THE CAT EMPIRE will return to the nation’s capital this August in support of their fourth studio album, Cinema. As the title suggests, Cinema is a lively, theatrical album, influenced by musical styles as diverse as reggae, salsa and hip-hop.
“We called it Cinema because it’s the sort of album that you could put your headphones on and close your eyes to and be in The Cat Empire’s cinema,” lead singer Felix Riebl says. “Through the song writing, the production and the way we play it, it has its own world about it from the beginning to the end. It takes you somewhere else.”
After forming in Melbourne nearly ten years ago, The Cat Empire has gained an international reputation for its entertaining live shows and instantly recognisable Latin-inspired sound. But despite several global tours and headlining spots at some of the world’s biggest music festivals, Felix confesses the boys still aren’t quite comfortable playing in front of Aussie audiences.
“I feel like we’re a really established band here now and we’ve been around for a long time, so we probably have a lot more to live up to,” he tells me. “I’m always far more nervous playing to an Australian audience than I am to an overseas audience because of that history. We’ve done a lot of really great shows here, and I suppose I feel like we’re always trying to improve on the last one.”
With such a formidable live reputation, the band found it difficult to capture the spirit of a performance in a studio environment. “The studio and the stage are very different beasts,” Felix says. “The big challenge with this album, and I think we achieved it quite well, was to get energy from the studio. We were really open to being creative in the studio, often doing the opposite to what we do live in order to create that intensity on the album.”
But with six people in the band, how do you make any decisions? “With a band like us, which has got so many different personalities and so much diversity and creativity, there’s a real necessity to work with someone who’s able to make a decision which isn’t a compromise,” Felix says. For The Cat Empire, that middle man was producer Steve Schram, who has worked with Silverchair and Little Birdy. “Steve had a real vision for the album, which was exactly what we needed,” Felix adds.
“The band has kind of taken on a life of its own,” he continues. “We write songs that feel natural and that we can play live, and the rest of what happens is a combination of the chemistry, the musicians on stage, and the audience. Any other meaning beyond that I don’t really think about too much; I think it is what it is and we try and hold on and make the most of it.”
The Cat Empire will crack out a long awaited Canberra set at the ANU on Sunday August 22. Tickets are $49 + bf from Ticketek. Cinema is out now through EMI.