The idea that Manchester has a coherent scene has long since been redundant, and proof of that doesn’t come much clearer that the excellent Cats in Paris. Despite what might be thought of the city, it’s consistently been diverse throughout it’s history, and the trio are a proud addition to that. Comparisons are somewhat redundant when you talk about a trio as unique as these, with Of Montreal being the closest act to bear a likeness, a reference point that still seems somewhat unsatisfactory. On the face of it, they make ridiculously catchy pop songs – but the truth is that their music has a lot more depth than that.
After putting out their debut record two years ago through Akoustik Anarkhy, the band lapped up plaudits from the the likes of The Line of Best Fit, The Fly and Drowned in Sound. Whilst they’ve put out two singles and completed a European tour, everything seemed a bit quite on the Parisian front – until recently. Having recorded new song ‘chopchopchopchopchop’, they’ve had a psychedelic video made to match, complete with rotating faces and hands dressed up as cowboys. Throughout this month, they’re also putting each day’s headlines into song, which has already yielded some phenomenal results – there are no other bands that could deal with the death of a South Korean man by landmine such touching and still so tuneful. Michael, the band’s violinist, synth player and vocalist, got in touch to have a chat about what it’s like to be a Cat in Paris:
You’ve been around for quite a while, haven’t you? Your debut album came out back in 2008…
It has been a while now, about 3 years. We cobbled the first album together pretty much as soon as we had songs ready. As quickly as they were written, we recorded them . With careless abandon. Since then we’ve been touring, recording with more care, and a whole heap of fannying around.
Anyway, about your sound – you’re unlike anyone else in the country at the minute. How would you describe it? A clichéd question, but what inspired such a dramatic sound?
I suppose a lot of it is down to the love of surprise and contradiction- trying to make things unexpected and complicated enough for a re-listen, without ever getting lost up our own behinds. That’s the attempt anyway, sometimes it’s a precarious tight rope. It’s quite easy to drift into bellend territory, or have something that is not layered enough. Lots of our songs get abandoned because of this.
There is also our short attention spans that play a big part. We get bored easily, and have so much more enthusiasm when a song takes unexpected turns, and flops from genre to genre. It’s rare I can listen to an album all the way through. In fact, I don’t think I’ve listened to an album all the way through since I was 18.
There aren’t many bands that could get away with writing a song a day about the news. Why have you started the project?
I’m not sure we’ve gotten away with it yet! The idea came from a general frustration from trying to record our new album and it taking forever. As I said, we rushed out Courtcase 2000 and we’ve always felt it was a little short of the cookie, it needed a little longer just to iron out the creases. So the reaction was to spend AGES on the next one. We spent 6 months just sorting out four tracks. We still haven’t finished recording, should all be together by the end of August. It’s good being perfectionist about it, but the sense that time is slipping away was getting to us. We thought, “how can we combat this?” Forcing ourselves to write a song every day seemed like a pretty good solution. Then we can balance perfectionism on the album with the prolificacy of the Daily News Project. Best of both worlds? Either that or we’ll just burn up and die.
How do you go about getting the song together? It must be hard getting a different topical track together each day – what’s your process?
We did a few practice ones in July, to see how long it would take. And we have a heap of drum tracks recorded if Ben needs to be away, or it’s impossible to record. We have a stockpile of ideas too, ready to suit the news of that day. There will be some “specials” too. A Sport Special would be good. Or maybe a Local News day. Suggestions are always welcome.
Are there any news stories that you wouldn’t touch? I was glad to see you lending your support to the aid effort for Pakistan.
Yeah, of course. Some topics are out of bounds, mainly specific cases of sexual assault, things like that. Never mind the fact it’s uncomfortable, unpleasant and improper to sing about, it’s also the seedy part of the news that I think is hysterically over reported anyway. Strangely, huge scale disasters don’t seem so bad to cover. I suppose they’re de-humanised by the sheer scale of them. Singing about the floods is unpleasant, but it is the news, and was kind of unavoidable. I’m hoping for much better news over the next month.
Is this a plea for help? Can we expect a career change in the near future for the band? You’re already more informative than Sky News.
I would like to work with Jeff Stelling and Paul Merson on Sky Sports News. Can you make that happen?
As well as jazzing up the news, you’ve just put your video for chopchopchopchopchop online – the video’s amazing by the way. Who’s idea was that? Who did it?
Thanks! It’s a combo effort between David Ziggy Greene ( http://www.samu.co.uk ) and myself. He did the bulk of it, with the awesome animations and overlays, although I helped out by chopping out 150+ heads from drunken footage of people shouting “chop” after gigs, and did a heap of video editing too. We’d thought of the idea quite a while back, when we were touring Europe. David is really the fourth member of our band, he comes on tour with us to do live visuals and manages to hypnotise most of the crowds we play to. He also makes rather awesome comics, including a tour comic from one of our recent tours. ( http://forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2010/swimming-with-shoes-on-gags-gags-and-life-on-the-road/ )
And of course, I’ve got to ask – what’s the song about? I’ve read something about a serial killer?
Yeah, it’s about a chap called Randy Roth. He killed four of his wives before he was caught. My friend saw his fourth wife get killed on the beach. He faked a drowning. Afterwards Roth went home with the woman’s kids, and to cheer them up, rented out “Weekend at Bernies” for them to watch. For serious. It was detailed in court. Most of the song is really about Weekend at Bernies, I have to admit. Still can’t believe Empire magazine only gave it 1 star out of 5 this month. Travesty.
What can we expect in the future? there must be a second album on the way at some point, surely?
Yeah! It’s not far off. By Autumn is the plan, it’s going to be a push, but a damn enjoyable one. We have way more tracks than we need, so we’ll have to spend a bit of time being ruthless and getting rid of songs that don’t cut the mustard.
Cats in Paris – News for August 2nd, 2010