So there’s this band; a funky little Melbourne trio that began playing in jazz clubs across the city in 1999. But there’s a lot more to them than jazz. The addition of trumpets and drums changed their sound, but the new Latin stylings didn’t define them. They became one of the first jazz acts on the Melbourne scene to be incorporating a DJ and rapping into their music, but its not Hip Hop. It’s a combination of all the above and more. Above all it’s as Australian as you can be without draping a flag over your shoulders and singing Waltzing Matilda. It’s the new musical fusion that’s bringing bodies together on dance floors and at festivals across a nation. Welcome to The Cat Empire.
The Cat Empire are riding high in Australia right now, thanks primarily to their debut, self titled album and the hit single Hello, that has been getting widespread radio play. Their music can be pretty much summed up with one word: fun. However, for those looking for a better definition, this piece of prose has become synonymous with the band:
Where reggae meets Hip-Hop,
where jazz is played with dirty hands,
where a Cuban line meets an Aussie rule,
where nothing seems in place but sounds like one
place played in an earthy chord.
This is the Island where The Cat Empire was born.
The guys in the band are all young so don’t expect an outpouring of lyrical maturity and depth from the album. The songs are simple, the grooves infectious. It’s a summer album about summer things; going to the beach, meeting girls, hanging out with mates. Despite this, the lyrics never get too bland or cringe- worthy, although the gimmicky nature of tracks like Hello does not make up their best work. But look, I’m not gonna analyse The Cat Empire’s music, that’s just not what it’s about. And you don’t see what The Cat Empire’s really about until you see them play live. The six guys up there, singing, rapping, jamming, dancing and soloing make for some of the best live gigs I’ve seen in a while. The name of the game is fun and The Cat Empire plays it like pros, getting even jaded, uncoordinated white guys like me waving hands, stomping feet, and dancing like only uncoordinated white guys can. It’s definitely a must see show if you get the chance. And with all the touring the band has embarked upon, who knows? You might find yourself experiencing an Empire shakedown sooner than you think.
Some details on The Cat Empire album:
Felix Riebl: vocals and Pecussion
Harry Angus: trumpet, vocals and vocal percussion
Ollie McGill: Rhodes, piano, accordion, melodica and Korg MS2000
Will Hull- Brown: drums
Ryan Monro: upright and downright bass
Jamshid Kwadiwala ‘Jumps’: turntable and percussion
Also Featuring: Ross Irwin, Kieran Conrau, Carlo Barbaro, Jan Skubiszewski, Nasrine Rahmani, Clarence DaFunk, Cesari Skubiszewski, Sergio Ercole, Luke Farrugia, Andy Baldwin, Karishma Sadhai
1. How To Explain
2. Days Like These
3. The Lost Song
4. The Chariot
6. One Four Five
7. The Rhythm
8. The Wine Song
11. The Crowd
13. All That Talking
The Cat Empire have also released an album of music from their touring, called Tapes, Breaks and Out- takes. It features the awesome song, Two Shoes, which apparently found some recent rotation of UK BBC Radio 1.
The Cat Empire, www.thecatempire.com
The Cat Empire, 2003, released by EMI Music Australia