The Cat Empire play 2021 Bluesfest as well as 2021 SummerSalt dates.
Back on stage in recent months, The Cat Empire have made a start in getting their live performance ball rolling again.
“Those live shows, they could have gone either way,” admits the band’s singer, Felix Riebl.
“Getting to Adelaide, we had half an hour to pack a bag and get to the airport before they closed the borders – it’s not been without its dramas but it’s so good for that hour and half on stage.”
It’s been a weird past year for live music, certainly, but it’s served as a blessing in disguise for Felix, who says he’s been working on the follow-up to the band’s 2019’s ‘Stolen Diamonds’ album.
“Coming home from a tour cut short and having to isolate for two weeks, it was actually the start of trying to keep that fire alive,” Felix says. “For me, it was a great chance to take that fire that would have been spent on stage and put it into writing.
“I’ve been writing a lot, and a good amount of that is going toward The Cat Empire. We’re looking to record this year, and I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be an exciting new discovery to see what music’s going to come out of it.
“Having done the shows recently as well as realising the life of the band and crowd is very present, it’s going to be exciting to see how those new songs evolve and how they take to the stage after that.”
And with Bluesfest back with an all-Aussie line-up including The Cat Empire, Felix warmly agrees it’s looking to be a very special festival.
“Just to celebrate all of those Australian artists that are going to be there,” he says, “and for that to be something the audience to look forward to, I think it’s saying a lot for the audience and it’s going to say a lot for the industry here, which needs some encouragement. I think it’s going to be one of the most special Bluesfest’s for that reason.”
Back on a bill with so many acts he knows well and has performed with over the years, Felix says the energy is special and obvious. “It happened with the SummerSalt [festival] run we’ve done,” he says.
“There’s a very distinct feeling of musicians being really happy to be around other musicians again. People talking and excited about music. Just that really great hang that happens backstage at a festival when things are good.
“I think everyone realises how much they’ve missed it when they’ve been away – that’s not to say touring can’t be a struggle as well and people have different feelings and maybe people have gone another direction, but for the musicians who are getting back on stage who I’ve been speaking to, they feel just very warm towards each other in terms of that these are musicians who have spent their life doing this and we’ve got to stick together.
“Even if they’re not playing the sort of music that’s your type of music, you’re still loving the fact that they’re there and they’re doing it and engaging with an audience, and there’s so many things to discover about different bands and artists and how they do things.”
No doubt set to be a special occasion all-round, though Felix won’t say for sure whether The Cat Empire may have a surprise or two up their sleeves. “Bluesfest is always such a special show in itself – and being around other musicians, some of those special moments have happened at Bluesfest.
“There have been times when we’ve had members of different bands on stage with us, there have been times people from the audience have been on stage with us – it seems like one of those festivals where there’s a genuine engagement between bands and artists and it’s not unlikely that someone says, ‘This person’s going to get up for this song’.
“There’s nothing I can say [that] is planned but I can say we’ll certainly go there in the best possible spirit of the festival and see what happens.”
The Cat Empire play Bluesfest (Byron Bay) 1 April. The band also have SummerSalt appearances at Geraldton Multi Purpose Centre 20 March, Fremantle Park 21 March, Stuart Park (Wollongong) 27 March, Bella Vista Farm (NSW) 28 March and George Brown Botanical Gardens Amphitheatre (Darwin) 2 April.