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INTERVIEW: The Cat Empire

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Barricades”?

Barricades is a message to people who are about to give up, people who are carrying heavy burdens, people who have forgotten themselves. The music comes mainly from a late-night mood cooked up by Ollie and Jan, it’s all very simple really. We wanted to do something slower and darker than your average Cat Empire song.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

No. More like a lifetime.

 Any plans to release a video for the single?

There is one out… we filmed most of the songs from our new album in some kind of 360 degrees surround camera technology. So you can see us mime badly from all angles.

The single comes off your new album Stolen Diamonds – what’s the story behind the title?

It’s the title of another song on the record. I was thinking about the diamonds from Sierra Leone, and how we as a band steal (or pay tribute, perhaps, is a kinder way of putting it) the music from other cultures. I feel very conflicted about that these days, but that’s kind of what the band is all about, begging a gem here, borrowing a diamond there. And then also improvising, which is also kind of like stealing diamonds out of thin air, but they’re only for a moment, not forever.

How was the recording and writing process?

This marks our third album with Jan Skubiszewski, and we have developed some methods over the last few years that work really well for us. We didn’t do much different this time around. But there is a lighter quality to some of the songs that I like, skipping rather than sprinting.

What was it like to work with Jan Stubiszewski and how did that relationship develop?

Me and Jan had a band together many years ago called Jackson Jackson. Further back than that, he was the studio assistant on our very first self-titled album. He spent weeks locked up in a small room splicing, editing and chopping four drum kits together to  make the beat for ‘Hello Hello’, our break-out novelty hit.

How much did he get to influence the album?

Heaps. He’s always involved in the creative. Like I said before the song Barricades came from a mood that was largely cooked up by him.

As you break through hard on this industry – does that put a pressure on you guys as you release new material or rather the opposite?

I must be old because I have no idea what ‘break through hard’ means. But releasing new material is kind of nerve-wracking. Not like it used to be though. You just upload it now… and it’s out… and people can find their way to it in their own sweet time.

What role does Australia play in your music?

I don’t know. It’s all around us, it’s our musical community, the world we grew up in. We came up learning an Australian approach to improvised music that has been a keystone of what we do. But also, we are pretty outwards-looking and I guess you could say exoticism plays more of a role in our music than nationalism.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Inspire is an interesting word because it means ‘to breathe life into’. So you can say, ‘I am inspired’, as in, an idea has just breathed life into me, or you can take the view that art is the inspiration of everyday things. You can easily have four chords and a story about a boy and a girl. But in order for it to mean anything, it has to be inspired with the breath of creativity. So I don’t believe you look for inspiration, you need to choose your clay and then find a way to bring it to life.

Any plans to hit the road again next year?

Yes, every year pretty much. That’s our job. It’s a good job.

What else is happening next in The Cat Empire’s world?

Off to North America next. It’s been five years since we were last there. It’s exciting to go back. I wonder if it’s changed much?

‘Stolen Diamonds’ is out on February 15th on Two Shoes Records

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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