Review: The Cat Empire

Once upon a time in the world of music; we were forced to choose sides. You pledged allegiance to pop or dedicated yourself to rock. You either listened to vinyl records or MP3’s. And your music fell into distinct categories. It had visually and excessively entertaining elements, taking popular music into the realm of classical, opera or electronics, or the sound sensibilities of lyrical strength delivered by charming Choir-(boy or girl) esque youth: music that is all pump but no fist, or all fist but no pump. Rarely was it both. That just wasn’t an option…until now. Meet The Cat Empire; part dance jam, part Vaudeville glam, part WOMAD ethos, delivering a revved up sound infused with elements of world music, jazz, rock, funk, hip/hop, ska and above all else, as Harry James Angus trumpeter and vocalist of The Cat Empire says, “music for dancing to.” The Cat Empire draws from a seductive melting pot of influences; jazz, ska, rock, Latin, gypsy, funk… which both informs and is reflected in their music. “You could probably say that we didn’t choose it, (the style of music) it just happened,” says Angus. “It’s partly the mix of instruments in the band, and partly the passage of time weeding out what works and what doesn’t.” And part of that instrumental stew consists of trumpet, tubular bells, piano, percussion, violin, triangle, flugelhorn, turntable, recorder, clave, song, dance and much more. “It’s just a natural evolution. But being a trumpet player I really didn’t have that many options anyway,” he concludes. The Aussie gents, who make up The Cat Empire, are not newcomers to the game. They ‘officially’ formed in 1999, releasing their self-titled debut album four years later in 2003. “We were mainly jazz musicians living in the small pond of the Melbourne teenage jazz musician scene,” says Angus. “So it wasn’t hard to find each other. Then we met DJ Jumps a couple of years later. Felix had written a bunch of songs and he put us all together.” Since that time, they have toured extensively, taking part in world renowned festivals such as WOMAD and Roots, have supported social and charitable concerns and performed on late night shows, including Jay Leno and David Letterman. Over ten years and six albums later, The Cat Empire, has built an indomitable and loyal fan base, which spans the globe. “All kinds of weird people; kids and their grandparents come out to our shows.” Their current album, ‘Steal The Light’, is their first fully independent worldwide release. Rolling Stone Magazine called it ‘a world of revelation’. “In many ways this record is a return to our original aesthetic,” writes Angus, “a very simple thing; that the music is for dancing and feeling good; and that the beat of the record belongs to all nations. It should make people smile, make people dance. That’s all we want.” The twelve track album, is an unapologetic love letter to the transcendental nature of music and all who partake in it; flowing seamlessly from disco to funk to beyond. Steal the Light, marries poetry with big sounds of techno, ambient, jazz and funk into music that is immediately captivating. Currently on tour in North America, living on a bus with 15 people, it is revealed that “our trombone player pretty much enforces a ’50s and 70s weird instrumental music only’ policy on the tour bus. So I’ve been listening to some pretty raw stuff. Like Goblin.” When asked what is the one ‘must see/must do’ thing for anyone visiting their hometown of Melbourne, Australia, the answer came back loud and clear: “Go see music. The more I travel, the more I realize that Melbourne has got one of the best live music scenes anywhere….” On Wednesday, July 17th, The Cat Empire will make a stop at the legendary Fillmore Theater, here in San Francisco. The Fillmore was recently (and rightfully) voted one of the Top 25 best attended clubs in the country by Billboard Magazine; it is a club rich in history, culture and iconic San Francisco style, having hosted all the great names throughout music from past to present: Tina Turner, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, The Who, Primus, The Dead, Radiohead, Prince, The White Stripes….well, you get the idea. So join the dance; join the party, join the Empire, in a city near you.

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