As the frontman of Pittsburgh punk rock band The Cheats, Porter (a.k.a. “Todd Cheat”) is the quintessential old-school musician leftover from the heyday of the ’80s punk scene. He is, of course, decades older now than when he first began, but he still wears head-to-toe black, all the expected accessories, and the standard snarl when it’s time to be photographed. And he’s not just covered in tattoos, he owns a tattoo gallery. His hair and beard are both as long as ever, they’re just a little grayer than when he was belting out tunes with his old bands Silver Tongued Devil and Eviction.
Porter was punk before it became pop. He was living a rock 'n' roll life before lots of bands in the city who identify as punk were even born.
“When I was growing up, there was just basically one punk scene,” Porter says. “Now, there’s so many splinters. You got this punk, you got that punk ...”
But Porter says he and his bandmates in The Cheats are still living a “Rock N Roll Life,” which happens to be the name of a track on the band’s newest album, Cussin’, Cryin ‘n’ Carrying On, available Fri., Aug. 14 on Screaming Crow Records.
Formed in 2001, The Cheats’ current line-up includes Philty Phil on bass, Kyle Cheat on drums, and guitarists Rob Senomar (from Cleveland) and Devin Holiday (originally from Atlanta).
The band’s newest album stays true to that old-school classic punk style, too; a raw, energetic, power chord-driven album perfect for throwing on your record player when you want to bang your head around a bit. Pretend it’s the ’90s and you’re trying to pick out the perfect album to pregame with before heading out to the now-shuttered 31st Street Pub, Porter’s all-time favorite place to play live in Pittsburgh.
There’s hints of Social Distortion on the album, a bit of Ramones … if Joey Ramone was dealing with a hangover. And the band is undeniably high on testosterone.
One of the album’s song titles is called “Hella 69,” and with song lyrics like, “Fight, drink, and fuck, pretty much sums it up,” this is clearly a boys’ club. But “FDF,” like so many on the album, is really f’n good. Two minutes and 46 seconds of classic guitar-driven, bass and drums hitting the notes at all the right beats, punk rock at its best. (Yeah, yeah, the lyrics are kinda dumb, but not everything’s gotta be deep.)
One thing worth noting for those torn between purchasing the album on CD or vinyl: The bonus song on the CD is a gift for true yinzers, a badass cover of Joe Gruschecky and the Houserockers’ “Junior’s Bar.”
In the almost 20 years since the band first formed, Porter says he has gone through nearly 30 bandmates. Holiday, who has been with the band for two years, says he thinks it’s because Porter wants to actually play. “We like to practice, and we play out,” Holiday says. “A lot of people can’t handle practicing once a week.”
The pandemic has halted the band’s ability to play live shows, however, and both Porter and Holiday say they’re itching to get out. For now, fans can check out the band’s surprisingly fun video for “It’s Alright,” set up like a Zoom session and recorded in individual sessions by each member without each other knowing what the other was doing ahead of time. (Spoiler alert: Porter has multiple costume changes, and Holiday is in a bathtub and facemask, showing that even tough guys have a sense of humor.)