IT has been a busy 12 months for The Cat Empire and things aren’t about to slow down.
The six-piece has performed at multiple sold-out tours across Europe, America, Canada and Australia, taken part in various side projects, collaborations and mentoring programs, and released their sixth album to debut in the top 10 of the ARIA chart.
“It’s amazing when you’ve been around for as long as we have – I think we’re 18 years in now – and there’s so much good music out at the moment,” vocalist and percussionist Felix Riebl said.
“It’s pretty fantastic to somehow maintain that over such a long period of time with full understanding the music industry has to change and you have to create new stuff.”
He said their unique genre of feel-good ska/roots/pop/reggae also made their longevity so special.
“I think probably our intent when we play is still relevant,” Riebl said.
“We still feel really confident being in front of an audience and saying what you’re going to get is a really authentic, live, dynamic, potentially unexpected performance and a collection of songs that don’t really make sense in an industry, and don’t really make sense really on an album, but do make sense when you’re at a show and there’s a real sense of occasion around our shows.
“I know there’s something The Cat Empire does that’s really unique but I can’t exactly put my finger on it.
“It’s a hard elevator conversation to explain what The Cat Empire does, and I’ve been doing interviews for so long now and I still can’t really say what it is we do. All I know is, it’s got a thing that people respond to and that still makes us excited and that’s probably something to do with our live show – something that’s a bit unexpected and doesn’t want to be too explained.”
Keeping up with the changing music landscape was also the reason for the way Stolen Diamonds was released to the world: one song a month for eight months.
“It used to be so much based around the manufacturing world and you’d have to have a lead-in time, then you’d have your album at stores and it was a very physical process but now you can write a song, master it and have it around the word within 48 hours if you want,” Riebl said.
“So when we recorded this album, we thought because we were touring before the release of the album we wanted to really get some momentum for it.
“It’s a nice way to keep fans engaged over a long period of time as well.
“There’s so much stuff out there but I feel like we have a very dedicated audience that follows the band, both in Australia and overseas, and it seems to work for us, so it seemed to make sense to really stretch it out and do tours in between.”
He said though they released just over half of the album this way, it “didn’t seem to diminish from the alum release”.
“If anything it seemed to build excitement,” he said.
“It really hit the stage in a good way and the way we intended it to.
“A lot of direction in the studio was to say we want to make an album that’s going to leave wintery Gippsland where we were recording it and get onto a stage in Madrid and just be great.
“We wanted to make a really full, rich, very lively, dynamic album and I think that’s generally what The Cat Empire is able to do and its been good.
“Sometimes you record an album and you think people want to hear the old songs but it hasn’t really felt like that. The new songs have been more alive than a lot of the other stuff we play so that’s always a relief.”
And that excitement has continued as they prepare for the “home stretch” of touring Stolen Diamonds.
“We’ve done several laps of the world with it now and we have the whole album to choose from in terms of material,” Riebl said.
He said he thought this time around they would “go with a chaos theory”.
“I’d really like to create a sense of not knowing what’s next on the set list from night to night and keeping it alive instead of settling into one set.”
He said this was also because this tour included venue gigs, festivals and a special Perth show at Kings Park and Botanic Garden with Dan Sultan, Caravana Sun and Grace Barbe on November 30.
To coincide with this latest tour, The Cat Empire has also announced a new global partnership with Children’s Ground, which works in young indigenous education, by donating $1 from every ticket sold.
Who: The Cat Empire
Guests: Dan Sultan, Caravana Sun and Grace Barbe
When: November 30
Where: Kings Park and Botanic Garden