"One thing I'm proud of is the fact that we've kind of brought people to listen to jazz," says drummer Will Hull-Brown with pride. And you won't find any classic jazz in this explosive Australian band, which relentlessly explores musical territory to deliver tracks and live performances that take them on a world tour.
If they had a culture, it would be that of mixing and mingling, and clearly, they have made musical mixing a way of life. And if their first notes often have a jazzy groove, in the middle of the song, you never know in which direction they're going to branch out. The horns resound like in the great hours of ska, the tempo sometimes slows down to take the rhythm of reggae, or speeds up to go into the madness of a tropical disco with a cumba feel. Their strength is that they don't choose, they mix, they blend, they mix and they bring with them crowds enchanted by their flavours and sounds full of colour and feel good.
Twenty years ago, their legend preceded them. The legend of a band that had never been in the studio before and yet had already sold out their concerts all over the world. Because clearly, with The Cat Empire, it's on stage that things happen and the audience is not mistaken. In the pit, people jump up and down in chorus and pogo like at a Care Bears rock concert. On stage, the crowd gets excited with well-placed horns and frenzied samba tunes. It's clearly not for nothing that the band has already sold over five million tickets in no less than 33 countries. It's because they bring the best of the world to the world.
First with three, then with six, The Cat Empire started out on the Melbourne scene. Their colourful jazz fusion is already causing a stir and the band is quickly exporting to the whole of Australia before setting their sights wider. And their reputation precedes them. Without ever having released an album, they were programmed in the United States and quickly made a breakthrough in Europe. In 2004, a year after the release of their first album, they were present in France at the Eurockéennes in Belfort.
After the success of their first two albums, they finally decided to record in a studio and this was the consecration of the festive jazz of The Cat Empire. Their third album, Two Shoes, went straight to number one in Australia. The eponymous single conquered the world with its reggae accents, which were as much a contrast as they were a part of the band's jazzy swing.
They know the Bataclan. They have brought their infectious good humour there more than once, making the Parisian public dance like never before. After the tragedy of 2015, they dedicated a song to it on their new album, Rising with the Sun, with part of the lyrics in French. For them, music is clearly a universal language and they call to roar again, to silence the pain by pounding the drums. Bataclan is a poignant track and one of the few pieces of music from the band where good humour leaves a little room for gravity
After more than 20 years of touring the world, The Cat Empire announced its transformation at a concert event in Sydney. Of the six original members, four are leaving for new horizons. But this is not the end. Felix Riebl and Ollie McGill continue the adventure and start a new chapter with musicians who come with their own influences. There is no doubt that the band's jazz fusion still has a long way to go!
The audience literally exploded from the first notes of Hello Hello and the rhythm rapped by a singer in great shape tonight! From then on, the energy never let up and the concert was all jumps and dancing to the rhythm of the band's incredible groove. I don't think I've ever had so much fun in a concert hall. I came out exhausted and on a high.
The Cat Empire is the story of a band of Australians who set out on an extraordinary musical journey in the early 2000s. And if their base remains jazz, they have explored all the continents to deliver a music that confers to the universal. It's joyful, it breathes happiness and above all, it takes all spirits on its way. Listening to them, you can't help but start dancing or at least nodding your head in rhythm, a smile gradually appearing on everyone's face. Really, not to be missed live!
The rhythm is effective, the voice sampled over a bouncy groove and with an electro touch. The tone is set. Then the drums and the reggae rhythm come in, the vocals become very soft before the atmosphere reminds of samba reggae. At times, the strings also bounce, the rhythms are played more squarely and airy effects come in as contrasts. Light, syncopated pop, Caribbean colours, soft dub passages and Afro jazz inflections also appear. The songs are always performed in English and have easy-to-remember refrains.