When The Cat Empire dropped their self-titled debut album more than 15 years ago, frontman Felix Riebl had no idea what kind of journey he was about to embark on.
“I didn’t expect it to be going this long; I didn’t know what to expect,” he recalls. “But I think the band started because a bunch of musicians got together from all different parts of sound, and there’s just a real chemistry there. Something just clicked.”
Riebl attributes the Melbourne, Australia group’s longevity to their ambitious live performances and their talent for pulling in fans of many different musical genres.
“A lot of that has been our ability to keep on performing live, to have audiences that brings us as much exuberance as the ones that we perform to.”
The Cat Empire is coming overseas to promote their new album Stolen Diamonds, which Riebl says is one of the most inspiring records they’ve ever made.
“I feel like Stolen Diamonds is the end of a trilogy,” he says. “It’s the third part of us having made these albums with Jan (Stubiszewski, producer), which is not to say it’s the same as the others – it’s really different. We really wanted to write songs that would translate and be really tough going from the studio to the stage… rhythm sections that would just carry on a big festival stage, for example. We really wanted to make some tough albums. It’s probably one of the most musically challenging that we’ve made.”
The band’s live show is a jubilant mix of old and new, and with eight albums under their belt, The Cat Empire strives to find the, ahem, purr-fect balance of fan favourites and improvised pieces.
“There’s always been this big struggle in our band between songs, in the sense of songs that people sing back [to us], and sections that make music interesting and challenging for us on stage as well,” Riebl admits. “Both of them have their place in a set, but you want to get the right tension between those two different coasts.”
In the end, it’s all about finding a groove with the audience and leaving them with a memorable, unique experience.
“The good shows are the ones that kind of have an arc between both of those things, because they give an audience a sense of going somewhere, having been somewhere that’s very unique to that night, not just having seen a show that’s kind of cookie cutter.”
As for their upcoming Canadian tour, Riebl says the group feels right at home despite being thousands of kilometers from their native land down under.
“Canada has been a bit of a second home for us. I always feel like we’re being made very welcome in Canada. It’s always a tour that’s really fun for us.”
And if that’s not the cat’s pajamas, then we don’t know what is.