Over the past five years, Cats and Cats and Cats have released a hefty crop of records, toured all over the world and gone through their fair share of line-up and genre changes. Whilst never quite breaking out in the way they deserve, Cats have all the same found themselves a loyal fanbase and a large amount of well-deserved critical praise. Listening to Cats is as rewarding as hearing one of the best bands in the UK (because, well, they are) and interviewing the band is an exercise in trying to resist endless terrible cat puns. See how we did: Cats and Cats and Cats is one of the more memorable band names of recent years, long and strange without being too stupid. Where did it come from? It's taken from the title of an album of animal noises made by Eddie Murphy, before he was famous he used to record animal noises so he could try and imitate them to use in his stage show. His old agent got his hands on it though after Eddie had made it big time and released it to the world intending to smear Eddie's reputation, however it went down really well and became a cult classic. Here's a challenge: describe how the band formed using as few words as possible. We started a band. Bam. I asked for that. So how has 2010 been treating Cats so far? It's been brilliant, much better than last year. It's really exciting to finally have the album out and it's been going down really well. We've done two fantastic tours with The Siegfried Sassoon and Ute, both of whom everyone should check out, and have been busy doing some festival appearances which are always tonnes of fun. There's more to come though! If 'If I'd Had An Atlas' is your debut album, what does that make Sweet Drunk Everyone? HUH? I wanted to call SDE an album and we'd made a decision before it was released that it would be, it's only 3 or 4 minutes shorter than If I'd Had An Atlas anyway, but somewhere that got forgotten or overridden. So it was listed everywhere as an EP, nowadays the two different tags don't mean all that much but Atlas does have more of an album feel to it. That might just be because it has more songs!
How long have you been working on the record? Apart from the Oh Boy! single that came out last year, both sides of which appear on the album, this is your first release in three years. What have you been doing with yourselves? We spent about a year and a half on the album and have actually had it finished and recorded for the same amount of time. As I moaned about before we had a pretty unlucky year or so, we've lost two band members which has been quite a set back and spent a long time trying to work out how to release the album. It was a frustrating time for us but fortunately John from Maybeshewill put out the Oh Boy! singles for us which led on to us joining Function Records who have been brilliant. We spent a lot of time planning the launch and making sure it was going to be special, anyone at the launch night hopefully thought we succeeded. How would you describe the way your sound has progressed over the years? I remember people always used to call you a math rock or post rock band depending on which release they were talking about, but neither of them seem to be valid classifications any more. What has influenced the new record? The progression from each release has seemed really natural to us but I think it always will because it reflects our current aspirations for our music. I think if you take our current sound it's obvious that the stuff we tried on our first couple of releases was important to where we are now and I hope people backtrack a bit if Atlas is their first Cats' purchase to maybe understand how we've put this together. In terms of influences for this album the obvious introduction in our sound was a more folky angle so I'd say Neutral Milk Hotel, Beirut and Buttonhead have been pivotal in that area. If I'd Had An Atlas has a song entirely in Japanese, can you shed some light on what it all means? Does Ben speak Japanese fluently? He'd like to but he's a little way off, in fact Tom (Baker, bass) is also at the same level (JLPT 5, booya!). We thought it be a nice idea to have a song completely in Japanese and also wanted to show off our linguistic skills. The story is about a fictional brother of mine who talks to fish, everyone thinks he's weird and my family is shunned. One day I'm in the garden and I hear the fish in the pond calling my name, the last line roughly translates to "Let's go to the aquarium and never return!"
What's in store for the rest of the year? Festivals, singles, tours? We'll be putting out If I'd Had Antlers out as a free single download as we've had a lovely animated video done for that, we've got another couple of festivals on the cards including 2000 Trees which has the best line up I've ever seen! We're going to be back in the studio later this month to record three new tracks from the new album which we're planning on giving away free on a tour we're planning for October. We're hoping to have the next album recorded by the end of the year as it's mostly written already (we weren't just twiddling our thumbs for the past year!). You use Bandcamp to distribute Atlas digitally for a relatively low price. What is your stance on illegal filesharing? Personally I've never illegally downloaded a song and while I can see the positive sides of file-sharing (although streaming sites and programs have made these arguments almost redundant) I can't help but think that if you enjoy a band's music you're going to want to keep them in a position to continue making that music and it's a really selfish thing to not want to do that. But bands have to change as well, we've always tried to make sure that our physical records are a little bit special so people who have possibly downloaded the musical material are still going to want an actual copy, but obviously it's not just records, ticket and merchandise sales are a great way of keeping yourself afloat. It's especially difficult for bands at our level trying to keep producing great stuff without any kind of budget but it's nice to know that there are people out there who are willing to do their part in keeping us going. We had a donations page set up when recording the album and all the names of the donators appear in the booklet, thank you loads to everyone who did. You definitely appear to be a band fdevoted to the way your music is presented physically, from the hand-numbered liner notes for Sweet Drunk Everyone to the beautifully designed art for Atlas. Is this something you still believe is essential, or could you sacrifice presentation for cheaper digital distribution? Or will we get to see a vinyl release for Atlas? Yeah as I said above we think it's really important to make sure the physical product is inseparable from the musical material, it almost works as an introduction to the album. I mentioned this above as an incentive for people to buy the record but it's in no way a money making scheme, we just imagine it from the fans' point of view and if we were buying the record we'd want amazing artwork/packaging because we know it's important. So basically no we're not up for sacrificing this. We'd love to do a vinyl release of Atlas, we'll have to see where are in a couple of months to see if that's possible though.
Now for some more pointless questions: What's the number one played Cats tour van record? Because we've only got a cassette player in our van we rinse the charity shops in most cities for some classics, I think the Van Morrison one has been well worn though. We picked up some weird one called Herman's Hermits when we were in Edinburgh, it's kinda like the Beach Boys for the first half and then turns into some apocalyptic prog. If pressed to contribute a recipe to some sort of indie rock cookbook, what would be the Cats go-to dish? We actually did our own version of Come Dine With Me in the studio when we were recording but afterwards realised we'd all been a bit nasty about each other's food and destroyed the evidence so I'm not sure it'd be a great idea for us to contribute to that. Our drummer's a bit of a mega-chef though so I reckon he'd cook up a wicked seafood curry, maybe it could be served in a cat food tin. Favourite animal that isn't a Cat? Either an Owl or a Whale, I can't decide. Whales are amazing just because of their hugeness, you could get a small city on the back of one of them, someone would ring a bell when the whale was about to dive under and everyone would rush inside their waterproof houses. Owls are just super cool though, they can twist their head 1080 degrees in all directions. Finally, on a more personal note, remember the badges you used to sell that just said 'cats' or 'and' on them? I think I lost one of the 'cats' badges, and now I can only spell 'cats and cats and'. You got any left? We might do somewhere, we could just get some more printed if you want? You should do, they're some of my favourite badges. People wouldn't look at them as a group and ask why I just had a badge that said 'and'. Genius idea. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! You can visit the band by heading to http://www.myspace.com/catsandcatsandcats Their latest record, If I Had An Atlas , is out now!