Glory To The Cat Empire

Column: Features   |   Date Published: Wednesday, 11 May 16   |   Author: Karolina Firman   |   1 year, 1 month ago

     "We thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to play somewhere where people had to stand up?’"

For those who’ve been living under a rock, THE CAT EMPIRE are a Melbourne-born band that defy definition – their music has numerous stylistic influences including but not limited to jazz, funk and rock. They started playing in 1999, and have had a number of members over the years, with the most recent line-up consisting of Felix Riebl (percussion and vocals), Harry James Angus (trumpet and vocals), Will Hull-Brown (drums), Jamshid “Jumps” Khadiwhala (decks, percussion), Ollie McGill (keyboard and backing vocals), and Ryan Monro (bass and backing vocals).

They’ve had something of a successful career too, playing at the opening ceremony at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and in the same year playing 45 shows in over 12 countries – and that number has only continued to rise since then (incidentally, that is still 12 more countries in which I’ve played, a number that is still sitting at a solid zero). More recently, their sixth studio album Rising With The Sun debuted at number one on the ARIA charts. I was lucky enough to chat with one of the co-founders Felix Riebl, about the new album and the band in general.

For The Cat Empire, having a sound that’s difficult to classify means also disliking labels altogether. “We live in an age of categories,” Riebl says. “This new album has a really vibrant feel and really represents what the band is – it has a tropical disco edge. It’s straightforward music, but it’s a bit of a mystery to how it all works. It’s definitely the strangest album to date.”

Apparently, after every album, Riebl always says that it’s his last. “I’m a very slow songwriter, so that takes a while, and then recording, and then touring – so it ends up being a whole year. It’s a really big ordeal, but tours are gonna be a lot of fun.”

For a band with such a full-grown history, it’s no surprise that Riebl has a list of accomplishments to smile back on. “We started out playing at small jazz bars and thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to play somewhere where people had to stand up?’ Then we eventually moved to venues with thousands of people. We played at a diverse range of shows when we were younger, and that’s really stayed with us,” he reflects. “It’s amazing to see a sea of faces, with so many people engaged with what you’re saying, so we’re just gonna keep playing and doing our thing.”

The Cat Empire are planning their trip to Canberra, and I couldn’t help but ask Riebl what his favourite part of our city is. “I like to go to the National Gallery, but the music scene is good and the crowds too – so many people want to hear our music.” It just goes to show: how bad can Canberra be if a member of The Cat Empire likes it here?

The Cat Empire are playing at Canberra Theatre on Sunday May 22 at 8pm. Tickets are $64.90 + bf through



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