The last record, “Giant Orange,” was recorded by Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! and received solid press from Rolling Stone and Spin Magazine – not bad for some hometown boys. The band, which returns Saturday to Mac’s Bar, consists of brothers Ian Graham (bass, lead vocals), Ben Graham (drums) and Adam Aymor (guitar). Ian Graham and Aymor sat down with City Pulse, here’s what they had to say. 

Why haven’t Cheap Girls played Lansing in so long?
Graham: I think we planned on playing more in Lansing, but most of our shows ended up being outside of Lansing – it was a busier year than what we had planned on. We did England, the United States twice, and then Australia – all between March and August. But we’ve had about two months off now. We’re not around Lansing that much, so we’re legitimately excited to play Mac’s.

So you’ve been writing some new material?
Yeah, we've been in record mode. I think we’re sitting on a dozen new ones that we’re about to record. It’ll likely be out in spring next year, maybe late April or early May. 

You recorded your last record with Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! How did that come about and why are you not recording with her again?
Graham: They’re definitely like a friend band. This time around a lot of it was that schedules didn’t match up. The part of the year that Laura is free, we’re gone and vice versa – so we never really talked about it.

How will this record be different from the previous LPs?
We’ve done more layering. It’s more of a studio record. We spent a lot more time messing with the songs. As weird as it may sound, Steely Dan and the third Wilco record inspired that – those are records that tastefully layered sounds. Our record won’t sound like Steely Dan or Wilco, but we really like those albums. 

Do you still enjoy touring?
Yeah, we do like it. I don’t like going out for six months, but I don’t think I ever did. We like doing a couple weeks on, a couple weeks off. We play better shows that way.

Aymor: I really like diversity. Like, do Europe, the States, then Canada – rather than the same American route every time.

What’s one of the worst touring stories you can think of?
Aymor: The first time we were in Los Angeles, in 2009, the show literally ended with a riot – two helicopters and like a hundred police cars, they were beating everyone up with batons and stuff. It was an open ceiling venue, so the two helicopters started spotlighting. I was barely of legal drinking age, we were touring with a band that was like 10 years older than us – one of them stuck me under a table and said, ‘Just stay here!” We got out safely, but we had to fight to get our gear out of there.

How was touring Australia?
Our flights were booked for us, we stayed in nice places. It was a nice way to wrap up things before going into the next record. That was the first time where the entire tour seemed very vacation-like. We did a show in Tasmania. The people there fucking party, they’re just drunk and really nice.

Cheap Girls opened for Bush at the last Common Ground, did you get to meet Gavin Rossdale?
Graham: No, but I saw him pass off his young son in one hand and slam a 16-ounce can of Stella with the other – then walk on stage.

Do you plan to stay in Lansing?
Graham: We have no plans not to. Lansing is a great place to be when you’re not on tour, it’s affordable and there is some stuff going on. It’s nice having a cozy home base.

Cheap Girls
@ Mac's Bar
Saturday, Nov. 23
8 p.m., 18 and over
2700 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing
wsg Failures’ Union, Little American Champ, Frank & Earnest 
 $12/$10 advance

Photo by Ryan Russell