Today The Cat Empire have released their 8th album Stolen Diamonds.
The Cat Empire have been releasing one new song on the 1st of the month since July 2018. The current single ‘Oscar Wilde’ was released in January. For each release the band also commissioned individual artists to submit a photo with a visual brief to capture and celebrate what it means to be Australian with imagery that looks like Australia and sounds like The Cat Empire, this in an opportunity for band to celebrate Australian photography and photographers on a global stage.
You can watch a video on the making of the album below.
One of Australian’s biggest bands and certainly one of out most successful imports to the international stage, The Cat Empire recently announced an initiative to give back to the artist community. In association with Australia Council for the Arts, the band are offering a grant to assist with overseas touring and the opportunity to join the band on one of their many tours. Full details are here.
Captured over a fertile autumn recording session with long-time collaborator and producer Jan Skubiszewski just outside of Melbourne, Stolen Diamonds documents one of Australia’s most successful musical exports. Revealed to their global fanbase one song per month over the course of 2018, the album represents a blueprint containing all of the elements that the band have distilled and combined over the years to create their unique sound.
Track By Track Details
The album starts on a high with Kila, an opening salvo armed with one of the biggest choruses the band has ever written, which for a band that’s known for delivering a killer chorus, you know that’s saying something! “Kila is one of those songs you write and know that an album will be built around it,” explains Felix Riebl. “Lyrically I wanted to write something edgy, joyful, mysterious, where people might mistake the words and that be a good thing. Kill a man Jaro – Kilimanjaro.”
Stolen Diamonds, the album’s title track is a Harry Angus special with urgent horns and a relentless rhythm, in fact the heaviest on the album. Stolen Diamonds is all soul groove and celebration, the sound of a well-oiled band being put through it’s paces by one of the best song writers and sublime vocalists in the country. As his bandmate Felix Reibl describes, “Stolen Diamonds is one of those songs where you can’t tell where things are happening, but it’s got this really infectious rhythm to it. The horn line is amazing and the rhythm section is playing just about as heavy as it can play!”
Oscar Wilde has a Melbourne via Soweto swing which transports another beautiful Felix Riebl vocal evoking warm memories of the past, both his and ours, while introducing yet another trademark Cat Empire hook that wouldn’t be out of place on the classic Graceland album. “I can’t help but think that Paul Simon had some part to play in this one,” Felix confesses. “On tour, I’ve always come back to Graceland as a reference for music that just floats and makes me feel good. It reminds me of why I’m anywhere.”
Another big moment comes from Ready Now, the first taste given to fans in the song a month reveal that happened across 2018. A track that displays the past, present and future of the band, this is an anthem. “Ready Now,” Felix explans, “began as an accidental one hand arpeggio on a keyboard with an obnoxious synth horn sound on. It turned into a hard hitting and fairly epic sounding fanfare that sounds like a dark marching band in flight. Lyrically it’s full of frustration and conflict, but the music gives it an edge of joy.”
Barricades begins with a wonderfully fractured skank driven by an ominous resonant piano riff hammered out via keyboard master Ollie McGill that opens up into a ethereal vocal delivered by Harry Angus. The track then transforms into an urgent reggae funk with the rhythm section taking over before again breaking and heading again into the ether. Felix shares, “this is another one written by Harry that’s again one of the heaviest on the album, on one hand it’s very, very dubby and hard hitting, then on the other it’s got almost this Miles Davis like quality to it with the horns on it. It’s by far one of the most intricate and experimental songs on the album”
The next slice of joy comes in the form of Anybody, the first song that was recorded for the album. Furnished with a boyant musical bed that has some deeper lyrical themes tucked away under its covers. As it author Felix explains, “The line ‘What a f*#!ing joy, what a f!*#ing mess’ follows me around everywhere – on tour and in the most domestic spaces of my life. It’s about that moment where you could fall down and crumble, or realise that the feeling that’s getting you down is also the source of your happiness as well.”
Sung predominantly in French by guest vocalist Eloise Mignon, the slow burning La Sirène is somewhat of a departure for The Cat Empire, though a definite nod to the devoted fan base in French Quebec,which has been a home away from home for band for over a decade. When describing the song’s genesis Felix explains, “Eloïse Mignon, who co-wrote the song with me and Ollie came into the studio to do a demo of how the French words should be pronounced and something just felt right. It had character. It stuck. Some female presence did the band good.”
Echoes is a wonderful rock steady moment that provides the vehicle for yet another warm Harry Angus vocal resulting in one of the most tender moments on the album. Some deft turntablism from Jumps punctuates this beautiful piece and takes it somewhere special. “It’s a deeply melodic song,” Riebl continues. “It’s one that kind of plays itself and as a musician it’s one of those songs that’s a pleasure to be a part of, you don’t have to think about it, it just works.”
The vocal driven Who’s That sets off as a spartan piece propelled initially via claps, clicks and percussion that builds slowly with each key modulation, each time threatening to become an opus only to exit too quickly, leaving behind a lingering hook rattling around in the listeners imagination. Felix describes it as, “a song about the evening (evie) – about what might happen unexpectedly. I’ve realised after all these years, that that’s the atmosphere people who come to The Cat Empire shows bring each night. This song tips our caps to them.”
A cascading rhythm gives way to a striding euphoric groove on the mighty Adelphia which has a flavour like no other track on the album. Spicy latin breakdowns resplendent with horns and vocal hooks prove that The Cat Empire recipe for perfect roots pop has been refined to the point where it has become a life affirming elixir. Felix describes, ‘this is another song written by Harry and is the perfect example of a song that starts somewhere and ends up somewhere else, again it’s really heavy and has an outro that’s almost as long as the song itself. It’s just a moment that the band loves – there are songs that the band plays and songs that the band loves, and I think this is definitely the latter.”
Saturday Night is a tour de force of horns blazing over a rolling Will Hull Brown summertime bounce, that as the name suggests celebrates carefree weekend nights where music can save your soul. Riebl thinks that, “Saturday Night is a throwback to the old Cat Empire I think, especially The Cat Empire that travelled over to Cuba. It has a great horn arrangement done by Ross Irwin and a kind of a 90’s or early 2000’s hip hop thing combined with it which gives its uniqueness within the band. It’s really just a celebration song, it’s about exactly what it says, Saturday Night getting down”
The busy and bustling Bow Down To Love, with its circular bass pattern care of Ryan Munroe propels relentlessly as Harry James Angus exercises another sweet vocal as the singer ‘bows down to love.’ Of the song Felix explains, “it’s more or less a one chord song, but it’s got so much rhythm in it and such an interesting horn part to it. The lyrics that he brought to it were so unexpected and uplifting that it forced its way onto the album.”
Featuring Spanish solo star and Calexico member Depedro on co-writing and vocal duties, Sola is another track that tips the hat the The Cat Empire’s international fan base. Sung mainly in Spanish, the languid cumbia of Sola frames a softer, less frenetic side to the The Cat Empire and closes out the album. The song’s other co-author Depedro reflects, “I met The Cat Empire guys in Canada, we did a gig together and we had an instant connection. This is a very emotional tune and because it’s sung in Spanish and English it fits perfectly with the crossover way of thinking that The Cat Empire has, and this view of getting people together with the most powerful weapon: music.”
The Cat Empire – Stolen Diamonds is out now on Two Shoes Records