More than a decade into their career, The Cat Empire are one of the few international bands that have been able to amass an incredibly dedicated fanbase which has lead to their now worldwide success. Now the Australian group has returned to North America to meet the huge demand of those fans on this side of the planet, and we’re thrilled to have them in our very own city of Toronto TONIGHT!
To call the Cat Empire eclectic would be a huge understatement. The group transcends genres with their diverse sound; it’s been described as Jazz, Reggae, Funk, Latin, Gypsy, Cuban, even Australian party music. The band defies classification – they just want to make great music. They’ve been hailed all around the globe as one of the world’s best festival bands, bringing incredible musicality, humour, entertainment and energy to each live show. Sadly North American fans were deprived of this experience in 2014. These very same fans then turned to social media, posting online petitions, lobbying via Facebook and ‘virtually’ begging the band to return. Not ones to disapoint the fans that have brought them where they are, the Cat Empire delivered, with a 15-date tour that kicked off in Vancouver on April 3, 2015 and will wrap in Honolulu on April 25, 2015.
I got the chance to chat with lead singer Felix Reibl about music, touring and those amazing addictions that make the Cat Empire who they are.
Let’s give our readers a little history lesson on the The Cat Empire. How did you guys come together to make the incredible music you make?
We all met when we were teenagers, though none of us went to the same school. We came from opposite parts of town, just like our musical tastes and influences. We were introduced to each other by a Melbourne jazz pianist, then started playing in various bands together, sinking our teeth in to different styles of music and approaches to playing. We began as a trio, then a quartet, then a sextet, and now there’s at least eight people on stage each night. I wrote a lot of the early songs, which were more or less forms for the band to tear apart, and that grew into a sound for us to build on.
I don’t think it’s possible to classify your music. How did this incredibly variable and ever changing sound come to be?
I was sitting on a plane today, and the guy next to me asked what ‘type of music does your band play’…the conversation kind of ended there with my err-ing and stuttering. We’re out-of genres, it keeps things interesting to never answer that question straight. Maybe, it’s even a source of new songs. In terms of how it happens, I suppose a lot of it is chemistry and sometimes, tension between the musicians – there’s a combustive feeling between us. Sometimes it’s created by trying to restrain enough to play a simple song, sometimes it’s created by passages of improv and breaking things apart.
Is it true? Was it the power of social media that brought you back to North America? How did the powerful fan outreach influence your decision to tour on our side of the planet again?
I don’t think that’s the only reason, we love playing in North America, we’ve been here so many times! I think social media brought us to South America, and it’s bringing us to South Africa, places we haven’t been before. But it’s definitely been a way of keeping in touch with our fans up this way! When we started we used to go around with homemade posters and glue in the dead of night to get some attention…
You’ve toured all over and been to so many different places. How does it compare, playing a show on your side of the planet vs. ours? Is there a difference in the fan reception, do fans here seem to gravitate towards different songs or styles?
Lots of things are different on tours – weather, cities, moods – but each night is a different night, every audience, anywhere, everywhere is unique.
Your last album Steal the Light came out nearly 2 years ago now. Can we expect (and hope for) new music from the Cat Empire soon?
Yes, we’re in and out of the studio at the moment and road testing new tracks at the shows.
What does the future hold for your amazing band? Can us North Americans hope to see more of you in the coming years?
North America can count on us coming back! At the moment we are recording loads of songs. We’re also doing stuff on the side, in projects that really motivate us creatively. It’s always fun for us getting off the beaten track a bit.
Finally, our magazine is called Addicted because we want to highlight the power of positive addictions, those addictions that make us achieve great things and drive us to do what we love. What would any of you say are your positive addictions?
I think our positive addiction is bringing out more music and being at ease with how the music morphs and develops each album and each tour. We’re all committed and bound to the music we do, year after year. There is always a huge connection when we play live, between the audience and us – the crowd bring their own sense of occasion and festivity, and the music is spurred on by what the crowd bring each night, every city has a different vibe. I think, I hope, there is a marginal audience remove when we play – and we try to feed off of that, it brings out a different osmosis in the band, and most of the time, it just works – for us, and the crowd – it has to be both ways.
The Cat Empire continue their North American tour with a stop at Toronto’s Danforth Music hall tonight (see if you can get into the now sold out show…somehow!) and will hit several major cities before they head back accross the globe. Check out the tour schedule here and make sure you get out to one of their shows if they come through your town. It will be a musical experience you won’t soon forget.
April 10, 2015 Montreal Metropolis
April 13, 2015 Sherbrook Granada Theatre
April 15, 2015 Quebec City Albert Rousseau
April 16, 2015 Boston Royale
April 18, 2015 New York City Webster Hall
April 20, 2015 San Diego Belly Up
April 21, 2015 Los Angeles El Rey
April 23, 2015 San Francisco The Fillmore
April 25, 2015 Honolulu The Republik