The opening track to Cheating Alethia’s album “Spare Room Panic” might give you the wrong impression. That is, unless, “Intro” didn’t already. The short, brooding instrumental erupts into “Shaky Pancakes” and the rock and roll party is underway. Brash and bombastic with big guitars and bigger vocals, fans of the blues-based rock genre would be content for an album’s worth just that. Then the next song, “The Office,” begins. The buzz of the guitar is exchanged for something more jangly, the vocals are a bit more subdued and you’re left wondering who put on a mid-career REM record when you weren’t looking and is this from Document or Fables? Alas, you realize you can make out the words and it’s not the legendary Athens quartet, it’s still Cheating Alethia. A moody interlude follows, almost a reprise of the intro, and as the pretty acoustic “Sophia Smiles” plays, it hits you: these guys can rock big, rock middle and rock mild. The second half of the record is definitely more of the former, “Breathe” and “Village Green” stand out most, but the statement has been made.
Hailing from St. Simon’s Island and Brunswick in south Georgia, Cheating Alethia is an ambitious three-piece that expands upon a core of alternative rock to places many bands wouldn’t dare. “We like to play with passion and meaning,” said guitarist Zach Baker. But, don’t think they’re too serious. It’s not hard to tell the band is committed to creating lasting sounds that resonate, and putting in the time to achieve that goal, but our conversation had its share of laughs and jokes as the three sat in a car with Bluetooth to make the conversation easier and more natural.
A few short years ago, Matt Boothby, bass and vocals, found himself in yet another cover band, Wasabi Rush. It wasn’t progressing as he’d hoped. By chance, he was in a music store where Zach was working out some riffs. A conversation was struck up and right on the spot Matt agreed to lay down some bass lines.
“It was messy, but got better,” he recalls.
Talk of forming a band started, and a while later he ran into drummer Cole Tyrer in a local watering hole, who was recruited to replace the drummer they had been jamming with.
“We had that chemistry right away,” Zach said. The fledgling guitar virtuoso brings with him a diverse set of influences, some unexpected. “I like Depeche Mode, The Cars, 3OH!3, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Eagles and Pink Floyd a lot.”
Further listening reveals those connections. As for individual musicians, the authentically enigmatic John Frusciante is a hero.
“Growing up in a Christian household, I was allowed little rock,” Matt admits. This led to early exposure to Creed’s “Human Clay,” but The Beatles and Queen quickly became his favorites. Again, the impressions made by the broad styles and vocal focus of these bands can be heard on just the first half of “Spare Room Panic.” The bass-driven “Breathe” from the album displays his appreciation for idol Geddy Lee.
Cole grew up listening to jazz and lounge music, but the drummer became a big fan of underappreciated British fusion guitarist Chris Standing, known for blending hip-hop elements in his creative product. He also counts Blink 182 — not coincidentally a band with a superior drummer — and ‘90s alt rock music in general as formative in his taste and style.
Adding more intrigue, Cole lists Navene Koperweis and Matt Gartska, former and current drummers of progressive cult instrumental metal band Animals as Leaders, as favorites.
All of these touchpoints have a definitive Nirvana undercurrent, but it’s clearly tempered by many styles and far from overbearing. The songwriting process is a mix of Zach and Matt bringing in full songs or just parts to work out, but as the band coalesces, collaboration grows. “We will probably always do some writing on our own, but we really love it when it’s three minds working together,” says Matt.
During the last year Cheating Alethia spent extra time working out their sound, resulting in more songwriting, more studio time and a more refined level of musicianship. They were recently added to the two-day Swampdown Getdown Music Festival, March 26-27, in Waycross, Georgia, and are hoping to release their second album sooner than later this year.
The chance to watch it all come together arrives sooner. See Cheating Alethia zig when you thought they would zag this Friday at the Wormhole.
Cheating Alethia will play at 10 p.m. March 19 at the Wormhole, 2307 Bull St., Savannah.
Visit cheatingalethia.com for information.