Last January, LA’s Cheekface released their sophomore album further cementing their spot at the forefront of whatever genre emerges when you blend equal amounts of post-punk, slacker rock, and power pop with thinking-much-too-hard-about-pretty-much-every-facet-of-our-everyday-existence lyricism. And then they never really stopped releasing music—between the loose singles and a B-sides collection complementing Emphatically No. (titled, naturally, Emphatically Mo’), their Bandcamp page has quickly become an aesthetically pleasing sea of album covers illustrated by the band’s Amanda Tannen which are as instantly familiar as Greg Katz’s talky vocals.
Too Much to Ask, the new album they surprise-released earlier this week, takes their sound a bit further in several directions at once. With plenty of the tracklist familiar to Face-heads (or Cheek Freaks, as their colloquially known to their online fanbase), the new music ranges from the “End of the World as We Know It”/“We Didn’t Start the Fire” rapid delivery of opener “When Life Hands You Problems,” to the occasionally rapped bars on “Pledge Drive”—the last one-off single released ahead of the album—to the unbridled excitement of imagining at a really big cup of noodles on “Noodles.”
With the album out now, we asked all three band members to share a few of the tracks they referenced while the album came together, with Jay Reatard, Operation Ivy, and D’Angelo managing to make appearances alongside each other. Listen along to the playlist they created below, and check out Too Much to Ask here.
Jay Reatard, “Blood Visions”
When I started writing “When Life Hands You Problems” with Lexi McCoy-Caso from Suzie True, we had the guitar strumming straight through the whole song. When me and Mandy and Echo were finishing it, we wanted to clear out some of the space that the guitar strumming was taking up. Since “Problems” has that sort of off-the-rails feeling of a Jay Reatard song, we put on “Blood Visions” to see if it jogged any ideas. “Blood Visions” has that choppy, almost ska B-section guitar part, and we all knew right away that would solve the puzzle. We’ve probably referenced “Blood Visions” in the making of all three of our albums. Perfect song.
Sonny & the Sunsets, “Too Young to Burn”
This one was a direct reference for the sound and vibe of “Election Day.” Love the warm feeling of the whole song, and the way the production feels more like a beach blanket sing-along with your friends than a studio record.
We originally wrote “You Always Want to Bomb the Middle East” without the piano part, and it felt airy. We wanted to add something to give it some urgency, and we looked to “Alright” for ideas since it has similar ’60s guitar stabs and tempo. We ended up with the honky-tonk piano banging away throughout.
Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime”
We did a Talking Heads tribute show right before lockdown in 2020, and it really pulled our attention to how Talking Heads songs from the early-’80s are tapestries of one- or two-bar musical building blocks that loop over and over, and come in and out. Me and Mandy tried writing a few songs with that sort of backdrop, and the one that made the cut on the album was “Vegan Water.”
The Cars, “I’m in Touch with Your World”
I’m obsessed with the slippery guitar playing, the surprising percussion sounds, and the interaction between the synth and guitar on this song. Truly one of those songs that lights up every corner of my brain. So it was a feeling we tried to reference with “I Feel So Weird!” and in a few other spots on the album. RIP Ric.
Gang of Four, “Damaged Goods”
I love the angularness of this song with the way the guitar and bass play off each other. Oh, and the way the breakdown sits making the chorus bang afterwards.
Self, “Suzie Q Sailaway”
All the different toys being used as instruments and percussion have inspired me for many years. And of course I love the killer guitar solo.
Sam & Dave, “Hold on I’m Comin’”
The pocket in this song is my happy place. Finding those happy places in songs was key to the past couple years.
Operation Ivy, “Knowledge”
It’s an amazing train that feels like it’s going so fast it might run off the rails on a quick turn, but you want to dance while falling.
Lou Reed, “Vicious”
Head-boppin’ song that makes you want to strut, with a lead guitar that’s in your face. It’s one of my favorite songs to listen to while wandering around the streets.
MARK “ECHO” EDWARDS
LCD Soundsystem, “Someone Great”
Such a catchy banger—makes you want to move, but while you’re moving you realize you’re crying too.
D’Angelo, “Sugah Daddy”
Just the most unbelievable slinky groove. I cannot listen to this song just once.
Kurt Vile, “Pretty Pimpin”
The kind of song that when I heard it for the first time, I got the feeling that I’d always known it. Beautiful melodies with a simple message that resonates.
Beck, “Devil’s Haircut”
When we were working on the new record, Greg was like, “What if The Dust Brothers produced Cheekface?” So naturally I went on a dive and ended up listening to a lot of Odelay.
Great Grandpa, “Bloom”
One of my favorite songs off of one of my favorite records of the past few years. I keep coming back to it and it is such a comfort to me.