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Expanding The Cat Empire

Fans of The Cat Empire are worried that the same country that trademarked “ugg boots”, now wants to claim the band as its own. In the last year, the Melbourne six-piece has toured the United States twice and is now in serious talks with a major record label to release an album in June 2006. That means more time playing extensive tours and festivals overseas and less time at home. But the band members aren’t worried.

“You know when my friends say, ‘I’m going to South America for a year,’ it would be selfish of me to say ‘You bastard, you’re leaving me and I won’t be able to hang out with you for a year’,” says trumpeter and vocalist Harry Angus. “I hope that our friends, our fans, would do the same for us, and want us to grow and live a fruitful life…

“And if they don’t like it they can suck shit.”

Angus and bassist Ryan Munro piss themselves laughing. “That sentence could have ended before that,” Munro points out.

The guys chat in their tour bus in Toronto before their first Canadian gig. The bus, which is decked out with satellite television and entertainment system, is also littered with old food, empty beer bottles and clothes. There are six bunks in the middle of the bus that Angus calls the “little untouchable zone”; it’s the place they go when they get sick of each other.

“Before we did this tour bus thing, I was talking to people who had done it, and they said, ‘as long as you all get along it’ll work.’ And it does,” says Munro. “We spend this much time together usually, anyway. If it weren’t in a bus like this, it’d be in a car, which is worse because you can’t walk around.”

The Melbourne locals have called this bus home for the last three weeks. They began their fall tour in Los Angeles and made their way up to Toronto, all with the intention of educating North Americans about Aussie lingo “one biscuit at a time,” as Munro says. 

“I see it as our mission to educate the citizens of the USA about important things like lamingtons and capsicums,” says Angus after discussing how no one knows what either of those things are here. And even though that larrikin humour is a huge part of The Cat Empire’s lyrics, nothing has been lost in translation. Angus believes that their North American fans have just put their humour down to being “charming kitsch Australiana”.

Although The Cat Empire has toured America a few times now, tonight’s the first time the band has crossed the northern border to play a gig. A group of drunk Canucks who drove all the way from Montreal to Vermont just to watch the band play convinced The Cat Empire to visit that country. If it wasn’t for that bunch and all the other Canadians who crashed the band’s Vermont gig, they wouldn’t have had much of an audience that night.

Tonight’s gig at the rundown Opera House is packed with Australian expatriates and Canadians who have just come back from Australia. The 300-strong crowd isn’t as large as the ones the band attracts back home, but the guys don’t mind. “I like the challenge of an audience that you have to win over,” says Angus, “as opposed to an audience where you can burp into the mic and they’re so drunk [they don’t care].”

Talk of burping in mics leads to the revelation of the “mic burp”. Angus describes it as the skill of covering up a beer induced burp onstage while you’re singing so that no one notices. “It’s actually a phenomenon,” says Angus as he fidgets with a Sesame Street toy guitar. “Ask any singer – any singer who drinks beer while they’re performing.”

But if you haven’t yet been privileged enough to hear Angus burp on stage, it’s probably just because you’ve been at the wrong gig. The Cat Empire is known for adapting its music according to the kind of crowd it’s playing to. Angus says, “One of the really cool things about the band is that transcendental thing, where if you go to see a gig, chances are you’ll see something that hasn’t happened before and won’t happen again.”

Aussie fans have their chance to hear The Cat Empire’s party cocktail of jazz, latin and funk beats during their current summer tour. They will also be playing at Homebake, the Woodford Folk Festival and the Falls Festival. Tickets for the shows are selling out quickly, so you’d better grab some tickets and see them before the North America takes them away.

“I wish we could play around Australia, in particularly Melbourne, more than we do,” says Munro. “But there are a lot of other people to hear the music out there.”

Catch the band while they’re here:

16  West Tamworth Leagues Club NSW
18 Enmore Theatre, NSW
19 Enmore Theatre NSW
25 Belvoir Amphitheatre WA
26 Palandri Winery WA
27 Thebarton Theatre SA
2 The Famous Spiegeltent VIC
9 The Famous Spiegeltent VIC
16 The Famous Spiegeltent VIC



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Comment Added

said on the 18th Nov, 2005

I was lucky enough to catch The Cat Empire at Southport RSL last Sunday night on the Gold Coast and it was...well for lack of better words...freakin awesome! The quality of their sound didn't waiver once- you could have recorded their set straight on to