Nathan Hewitt re-discovers musical enjoyment with some ‘alone time’


Photography by Phil Sharp


Sat in Nathan Ernest Hewitt’s kitchen, it’s impossible to not notice how enviously mature his house is. That makes it sound stuffy, like the dwellings of an aunty-who’s-not-really-an-aunty, with flying ducks and a barometer on the wall. It’s not. It’s perfect: from the idyllic, high-walled garden (not shared) to the vintage furniture and higher townhouse ceilings. If this were Through The Keyhole you’d never get it, except, perhaps, for a laptop playing Dinosaur Jnr and a note tagged to the fridge from admiring Bournemouth band Colours [eyes left]. When sending out their self-released ‘Burger Tape’ cassette, Nathan was on the mailing list due to his 6-month-old moniker, the fuzzy, acoustic, melody-melting Cheatahs.

Years of being in still-ongoing-concern Little Death (London’s hardest working, forever-morphing alt. rock quartet‚Ñ¢) have seen like-minded musicians gravitate toward Nathan. It’s done him little harm that he’s more affable than Dave Grohl on Christmas Day, but it’s really Nathan’s sharp ear for a touching, melancholic melody that’s seen Jon from Male Bonding and Nell from Screaming Tea Party already play backing band at Cheatahs’ only two live shows to date.

“That was kind of the concept behind the name,” smiles Nathan. “Because, like, I felt like I was cheating on my own band, but with myself, so I thought it’d be funny if Jon plays with me and cheats on his band for a night, and Nell plays with me and she cheats on her band for the night. It’s going to kinda still be like that, like whoever’s around until I find the right people to play with me all the time.”

Friends committing public adultery together, there’s not enough of it about, bar Paul Weller’s staple, heavy-handed reach-around endured by Noel Gallagher twice a year, usually at the Royal Albert Hall. But while Nathan’s pals are queuing up to play away from home, the young Canadian is picking his live shows carefully. “Well, the thing is, I’m not looking to play anywhere,” he explains. “That’s what I’ve learned [in Little Death] – playing anywhere is great but playing in London too much takes the fun out of it. I want to play in the rest of the UK. Playing shows here would be a lot of fun but‚” not to be snobby about it, but when you’re just playing to your friends who feel like they’re obliged to come and see you, it’s not fun.”

Besides, a Cheatahs live show still needs to be properly prepared. Aside from deciding how it’ll be “way more rockier”, Nathan has had little time to consider how to present his solo material. It’s only been 6 months since he started doing the dirty on his band, originally, as is the case with most affairs, due to boredom. For ‘it-meant-nuffin-honest’ fun.

“I just wrote little songs and handed them out to my friends,” he says modestly “and that was all it was going to be. Like, ‘hey, here’s a little present of 5 songs.’ So I showed a few people and they were like, ‘cool, show us more.'”

Keen to remain out of the archetypal singer/songwriter mould, Nathan’s love for Elliot Smith can’t help but find its way onto Cheatahs songs. Melancholic to heart wrenching, his tracks fuzz along as if closing your favourite indie flick. Of his cinematic, hazy songs, Nathan says: “It is what it is – really distorted, messy, horrible music.”

Trent Reznor is another influence, less obvious in Cheatahs’ sound, but not in how Nathan puts together his abstract pop when sat on the bed with a MacBook for studio space.

“When I was younger, Trent Reznor was a big one for me,” he remembers. “Not so much his‚” I dunno, like, he’s a real craftsman and that’s what I’d associate‚” I wouldn’t say I’m a craftsman, but I like the way he incorporates his use of production to come up with various themes.”

Nathan himself doesn’t really do themes. Tracks like nostalgic debut 7″ ‘Warrior’ and the Cure-esque ‘Some Powers’ (which sounds like a lost demo of ‘Lullaby’) can come from nowhere and be about anything from skateboard tricks to past relationships. Now that Nathan has a solo output, he can do whatever he wants, unchallenged, which is something he’s readily enjoying.

“This is the most fun thing I’ve ever done,” he says, not long after opening his front door to us. “It’s made it enjoyable again – some of that had gone. I can do what I want, and I can do it in my house.”

Aah, the house. The north London basement conversion, which we expected to be a ‘Take Me To Your Dealer’ Alien poster short of a rad, creative types’ communal squat, but definitely isn’t. Because while Nathan Ernest Hewitt is fast becoming the musician that everyone wants to cheat on with, his delicate, acoustic tape music answers why he’s ‘gone solo’ – because he’s bloody good.

By Stuart Stubbs

Originally published in issue 11 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. October 2009

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