It isn’t uncommon for a spirit of disenchantment and discontent to inhabit punk music, and Cheap Fame—the latest from Dayton, Ohio’s The Raging Nathans, released Feb. 2 via Rad Girlfriend Records—is possessed by this specter of restlessness.
The record is pissed off, colored by personal loss, and angry—sentiments that aren’t exactly unique in Trump’s America. Despite Cheap Fame’s vitriolic nature, the band’s dedication to their craftsmanship and unwillingness to roll over in the face of adversity shine through the frustration inhabiting their songs.
“[We] can’t get on any shows in any other nearby cities, because why would a promoter put on a Dayton band when there’s bands from that city?” vocalist and guitarist Josh Goldman laments. “No rad punk bands come through Dayton unless we bring them, and then, it’s almost never on a weekend, because everyone thinks Dayton is some town you should play on a Monday or Tuesday. There aren’t enough musicians to go around. There’s no fucking scene. Sorry, I’m over it. I have a lot of love for Dayton, but fuck this place.”
Despite feeling landlocked in their hometown, the band channel their collective will and continue to push against the odds. If nothing else, their internal camaraderie bolsters an unyielding spirit. “While we were writing the record, we all had some people close to us pass away, including [drummer] Nick [Hamby’s] mom,” Goldman shares. “So, if you listen to the lyrics, I think there’s some tough stuff in there.”
That said, Goldman admits, “The writing process was actually pretty easygoing. We all write songs, so between Nick, [bassist] Jared [Reynolds], [bassist] Dereck [Brown], and I, coming up with the 16 or 17 songs we recorded wasn’t so hard. It’s just a matter of buckling down and working the songs out. I think that all of us are always writing songs and have ideas floating around our heads. We definitely have songs ready for another record. It won’t take us three years to do another LP.”
The Nathans recorded Cheap Fame with Matt Yonker at Drastic Sounds in Nashville over the course of four days, then released the album via Goldman and his wife Brandi Smith’s Rad Girlfriend imprint. Additionally, the band chose art for the record that serves as a recognizable and significant homage. “I reached out to Winston Smith—who had done the art for Green Day’s Insomniac record, as well as the Dead Kennedys and a multitude of other rad stuff—and he agreed to let us use some of his art for the record,” Goldman shares. “It’s totally and absolutely intentional—and that’s why I decided to name it Cheap Fame. I really think that a band should be liked based on the merit of their work, not who they hire to do the art or record the record or who they get to release it.”
“This is why the title is slightly ironic and sarcastic,” he continues, “because as much as I like to preach about integrity and this punk rock code of ethics, I’m just as full of shit as anyone else—but at least I can admit it. Of course, early Green Day was a huge influence on me and everyone else in the band. For me, Insomniac in particular. It’s dark as fuck: smoking speed, alienation, killing your parents—right up my alley. Shit, man, my dad took me to see Green Day in 1997 or ‘98, and Samiam opened up for them. How fucking tight is that?”
While The Nathans aren’t shy about voicing their dissatisfaction with their lack of opportunities to play locally, it isn’t keeping them from pushing beyond their Midwestern boundaries to reach an audience. “We have a West Coast tour planned for February and March,” Goldman relays. “We are also going to the U.K. in April to support Wonk Unit for 10 days. I’d like to cover the entire U.S. and Europe this year. Plasterer is releasing the record in the U.K. and Europe, and Creep Records is doing the CD. We have fucking tapes, dude. We made some cool-ass glow-in-the-dark records. Have you ever owned one? I haven’t. So, we were like, ‘Fuck it, let’s do that!’”
Top photo by Jen Cray