By Kieran Webber
The enigmatic Town Of Cats are hard to pin down into one genre, they’re a real fusion of sounds. Shapeshifting through latin, afrobeat, jazz and hip-hop. They blend all of the above into one big energetic ball that flows out over the audience like a tidal wave. Intense lyricism drives their music home with an impressive flow, it’s wildly infectious and wonderfully unique.
It’s no wonder they’ve been a festival favourite throughout the South-West (and further afield). They’re regulars at The Great Estate, Boomtown and Beautiful Days. With live music basically on stand still the band are gearing up to release their sophomore album ‘The Elephant’s Room’, out August 28th.
We wanted to catch up with them to find out more about the new album, life in lockdown and much more. Enjoy!
Kieran: First of all thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! How have you been and what have you been up to?
Joe: Hey Clunk, No qualms it’s a pleasure. Well I’ve recently moved to Bristol. Toby our guitarist is following suit in a few weeks. It’s been on the cards for both of us for a while. Partly because of some wonderful friendships we have down here but there is no denying that the music scene is a big pull. Town of Cats has been Brighton-centric for nearly a decade and whilst it has its fair share of gigs and events we’ve always found our sound has sat a little more comfortably down in the South-West. We’ve always had a great time touring in Bristol, Devon and Cornwall. So it’s great to start a new chapter with a new album having Bristol as our new headquarters. Other than that though, mainly drinking and watching Disney films. Frozen 2 is lit.
Kieran: How did you find life in lockdown?
Joe: The question of the hour. This has been asked a million times to creative-types over the last few months and there isn’t much I can tell you that people haven’t already heard, or that those who are reading have felt themselves. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I don’t deal well with ambiguity. I think for myself, many in the band and the whole world have become somewhat chameleon, changing colours to try and fit in to ever changing moods. I don’t mean to create a ‘Disney sequel theme’ here but you know when it transpires little baby Jack uncontrollably switches from one dangerous super-power to the next causing all sorts of havoc…that was my lockdown.
Kieran: Did you find that it boosted your creativity or not?
Joe: In the beginning, yes. Toby and I got over excited about being able to ‘share screen’ on Zoom and our new found time on our hands led to all sorts of ideas flying out. There was a time when I thought we’d just nail an entire albums-worth of material just by sending bits back and forth over the internet. Problem was that as lockdown went on and more and more got cancelled we began to wonder when it is we’d ever play again. It’s really hard to keep up creative momentum when there is no outlet in sight. We have got some pending bangers out of it though so watch this space.
Kieran: Did you learn any new skills over the lockdown?
Joe: Heh, I can more or less recite the entire soundtrack to Moana?
Kieran: The creative industry has arguably taken the biggest hit thanks to the pandemic but do you feel the industry could bounce back?
Joe: I have this little romantic feeling that it’s going to do wonders to grassroots music and independant/local/unsigned bands. It’s obviously going to be a while until larger venues and festivals are able to operate in a significant way, so I have a vision of people wanting to get their live music fix at a time when only the smaller venues are able to put on shows due to their smaller capacity. It simply isn’t feasible for bigger bands and artists to play to smaller capacities financially, so perhaps there will be a bit more appreciation for local music scenes up and down the country.
“I have this little romantic feeling that it’s going to do wonders to grassroots music and independant/local/unsigned bands”Joe – Town Of Cats
What I find a little disconcerting though is that it will be much harder for those that rely completely on being a musician to continue. Those who play music as a hobby can continue to do so whilst others that have dedicated their lives to playing live music will suddenly have to change everything, and perhaps not even survive as a musician. Realistically, venues need arts council/government funding to help pay musicians realistic fees . If Boris can chuck a million into painting a Brexit-Plane they can cough up and help the struggling venues help the struggling artists.
Kieran: How did Town Of Cats meet and what inspired you all to start making music?
Joe: Town of Cats began as a musical-comedy duo called ‘Johnny Biscuits and the Disco Bitch’. Myself and Adam the bassist started writing silly songs together more or less as a catalyst for debauchery back in 2009. It turned out our little pairing was funny enough to gain a bit of traction and soon we found ourselves playing at Brighton Fringe Festival, hosting awards ceremonies and cabaret performances. We got to a point where our music was becoming music-y enough to have to decide if we wanted to stick with the theatre or start playing gigs. It’s easy to make english people laugh. Self-deprecation, awkwardness and cringe-factor get the brits going in no time. Getting them to dance however, thats an effort. For some reason we went for effort, started adding members to the band left right and centre and now we’re a nine strong mini-bus full of sweaty and excitable idiots. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kieran: What can we expect from your forthcoming album ‘The Elephant’s Room’?
Adam: We’re really excited to have recorded new music after several years of hard graft and touring and it’s great to have a document of where we’re at now which shows off our new musicianship, bolstered by production that gives us a more modern aesthetic that draws our diverse influences together into an accessible package. I think people can expect punchy songs with plenty of groove and dense, horn-led arrangements designed for dancing and blazing solos! Thematically we’ve always blended conscious and political themes with humour and people who know us will note that the lyrical content of this album has been sharpened and refined, so expect to hear our take on the political landscape and observations on handling adulthood, love, and brushes with addiction.
Listen to ‘Lemons’ here:
Kieran: Did you do anything differently whilst writing or recording this release?
Toby: We took a lot more time and care over the recording and production of this release. We brought people in to look in detail at the separate elements that make up the band. For example, when recording the rhythm section we had an engineer present who was also an experienced drummer. He knew how to get the best sound we could out of the drum kit and the space we were in. We recorded the horn section in a different space with a local horn wizard who is well known in Brighton. We went to his studio and he ended up getting a great sound for the horns. We then worked with someone new to the band who produced and mixed the album once everything had been recorded. He had a lot of creative input and helped us to think about the music in a different light. We also had our long time producer with us for all those steps, recording all the vocals and extra parts that didn’t get done in the studio, overseeing the whole project and keeping check on everything we needed to get done. No easy task with 9 or so cats bumbling around in a confused state! All of these factors have contributed to us making a much better sounding record than the previous one.
Kieran: What music have you been listening to recently and why?
Joe: We’ve actually got an interactive answer to this. We decided over lockdown to get each member of the band to put together a playlist of exactly what they’d been listening to over lockdown. They are all available on our Spotify, or you can head to the blog on our website for some words from each of the band that accompany each playlist. We all have very eclectic music tastes and it’s lovely to dip into the musical minds of the rest of the band. We love genre-hopping about the place in our writing and have always encouraged members of the band to bring their musical-leanings into our own music, so it’s great to have a set of playlists that represent the individuals that make up the whole.
Kieran: Lastly, we like to end on a story so could you tell us something weird, funny or gnarly that has happened to you?
Joe: Two of us nearly died once? They were in the back of our van as it was parked on a steep mountain road in Italy. It was so hot the breaks started melting and it started rolling towards a cliff edge. Had to run and catch up with it and jump into the front to stop it with the foot breaks last minute. Whole thing was very Italian Job. For the other stories, best bet is to come to a show and hang out with us after. Apologies in advance.