Interview – Cats:For:Peru
It’s a very quiet Sunday at the Frog and Parrot. A couple of jokes about Sheffield looking like a deleted scene from 28 days later fall flat and after having the strongest thing next to a coke (a coke with a lemon wedge), we talk.
Out of the 5 cats, only Lucy (drums), Keith (bass) and Ad (keys, guitar, voice, ukulele, beard wrangling) are here. The rest of the band (Stella and Rich) are either fighting robots or dodging well-armed spreadsheets.
So, the hardest part is always trying to peg you down for a genre. Would you go for one if asked to classify yourselves?
Ad: We don’t really have one. We all kind of play and meet somewhere along the line.
Lucy: Sometimes we do agree in stuff like making a song more upbeat but that’s as far as it goes in terms of whipping stuff and us around.
Keith: I wouldn’t think we are genre-led, but there are bits in songs where we sound beefier or heavier, but that stems from the song and not from planning.
Ad: Yeah, from jamming, never from the outside.
‘Open house’ has a very funky, disco-like bass sound, like several songs from the band.
Lucy: Yes, Keith’s our man!
Do you have any particular bass influences?
Keith: Not specifically! The funkiest in any case would be Stevie Wonder. Other influences could be Led Zeppelin, but that’s more bluesy-based, but a funky blues… Ad writes a lot of the bass lines, though.
Ad: It’s the whole genre thing again, it just adds a heavier element to the groove I guess. The rhythm section is down to do that.
In the subject of We had this problem last winter, where did the title came from?
Ad: You see, we had an oscillating heater, the one with the big light…
Lucy: I though it was the door.
Keith: And the key.
Ad: Yeah, Bolly said…
Keith: You don’t know!
Ad: That as well! Ok, the lock to our practise room freezes in the winter. The picture of Kinny kicking it is a recreation of what we did.
Lucy: Many a nightmare to get in the place when there’s snow outside and the door won’t budge.
Ad: Now, the actual meaning is that Bolly said that this heater, well, the light’s on his face and he can’t see his fretboard. That’s it!
Keith: It was a song as well at one point but we never did anything with it. We played it once in London and Ad fell out it with.
Ad: Yes, the song is racist! Okay, no, I just needed to think of a reason to say we fell out!
Lucy: We liked it.
Ad: I don’t like it.
Lucy: You said it was too standard.
Ad: Too strummy!
Oh, so the song was unfaithful on you?
Ad: Yes. With all four members.
Any possibility of recording ‘Poindexter’?
Ad: Actually we tried but it didn’t sound good, actually. I don’t know if we’ll play it again for a recording but it’s definitely a live sound kind of track.
Lucy: Perhaps the way we tried to record it wasn’t right either. The setup wasn’t what we usually do. If we ever recorded it, it would have to be in a very live style.
Keith: That’s kind of what happened with ‘I am the O’. We never got to record it because it worked better as a live song.
Lucy: Yes and going into the recording studio is always expensive, so if you go there you need to be certain is something you are happy with and could be done. So although both are fun to play we do need a special setup. We like playing it a lot.
It worked well at Soyo.
Ad: We did? Ah yes. We like to break it out from time to time to wake people.
Is it fair to say that We had this problem last winter is more mellow than Attack of the pitching machine?
Ad: Half and half, I think. Two songs are very upbeat and two are more mellow.
Keith: It was a different process. The album was recorded over two years and three recording sessions and the EP was on 1 recording session.
Lucy: We always had this in mind, didn’t we? We wanted an EP. Whereas with the album it was all the recordings we had at that moment. It was quite nice how natural does the EP fall in two moods. Hopefully shows the different styles we can do!
Keith: Sort of like a sampler of the stuff we like to write and enjoy to play.
Ad: Yes, we are a pretentious band, we’ll do a double conceptual EP!
Lucy: Vinyl would’ve been nice though.
Keith: The problem was the expense, it would’ve been done at the loss at the time. We’ll think about it next time.
I know someone who would buy that one! Heck, I know three people in Mexico who would buy it.
Ad: That’s good to know!
What’s the plan right now? Record or keep writing new tunes?
Lucy: We have about four and we plan to do some more. Should we mention the French thing?
Ad: Well, we have an exclusive for you! A deal with a French label to release the EP in France, we might get to do a tour too.
Keith: A release in the last quarter of this year and then a tour in February/March next year.
Lucy: If it happens, it will be great. We’ll focus on that right now, write on our free time and after all that is done, then perhaps get some time in the studio, do some more recordings. We aren’t certain about doing an EP or an album right now, it’s up for debate right now.
The transitions and bridges in your songs are usually genre-hopping in nature, so how would you describe your song writing process? Who starts it all?
Ad: It depends of the song. I might bring the structure of the song. Sometimes, just a bass line and generally, we will all build upon that, end up like 5 minutes long and then we take some stuff out and end up with a song two minutes long. We know our limitations but we know what works. We’ll build around that piece that works.
Keith: It’s also a production thing besides the writing. You have your song there, chords, riffs, melodies…but the rest of the band will produce how the whole song fits from start to finish, change some things and how they happen.
Ad: One of the new ones, I did all the recording myself and we brought it into the studio and when we all played, it changed the whole feeling of it, which is great! We do build around it. Bring the parts and…I’m trying to do a metaphore here.
Keith: You…build the car?
The original is a Sudoku and the band fills the numbers?
Ad: Yeah, ah, there’s no metafor that works.
You build a wall and they build upon it?
Ad: I build the wall with a picture on it and they paint over it! They chuck paint at my wall!
Lucy: Luckily he never gets offended. We might say “this is three minutes too long” and he’ll never take it bad, he’s not grumpy about it. He never shows it.
This is a true story: your lyrics are usually hard hitting and a friend of ours cried when she listened to ‘Answers’. Do you create the lyrics from the music or base the music around the lyrical work?
Ad: There’s no set way. I’ve got my email drafts folder at work filled with lyrics and notebooks at home too. I don’t know, there’s no set. Sometimes I’ll sing and hum. If you listen to a Metallica b-side, you’ll get James Hetfield doing muh-muh-MUH-mumuh! instead of singing, sometimes I do that but with words. Some stuff comes up on the spot and I’ll write around it, like ‘Duck in the oven’. Other songs I have a meaning and write about it. No particular path, though. Lyrics frustrate me a lot. Never happy with them.
Keith: Is ‘Answers’ about anything in particular?
Ad: I don’t want to get into that! you see, that one was a bit of a cut and paste job, you see? I was taking lyrics from different times and put them together if the semantics were similar. It’s a vague “take what you will” sort of song.
Ad: I can’t remember what they are about. (laughs)
So you had a great show at Tramlines, do you think your shows are directly influenced by your audience? You even had a call for encore.
Lucy: Yes, the audience gave us a real buzz. We had a many gigs before and sometimes the crowd doesn’t react and that’s always disheartening. It’s hard to deal with a crowd like that. We got a great buzz for Tramlines because the people who were there wanted to see us and responded well.
Ad: Overwhelmed by the response really. We had a lot of friends in the audience, of course but a lot of people we didn’t recognise too.
Keith: It was an unexpected response, I think. For the amount of people who were there to the usual numbers we get in our gigs, I liked it. I know some others in the band had a different type of nervousness and took some time to get into the feeling but once we did, we fed from that buzz and had a lot of fun.
What do you think of the current scene in Sheffield right now?
Ad: You hear a lot of bands and I haven’t seen a lot, which is a shame.
Lucy: I’ve been trying to get to more gigs and see what’s around. There seems to be more venues too. There used to be one called Olive and now it’s called Gatsby’s and I went there the other week, saw some good bands. Nice to see a place like that developing. The Shakespeare is back too, we are pleased to see it open again! We hope to play again there and at The Bowery too. Things are improving again in terms of venues, so let’s hope it helps bands too. I personally do still miss The Grapes, but slowly the void is being patched.
Ad: I didn’t get to see any local bands during Tramlines!
Keith: I honestly don’t know. I haven’t seen enough to summarise, I’m too busy self-indulging in my own band. (laughs)
Anything else you’d like to mention?
Ad: We have a gig at the second Friday of December at The Bowery, a possible gig at The Harley in November and as soon as there’s confirmation, we’ll announce more.