It came from Singapore!
Cat people make the best art rock. Just look at Best Coast. That’s why we knew we would love Singapore’s Monster Cat just from the name alone. The eerie, dusky melodies on the quartet’s debut EP Mannequins make for some very moody mood music, indeed. We’re quite enchanted, just like their namesake the bakeneko. Read on to find out all about that, plus what kind of music the member’s own cats are into. (These things are important.) We are delighted that they won our Artist of the Week competition, both because of their spine-tingling tunes and because that they are charming and humorous interviewees.
Tell us about Monster Cats’ fascination with cats. The band is named after one, each member of the band is named after one, and your fans are called “Kittens”. What’s up with that?
Copy Cat was home one day when he saw paw prints on the ceiling. He has a cat at home, but prints on the ceiling is a whole other creepy matter. This led to us finding out about the myth of the “bakeneko” – a supernatural “monster cat” in Japanese folklore that haunts households. Apparently, the bakeneko can be vicious and devour its owner, or it can be fiercely protective and spirit-rape the crap out of the owner’s enemies.
We loved this haunting, primal and ambiguous quality and how it reflected our music well. In general, we feel there’s very little to dislike about cats. It’s cute even when one rips into your guitar case. It’s like watching an artist at work. Little, furry, angry Iggy Pops.
Do any of you have cats? If so, what kind of music do the kitties like?
Yep. Most of us do. Psycho Cat’s stray bastard cat called Torpedo Lard is open to Refused. Copy Cat’s hellspawn apparently responds to Aphex Twin. Yes, we should be worried.
What is “Underwater” about?
“Underwater” is, on a very basic level, a love song. But it is about a kind of love that permeates the subconscious to such an extent that it both intoxicates and haunts. It is about the struggle between embracing the beauty of such a thing and the need to destroy it.
What was the biggest musical influence on Mannequins?
One of the main themes in the Mannequins album is that of identity, which was very much inspired by a quotation by Italian surrealist writer Alberto Savinio who described the Mannequin in one of his works as a “(P)erson without voice, without eyes and without face, made of pain, of passion and joy”. It was a statement that resonated as an appropriate metaphor for the people around us and ourselves as well: individuals in search of whom they are and what to do with their lives. This struggle is central to the album, whether it is in a highly personal and romantic way or in a larger societal perspective.
What do you do when you aren’t playing music in Monster Cat?
When we aren’t making or playing music, we’re handling the business side of Monster Cat. We handle almost everything ourselves, from marketing and merchandise to initiating collaborations with artists from various disciplines. We’ve always approached Monster Cat as more than just a band, and every waking moment is dedicated to this. The digital infrastructure has obviously opened many new doors for a young bands like us, but that also means much more work to be done. Not that we’re complaining. We love posting nonsensical cat pictures, especially on Instagram. You can find us via @psychocat @hentaicat and @monstercopycat
A lot of people compare you guys to Smashing Pumpkins and Fever Ray. What do you think you sound like?
Woo. That’s tough. Smashing Pumpkins and Fever Ray are definitely influences, but we strive for our work to be as non-derivative as possible. You guys did describe us as sounding like Beirut and Nick Cave, which was unexpected but hella cool too. If we had to hazard a comparison, we’d say maybe a cross between Other Lives and Warpaint? We’re constantly striving for a progression in our sound though, so maybe you’ll hear something a little different with our upcoming full-length.
How is your second album coming?
We’ve been writing constantly, and we want to take all aspects – songwriting, arrangements, lyrics, production and the live experience to the next level. We’re aiming for an early 2013 release – so paws crossed.
We’ve already got a few new songs in the bag, ready to perform live. We’ll be playing them at the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany as well as at Culture Collide Festival in Los Angeles in October. We can’t wait to see how the audience will react.
You guys have been including a hand written note inside each LP bought. What made you think of that?
We just felt it was a really unique and valuable opportunity to connect to people on a very personal and tangible level. We’ve lost a bit of that magic in the digital era.
We thought, how awesome would it be to buy music and get a personal message from those very musicians? Imagine buying the new Radiohead vinyl and Thom Yorke doodles something meant for you, and only you.
Also, it gives us a great excuse to draw offensive nonsense.
What’s the music scene like over there? Who are some of your favorite musicians in Singapore?
It’s growing, for sure. We have a small dedicated group of music fans here that we love and definitely can’t do without. We hope things in terms of industry infrastructure and international exposure grow with time—it’s definitely an encouraging sign for everyone that we’ve been picked up by MTV Iggy!
The number of quality bands here has been growing steadily, as is the variety of genres and musical dialects that musicians are experimenting with. Some of the artists we love back home include experimental art-rock group The Observatory and the post-rock band Amateur Takes Control.
Where did you play your first show?
Our first show was at a great club in Singapore called Home Club. We opened for US electronica duo Arms and Sleepers. Home Club’s stage has seen international acts like Handsome Furs, Peaches and SBTRKT, and they always host the best Singapore has to offer as well. It was a pretty crazy first show—everyone who had helped us along our journey and all our friends showed up. We also had our dope projection artist Wu Jun Han on board, shooting trippy light patterns on us. We were like epileptic kitties emitting minor chord fireballs.
If you could write the soundtrack to a movie, what kind of movie would it be?
It would have the epicness of Kurosawa, the menacing fragility of Let The Right One In (the original, please), the chaos and hysteria of David Cronenberg and the inherent sadness and helplessness of Roy Andersson’s films.
How do you feel about the furries?
Pretty damn awesome. As long as they don’t get out of the suit. And as long as they don’t do fur suit sex tapes. Then again, if she’s hot …
Um, check them out live at The People’s Party!