By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This year Australian band The Cat Empire will debut their upbeat and genre-defying music in Brazil. Thanks to the help of Queremos they will play Rio’s Circo Voador on Friday, August 2nd, touring in support of their most recent release entitled, Steal The Light.
Their ongoing world tour is the biggest the band has attempted to date in their almost fifteen year career. It will include almost seventy cities in three different continents.
At each stop, The Cat Empire will deliver their unique mixture of sounds that blends everything from jazz to folk to rock to reggae to hip-hop and all things in between.
“The Cat Empire have carved themselves out a unique place in the musical firmament, as a band with no guitars, with no easily definable style and no corresponding haircut, but a band that can step onto any stage in the world and make the crowd move. More than move, in fact. Make the crowd lose themselves in a frenzy,” the biography notes state about the band.
When asked if she knew of The Cat Empire, Australian expatriate Fiona Lawson said; “Do I know The Cat Empire?! Of course! Every Australian knows The Cat Empire. I LOVE The Cat Empire!”
“I’ve seen concerts by The Cat Empire three times,” said Lawson. “Every time I’ve seen them they have been able to get the entire crowd (even tens of thousands of fans) all singing, dancing and jumping up and down, going crazy.”
Formed in 1999 in Melbourne, Australia, The Cat Empire grew out of a nine-piece ensemble known as Jazz Cat. With varying influences and styles the members joined together and mostly played on the Melbourne jazz circuit.
Percussion and vocalist Felix Riebl, keyboardist Ollie McGill and double bass player Ryan Monro eventually broke away from Jazz Cat to form The Cat Empire. Later the trio expanded to include trumpeter Harry James Angus, drummer Will Hull-Brown and DJ and percussionist Jamshid “Jumps” Khadiwhala as permanent members.
During live shows they often include guest musicians with the regular live additions of The Empire Horns, a brass duo with Ross Irwin on trumpet and Kieran Conrau on trombone. Notably the ensemble does not include a guitarist.
In 2003, their self-titled debut release garnered critical attention and earned The Cat Empire two Australian Jazz Bell Awards nominations.
Two years later, they released their sophomore album entitled, Two Shoes. Recorded in Havana, Cuba, its sounds are heavily latin-influenced, an influence that continues to be a major part of their sound today.
That album is their most popular release to date in terms of sales and the first single “Sly”, was featured in the soundtrack of the videogame FIFA 08. In the following four years, three more studio albums would follow; Cities:The Cat Empire Project, So Many Nights; and Cinema.
Also during that time the ensemble would gain attention for their live performances.
On May 21, 2013 they released their most recent album, Steal the Light. The lead single, “Brighter Than Gold” is an energetic song that features blaring horns, latin influenced rhythms, Ollie McGill skillfully working his double bass in time and Riebl twinkling the keys while smoothly delivering lyrics he was inspired to write while in Athens, Greece and New Orleans. The song is just one of many sure to get the crowd in Circo Voador moving on Friday night.
“I really fell in love with them after I saw them live for the first time,” said Lawson. “They’re a band that is really better live than on record. Not only are their songs all very happy, upbeat party tunes, but they radiate an incredible positive energy on stage that’s very infectious! You can’t watch this band and not leave the show on a natural high, feeling very happy!”