With a caustic mix of male and female screaming, and newer songs that dare to surpass the one-minute mark, Atlanta power violence four-piece Cheap Art is fast becoming a fixture on the national hardcore scene. Since forming in December of 2011, the group has made swift strides by doubling a lineup that began with guitarist Bryan Scherer and drummer Andrew Wilson (ex-Weather Underground), and in the process expanding its sound. After spending just a couple of months performing as a duo, the band added Matt Gibson-Hatcher as bass player and occasional vocalist. Later, vocalist Avry Marie joined the fold as well, further building on Cheap Art's aesthetic and sonic capabilities. "We could play more complicated songs after Avry joined because we didn't have to focus on singing," Gibson-Hatcher says.
Cheap Art crams a myriad of working parts into 20 or 30 seconds without embracing the traditional rock chorus or self-aggrandizing solos. "Hate City Machismo," from the group's recently released Desocialized 7-inch, packs numerous instrumental and vocal changes into just 39 seconds. It's precisely this sense of harsh brevity, paired with breakdowns, tempo changes, and punk fury, that has resulted in the group being labeled a power violence act — a dissonant and extreme offshoot of traditional hardcore.
This widening sound has landed the group on dozens of bills with local punk and metal peers, as well as touring bands, allowing Cheap Art the chance to be heard beyond the local hardcore scene. "People ask us about GG King, Carbonas, and Bukkake Boys in some cities with bigger scenes, though we're mainly asked about metal bands and Mastodon," Gibson-Hatcher says. "That has changed some since the Land of Nod [Atlanta punk and hardcore] compilation came out. Now people want to know what those bands are about."
Gibson-Hatcher also points to Atlanta DIY label Scavenger of Death's growing local hardcore catalog, and Atlanta's hardcore/DIY scene of the '90s, including bands such as Quadiliacha (a Carbonas and GG King predecessor), that show "it's possible to put out records and tour while playing this kind of music."
After only one year performing as a four-piece, Cheap Art is staying busy following its local predecessors' DIY road map. The group recently completed its fourth tour and released its first official vinyl offering, a 7-inch pressed by Greensboro, N.C.'s Hygiene Records and Bloomington, Ind., label Reality is a Cult. While on tour this spring, the band was selling the 50 copies of the 7-inch's initial test pressing, as the record wasn't officially released until June.
Touring and networking as a hardcore band has required a play-anywhere mind-set. "It's probably 50-50 at this point, with us playing half of our shows on the road at house shows and warehouses, and the other half in bars," Gibson-Hatcher says.
While large living rooms or basements are a plus, they aren't a requirement. Gibson-Hatcher recalls one night on tour when the band played a set in Richmond, Va., in a kitchen: "It was so cramped that our singer was sitting on the sink throughout most of the set."
Cheap Art may already be living the DIY dream, but the group is aiming higher than 7-inches and house shows.
Says Gibson-Hatcher: "Our long-term goal is to tour the West Coast and then go to Japan."