Australian band The Cat Empire are back with their 7th album and an 8 month world tour. 'Rising with the Sun' features the band's beautifully eclectic sound of jazz-ska-Latin-rock, and has earned them the number 1 spot in the Australian album charts. Currently in the midst of their UK dates, we caught up with band members Felix Riebl and Harry James Angus to find out about tour life and their acclaimed new album.
Contactmusic: You've just started a tour spanning the rest of 2016, are there any particular destinations you're looking most forward to?
Harry - Spain. There is something about the audiences there that is very special for us. I don't know what it is but it feels like it brings our music to full power.
What would you say is the best gig you've ever played?
Harry - Very hard to say. There have been so many. But for me it would be a musical moment, not a landmark like the biggest crowd or the most exotic location. There have been many wonderful, transcending moments when we are lost in the chaos and spontaneity and sweat. But hard to remember exactly where or when they happened.
Felix - I agree with Harry in many ways here. It's hard to remember a great atmosphere until you're in it again, and then you forget a great gig the next day. So it becomes a bit like chasing a dream you can't quite hold on to the next morning. Having said that, playing the Royal Albert Hall was a special one for me, because I got to sing with my little (now big) brother Max, who was an important part of this band's beginnings.
How has having young families changed tour life for you?
Harry - I don't really want to go on tour as much as I used to. The tour life is somewhat glamorous, at least from the outside, and stimulating, and there is a certain freedom to being without roots and adulated every night - but it is also calcifying, and a place where you don't seem to grow or change as a person. If you're not careful you can be embalmed by the bright lights. Don't get me wrong, I love music and I love playing live - but I also have a real life at home that I miss.
With the new album 'Rising With The Sun' reaching #1 in the Australian charts, do you feel as a band this is your greatest album to date?
Harry - Hard to say. Only time can award greatness to things but I think it's pretty good.
'Rising With The Sun' has a theme running throughout of strong, powerful animals ('Wolves', 'Bulls', and 'Eagle'). What does the imagery of these animals mean to you as a band?
Felix - Honestly, I can't say exactly why animals have become such a theme. My brother teases me about evoking the zoo or the jungle on the last few albums. Single word songs are good for set lists! Aside from that, animals evoke a language without words, which also, to me evokes a sense of (instrumental) music. So maybe something there, but who knows?
Featuring on the new album is 'Bataclan', a song filled with heavy emotion following the tragedy in Paris. How did writing a song like this work for you as a band?
Felix - I wrote this song because the Bataclan was a familiar world for me. Not only had we played in that venue several times, but we've spent a lot of our lives playing in rooms like that, so I was devastated and moved by the events in Paris. More than anything the song is about celebrating live music, which is probably this band's legacy. In purely musical terms, it's a more direct melody and rhythm than we've been playing lately, maybe reminiscent of punk rock bands such as Manu Negra. It came naturally, and the band embraced it as the last song to make the album.
Which song from the new album are you most looking forward to performing on this tour?
Harry - They are all full of unrealised potential. Hard to know what direction they'll go in.
Felix - I think across the board it's one of our strongest collections of songs, so there aren't necessarily any front runners, and all are entirely ready to transition to the stage, so we'll see.
With things as busy as they are with The Cat Empire, do you still enjoy having the opportunity to dip into solo careers and side projects? Does this offer you a chance to explore areas you feel you can't within the band?
Harry - I like playing trad jazz with my friends from High School... I like singing songs with my family around the kitchen table, but I wouldn't call it a career, or a project. But it's still music and it's still important to me.
Felix - I don't really like the term 'solo project' or 'side project' much. It's all music. I like to follow a song and see where it wants to go. Sometimes I expect it to make The Cat Empire, and it surprises me and goes somewhere else, and visa versa.
Finally, name us a band you've seen recently that you'd recommend us checking out:
Harry - Hiatus Kaiyote - from Melbourne.
Felix - Grace Barbe - from Perth
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