The Cat Empire are a tough bunch to pin down, blending rock, ska, latin and jazz – but that’s how the band and its fans like it.
With their sixth album, Rising With the Sun released earlier this month, the Australian act are heading to The Pyramids in Southsea
When WOW247 spoke with frontman Felix Riebl, he was happy that their music defies easy categorisation: ‘I think the band’s style has become more elusive over the years, maybe what started as us experimenting has become more integrated into our sound that we’re recognised for.
‘I think it’s very important that we’re not easily categorised, and we’re also predominantly a live band, even though we’ve put out a lot of studio albums, the atmosphere of the live show is based on the unexpected, which helps when people don’t know what’s going to happen.
‘We used to laugh about it because we’ve been nominated under just about every category at the music awards and never won any of them, and we didn’t mind that. I think the only one we did win was for world music which was totally inappropriate in its own way.
‘In some places, like America which are totally category obsessed, it’s made it hard – there’s an implication that you’ve always got to sell yourself and make a pitch and people want to promote and say you’re this kind of band, it’s something that we’ve always had to rail against, this incessant need for people to want to categorise it.
There are a lot of influences in there, we all listen to a lot of different music, we’ve all got very different music collections.’
And as a tribute to their fans, they’ve featured 3,500 of them on the new album’s inlay.
‘It’s a very simple and direct idea, which is what I like most about it.
‘In the absence of being able to define the band in terms of a genre, the fans have been able to recreate an atmosphere that they’re part of at the shows. ‘It’s so much about the atmosphere, and the faces in the audience they’re like an omnipresent member of the band and they’re integral to the way we write and perform music and representing that in the artwork and saying you’re part of the band.’
The idea is to try and bring people into a really vibrant musical experience, and stretching of the boundaries of our music is part of thatFelix Riebl
Although the band have six albums to their name, including multi-platinum and gold sellers in their home country, it’s the live arena they live for.
‘It’s very much in our lifeblood, performing live,’ says Felix.
And the band enjoys toying with their songs when they play out.
‘The best combination of a show for us is when there’s the real simplicity of the songwriting – hearing a chorus sung back to you, and the power of that moment, and really breaking a song open and improvising, but not going too much in one direction that it derails the song. It’s the tension between the two pillars.
‘When that happens the audience is engaged, and so is the band. It’s walking the tightrope, and you don’t always get it right.
‘Sometimes it’s self-indulgent, sometimes it’s not exciting enough, it’s a very fleeting great experience when it comes along because when the combination is right, it’s the pinnacle of performing live, I think.
‘The idea is to try and bring people into a really vibrant musical experience, and stretching of the boundaries of our music is part of that, which can run the risk of being indulgent.
‘I’m a huge critic of myself, but in that sense I’m prepared to say things like that and feel things like that.
‘It’s an infuriating ongoing tension, which is also one of the band’s greatest strengths.’
The Pyramids, Southsea
Thursday, March 31