“No maximum wage?!” screams Carlos Mendonca on, a sparking glory of an EP released on June 9, 2014. “There goes our obsolete man, I hope not to be him,” Mendonca sings on. “Caffeine capillaries and ethanol breath fuels the mules,” he alliterates, wickedly intelligent, to embody the all-too-pervasive white middle-class suburbanite youth sick in a sick society where poverty is a crime and wealth a trophy. Soaring above the crackling intensity of riveting rock arrangements from Cheap High, justly raging and indignant lyrics rise and fall over the edge of “mundanity, insanity” decrying the “consumer herd” who work for “Sisyphus Incorporated.”
By November of that same year, a second EP, Idle further sets a most supremely tight and utterly impressive tone within West Coast post-punk rock. One year later Cheap High is rallying fans from Abbotsford and beyond with an LP, Subterranean Suburbia. Now in the mixing and mastering stages, if leaked singles are any indication, the music of Cheap High simply says ‘WTF’ with unrivalled authenticity.
Outside of the studio — and when not performing — Cheap High is a happy family, a collective of two pairs of brothers who find the time to chill out while conversing with the likes of fans, allies, collaborators and nemeses.
“My brother started playing music later than any of us,” says drummer Nicolas Mendonca, speaking of the band’s mighty lyrical vocalist, Carlos Mendonca. “We started practicing at my parent’s house and my brother was living at home at the time. He had never done vocals in any band, but had been writing for a while… That was the beginning.”
According to Carlos, Subterranean Suburbia will feature material from the band that reaches far back into earlier days, predating the EPs with recordings from over a year ago. Cheap High is going confidently against the grain not only in the content and substance of the music, but also by aligning a chronologically atavistic discography.
“We’ve got eleven songs, roughly twenty-seven minutes run-time. I was listening to it yesterday, and I’ve kind of been on the ropes about it up until now. I’m 3000% very, very proud of this,” says Carlos. “The guy who recorded it [Corey Myers] is a friend of ours who’s been playing music for a long time.”
Myers is the man-about-town in the Fraser Valley for many emerging and seasoned acts ready to record. He is behind the mind-blowing fury of the Cheap High EPs.
“The Valley is really, really cool. It’s like a very tight-knit group of people who all party together, and who are all moving pieces in different bands.” Carlos continues, “You can throw a rock and hit an amazing musician out here.”
Carlos speaks with a truly dedicated, musician’s passion for the local community where so many great bands have formed alongside Cheap High. Punk is the drug. Vinyl is the fix. The music scene of the Valley is an enthusiastic mass of music lovers steeped in such enduring aspects of musical appreciation as the aural perfections and artistic triumphs of turntable listening. For many reasons, Cheap High is going vinyl, to showcase cover art in the biggest way, and simply to satisfy the visceral nature of possession.
“The aesthetic is definitely a huge thing. You can pack so much more into the visual presentation. Like, for our single release that we’re doing on a picture disc 7”, hopefully before the New Year. It will feature a commissioned art piece by Carmen Humphrey [@pacific_spiritbear on Instagram],” says Nicolas. “I’m so amazed by it. She’s done a really original, collage art style. Carlos shared his lyrics with her, and she based the art off of the lyrics he sent her.”
Nicolas speaks with the confidence not only of a bandleader. He’s on the front-line of multidisciplinary artists, such as Tyler Corbett who designed the Ego Wholesale cover and the band Oh No! Yoko. Cheap High draws from just about every potential creative and imaginative means in the Fraser Valley. “We’re just trying to keep all the homies in everything,” says Nicolas. “We want everyone to kind of rise up together.”
Despite a successful romp at home among many talented compatriots who have formed a decidedly rocking punk scene in the Fraser Valley, Vancouver is still a far cry from the extended community. After all is said and done, collaboration is the key to unlocking the city gates of Vancouver.
Cheap High evades definite commercialization, as pertains to playing within a preconceived category of music. The band expresses unease with the post-punk, and even the punk moniker. The challenge of breaking into Vancouver has led Cheap High to question where they stand, and who to play with in the cliquish, impenetrably mafia-like music scene in Vansterdam.
“It’s tough to get the new cast in,” said Carlos, speaking of the challenges that Cheap High has faced in what seems an unyielding predominance held by certain artists in Vancouver. “We’re not really a punk band, so it’s hard to find the appropriate bands to play with.”
Together with Malk, Open Letters, Dodgers, Blessed, and Queen Bee & the Buzzkills, Cheap High is one permanent fixture in the Abbotsford scene fast earning national renown. Through music videos, releases and shows in collaboration with everyone from their backyards to Montreal, Cheap High is cutting loose with Subterranean Suburbia.
Keep an eye on Cheap High’s social media for updates on the release of the full Subterranean Suburbia LP, in the mastering stages now. A single on a 7” picture disc will be released in December. Their next show will be January 16 at pseudonym with Malk, Queen Bee, Losses, Blessed and Dodgers.