Interview – Cats:For:Peru
“…And I don’t think they like people asking them about their name, they get it a lot.” Sam says to me through a mouthful of cake. We’re about to venture down to a quaint pub just by the river in Kelham Island to interview Sheffield (well, Dronfield) band Cats:For:Peru and we’ve stopped for refuelling along the way. Conversation turns to the band’s new video, which has been produced as part of the ‘2Weeks 2MakeIt’ competition in Sheffield (where aspiring film-makers are asked to make a video for a local band’s new single in 2 weeks) and the dark, twisted humour of the animation which portrays the sad fate of a group of well-meaning cats. I can only hope that the cats we are about to meet are of the much more fortunate kind…
As we get to the pub and make ourselves comfy (Sam: rock n’roll pint of ale, me: pathetic glass of coke) three members of the band, Ad (lead vox, guitar) Lucy (drums) and Stella (Keyboard and backing vox) sidle up to us and introduce themselves whilst explaining that Keith (bass) and Rich (guitar) would be a little late and would be joining us later. I am relieved to see that, after everyone has visited the bar, Sam seems to be the only one with a pint in his hand and the band sit down and explain that they are off to rehearsal after meeting with us. Despite the absence of two members of Cats, we decide to start the interview anyway…
Sloucher: So how did the band form?
Lucy: I can’t remember how long ago it was now…
Ad: February ‘07
Lucy: Yeah it just kind of came about because Ad’s band Crazy Fire Yellas, had finished. And it was Ad really that sort of got some people together and was actively looking to start another band. From my point of view I was in a position where my other band, Mothership, had finished so I was looking for something new. I knew Ad before and I really liked the sound and direction of the new band that he’d formed so it kind of went from there…
Ad: Actually when we had only just started we did have another guitarist who no-one has ever met before! (All laugh) He said ‘yes’ on email, and then he said ‘no’ on email as well so…
Lucy: And we all kind of knew each other in some way beforehand so that was nice…
Stella: Yeah and my brother used to be in Ad’s band. Lucy put an advert on MySpace saying they were looking for a keyboardist so I let them know I was interested and went along to practise and…that were that.
Sloucher: Are you signed at the moment?
Adam: Not quite…
Stella: We had a contract to do one album
Lucy: It was more of a licensing deal really just for them to release songs that we’d already recorded so just one album’s worth of songs, which we’ve done now.
Sloucher: And what’s the benefit of that for you guys?
Lucy: Good question! (All laugh)
Adam: Just a bit of a platform really, I mean it was a bit of a risk because the label (Thee SPC- Misky) do kind of twee indie stuff and we were quite different so…they took a bit of a risk with us and didn’t quite pull it off but still I think we got a lot of exposure which we couldn’t have done ourselves without a lot of hard work.
Stella: They produced the CD for us and did all the packaging and everything, paid for all that.
Lucy: It would have been quite expensive for us…but I just don’t think it opened as many doors as we maybe hoped it would do but I guess its pot luck with these things sometimes and we thought it was worth giving it a go anyway.
Sloucher: So can you tell us a bit about your first album, Attack of the Pitching Machine (2009) I’m sure there is a funny story behind the name?
Adam: Well we’ve got a new song, where the chorus is ‘We’re all the same in the batting cage’…who was it? Someone who used to manage us for a short while first said it I think…
Lucy: No he said ‘Pigeon Machine’
Adam: Yeah he said ‘Pigeon Machine’ and I was thinking of ‘Pitching Machine’ as a metaphor for things coming at you and you’re trying to bat them away…
Sloucher: Ah, we thought maybe it was a nod towards bands being D.I.Y. or something..?
Sloucher: How would you describe your music? Because I think that Cats:For:Peru are deceptively noisy myself!
Lucy: Yeah I think it can kind of kick in places but on some of our newer songs we’ve got Ad more on synths and keyboards so I’d say the newer stuff is a bit less rocky. That’s not necessarily the new direction we’re going in…
Stella: Yeah we just try new things out.
Lucy: It’s probably just because you’ve got the new keyboard isn’t it? (Looking at Ad, laughing)
Ad: And I do the two forefingers type of playing as well!
Lucy: Yeah I’d like to think that we’re quite varied and we don’t just stick to one sound or style, we just kind of go with what we feel.
Stella: And we like dynamics as well in songs, like being quiet and then getting really loud, building things up…
Lucy: Lots of harmonies. But I guess it is very difficult to describe because each song is quite different.
Sloucher: So, you’ve obviously got some new material gathered up. Is this a nod towards a new release then?
Ad: We’d like to record them soon I think and we don’t want to rush into recording them like we have done in the past. I mean we’re not actively looking for someone to release them so it would probably be a sort of D.I.Y. thing but we’ve just got to decide how to do it, what format.
Lucy: It is expensive to self-fund your recordings so it’s what you actually do with them that determines whether or not it’s worthwhile spending loads of money getting good recordings. Whether you are just going to sit on them or do something actively with them so it’s that toss up of what we would realistically do…so you know, we’ve definitely got stuff ready to record but we just don’t necessarily have to race back into the studio.
Ad: No, No rush
Lucy: But I’m sure it will happen.
Sloucher: Why did the band decide to release your double single, ‘Asleep in Monaco’ and ‘The Bearded One’ free online?
Adam: Well, that was actually the label’s idea – the deal was just for an album but we obviously needed to promote it somehow and a downloadable single just seemed like the best way. We were kind of all in agreement at what songs we should use.
Just then the interview is interrupted by the barman attempting to put the football on the big screen in the pub and failing miserably, as well as the arrival or Keith and Rich.
Sloucher: You seem to be genre hopping between songs on the album which is great, but just as sort of a personal question, what’s your favourite song on the album?
Ad: It changes a lot I think my usual favourite is ‘Manifesto’
Lucy: I would probably say ‘Answers’ or I still really like ‘Cutting the Bridges’, that was like really early, one of the first songs we recorded.
Stella: I swing between ‘Answers’ which is one of the quietest songs and ‘I Love You More Than Evolution’ which is one of the loudest songs on the album.
Rich: I think mine is also ‘I Love You More Than Evolution’
Ad: And Keith’s favourite I know is ‘Asleep in Monaco’ (Keith is at the bar at this point! – PM)
Sloucher: And do you think the album turned out the way you wanted it to?
Ad: It’s funny, we did three different sessions and then the label came to us and said ‘Do you want to release it?’ so we never had that album mindset until we did that.
Stella: The three recording sessions also sounded quite different so we had Dave Sampson try and re-master it all so it all sounded coherent
Rich: I think it came out well. I mean those songs were written almost a year apart and the album is just all those songs…a bit of a mismatch really I suppose.
Lucy: I personally don’t actually listen to it. I think I’ve listened to it once…
Stella: I listen to it!
Lucy: Because we already had the songs, and had them for quite a long time, so I’d listened to the separate recordings of the songs a load of times rather than the whole album
Ad: I really like the way it plays actually, I think we did well with the track list.
Sloucher: One of things we’re interested in is whether people actually even listen to whole albums anymore or whether it’s based more around individual tracks because of iTunes etc. Do you think the ‘album experience’ is still important and relevant?
Ad: I dunno, I think I do agree but then I also think back to CDs and when I didn’t like a song I would just skip it then. So it’s not mega important.
Rich: I still listen to albums because I drive to Sheffield a lot and I’ve always listened to albums and I brought six new ones yesterday…so I still like them!
Lucy: I still listen to lots of albums and I buy albums, I don’t download music, I always buy hard copies.
Sloucher: How would you describe your live shows?
Stella: If we’re playing a loud song we’re quite energetic
Lucy: We try and pick our set list quite carefully, you know make sure there aren’t too many chilled out ones, make sure there’s enough rocky ones to lift the sound…otherwise you can get drowned out in some bars or whatever, depending on where you are playing and how drunk people are.
Ad: We don’t have a band agenda to rock out.
Lucy: No it’s pretty natural, we don’t try and be anything we’re not – look like rock stars or act like rock stars
Rich: We try quite hard as a band to get our music across to the audience
Sloucher: You’re playing Tramlines this year aren’t you? And you also played it last year?
Ad: Yup Tramlines is…
Stella: 26th of July
Lucy: Yeah we played it last year it was good. We had a late afternoon slot at The Harley and it was pretty busy, a good vibe.
Sloucher: What about the music scene in Sheffield, what do you think?
Ad: Personally, I’m not massively up on it anymore to be honest
Rich: And I don’t actually live in Sheffield so…
Ad: Good excuse! I don’t live here either so I might as well use that excuse too!
Lucy: I mean, I thought the ‘2Weeks 2MakeIt’ competition was quite an eye-opener in terms of just how many good local unsigned bands there are and I thought the videos were fantastic, I was really impressed. But in terms of picking out individual bands…I dunno.
Ad: I think Smokers Die Younger is a band that I really like and they’re not really in the scene so…There are some bills, you see, places like DQ that kind of have the same type of bands and they all blend in together, it’s not really our kind of thing…we don’t really give them the kind of day…not on purpose (laughs)
Sloucher: Fair enough! So the band was featured in a documentary?
Ad: Yes, it was called ‘Regeneration Song’ and it was made by a friend of ours Ed from Sort Of films, yeah it’s about Stag Works, he just asked us when we were there and would you mind if we came down for a day and did a bit of filming? It turned out very good.
Sloucher: (to Lucy) How long have you been drumming for? We know from previous chats that a lot of female drummers seem to get some prejudice directed towards them…?
Lucy: Yeah I haven’t really come across that too much recently but I had it a bit more when I was in Mothership, yeah you get blokes make jokes about it and thinking they are being funny saying things like, ‘Ha ha you’re not going to play that are you!?’. I’ve been playing since I was at school, quite a long time, gave it up when I went to uni and when I left I just sort of took it up again. But yeah, you’re right I think it’s more acceptable now that like Meg White and those kinds of drummers are about…
Stella: People are impressed that we have a female drummer
Ad: We’ve got friends who say (puts on shocked voice) ‘Oh I didn’t know you had a female drummer?!’ (Band laugh)
Lucy: I think it is good we’ve got a mix of female and male
Ad: Yeah I can’t imagine being in an all-male group now
Lucy: And I can’t imagine being in an all-female one either! (Laughs) And it works nicely for the harmonies as well, you know Keith, Stella, and Ad’s voices work well together.
Sloucher: What are your personal influences as musicians?
Ad: We all have very different ones, put it that way!
Rich: J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr – Misky) is the best guitarist ever
Stella: I thought you were going to say Jay-Z then!
Rich: Yup, Jay-Z the greatest rapper that ever lived! (All laugh) Very relevant…
Ad: There are bands out there that all like Oasis, and then they just sound like Oasis, but because we all like different things hopefully we’ll never end up sounding too much like any one band…touch wood. Although a lot of people say we sound like Radiohead!
Sloucher: Radiohead!? Really?
Ad: Yeah! As long as everyone doesn’t think it then it’s ok. Elbow, we get a lot, Guillemots we get a few times, Pixies for the whole dynamic thing, which I can see…we don’t sound like them though.
Keith: Also, Granddaddy and Deftones
Ad: In the same sentence!
Sloucher: We don’t like comparisons but at push we thought maybe Electric Soft Parade?
Ad: Yeah they’re a bit like Doves aren’t they?
Rich: Yeah I really like them
Sloucher: And what’s in store for the band in the future?
Ad: Well, we’ve got a new video coming out
Lucy: Have you seen it? Did you like it?
Sloucher: We liked it, and we like cats! (All laugh)
Lucy: My boyfriend loves cats and he’s really disturbed by the video
Ad: I think it matches the music well because it’s kind of got that black comedy sense to it which is a bit in our lyrics and song names (obviously not the most conventional song names ever) we’ve got that and then the new stuff obviously, which we want to get out there and we’ve just got to find a new way of promoting it because we don’t want people to get bored of ‘Here’s our MySpace, listen’
Keith: Yeah I think a video is a good way to get people to listen to our music, and we got a lot of exposure from the ‘2Weeks 2MakeIt’ competition.
Ad: Yeah I’ve found with this video that a lot of people are watching it and saying ‘Oh I really like your band’ and they’ve obviously never listened to us before!
Lucy: We might even do more with that animator too; we’ve hopefully got a good relationship with them now. We might also try and get some support slots for up-and-coming bands and things, which could open some more doors as well.
Sloucher: Are you releasing anymore singles off the album?
Ad: No, I mean we’ve got ‘Answers’ obviously and we’ll promote that video separately. We’ll also still be promoting the album, selling it at gigs but I think we’re ready to do new stuff now. Doing new stuff also helps to promote the old stuff too.
As the interview draws to a close and Sam produces several tins marked with homemade labels, ‘Peruvian Dog Food’ for the photos (as homage to the new video) I am struck by what a pleasant bunch of people the band are. There is no ego or front here, and it’s obvious that Cats: For:Peru are open to new experiences and directions as a band which I hope will make for an exciting future and I hope they find some way of getting their music out to a broader audience. For now though, it’s off to rehearsal for the band and back up the hill into Crookes for me and Sam – via Tesco’s of course…I feel it’s time for more cake.
Catch the band live THIS FRIDAY 21.05.10 @ The Grapes (from 8pm) and @The Harley on 06.06.10 and @Soyo on 28.06.10.
Words+Pics : PM & Sam
Get a free Cats:for:Peru song in our even free-r mix cd! Click here.