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Australia’s Cat returns to Whistler

Back to the future with The Cat Empire

By Nicole Fitzgerald

Who: The Cat Empire

When: Tuesday, Oct. 24

Where: Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC)

Tickets: $25-$30

Australia’s number one band needs no introduction to Whistler’s Aussie population, nor to fans who jumped on The Cat Empire bandwagon at their sell-out show in Whistler last spring when audiences demanded not one, but two encores.

With power-punching brass leaving plenty of funk to slide into and reggae beats grooving to catchy word play, an evening with The Cat Empire is one of those nights you wish would just go on and on. They built their fan base on a crazy touring schedule. No one can resist the energy and solid musicianship they bring to their live shows. But the band isn’t limited to live performances, the success of this year’s North American release of their double-platinum album, Two Shoes, has proven the boys know how to rock both a stage and a recording studio.

The five Melbourne men return to Whistler Oct. 24 at the Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC).

“Our suitcases always stay packed,” says Felix Riebl of the Cat Empire on his way to the band’s next show in Colorado. “I think the band found itself in being a live band. I think people really relate to our live show. That’s where we had a lot of our success. Not until we make our record number one in the U.S. can we relax a bit. We are a touring band and that is what we do.”

Performing live is how the band came together, meeting each other around Australia’s multi-cultural music circuit, resulting in a cataclysm of musical styles streamlined into The Empire’s signature catchy, easy moving sounds, infused with tinges of jazz, blues, reggae, hip hop, Latin and everything in between.

Stepping into the recording studio was a big learning curve for the band, producing even bigger rewards.

“When we started off in our teens, it was a late-night wild band,” Riebl said. “We played a lot of festivals and became this energetic force on stage. When we went into the studio, we had to have a bit more discipline.”

The Virgin and Indica recording artists found deeper textures to their music within the recording process, and have since brought them to the stage.

Two Shoes debuted at number 1 in Australia. Select tracks from the album were recorded in Havana with famed-producer Jerry Boys of the Buena Vista Social Club. The Canadian release last spring was celebrated with a World Tour with stops in Singapore, the United Kingdom, Europe, Japan and North America.

“Performing live and recording are such different art forms,” Riebl said. “We want to capture one from another. Live is much more unruly and wild. When you are recording, it’s about capturing a song in its simplicity.”

With his songwriting maturing, Riebl looks forward to the band’s next album. However, everything comes back to touring, the vehicle providing endless inspiration to Riebl’s songwriting.

“The band has always been an exciting one,” he said. “We travel a lot and set out on various expeditions. You have to go out and have experiences. Every experience leaves you with a spark or a moment. I write songs from those little impressions and then try to open it out.”

The title track of the Two Shoes album has become an anthem for these hard-working boys — the song pivots on the idea of making music with plenty of personality, something The Cat Empire never lacks.

Judging from The Empire’s last show, you’d be advised to pick up tickets well in advance. Tickets are $25 to $30.