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This natural sound has made Cat Empire a success in both their homeland and in Europe. Having released Two Shoes in Australia on Virgin/EMI in April, Cat Empire is surprisingly still without an American contact. In many ways, the band is a roaming free agent, touring the U.S. for the sake of touring and spreading its music. Why? Well, because they can and they have the money to do it. According to a press kit from Hoopla Media and Public Relations, vocalist and trumpeter Harry J. Angus said the band has had many American offers, but none with the freedom that their label in Australia allows. If the band was to break big stateside, it is quite clear that Two Shoes is the album that could do it.
Combining a number of styles, including funk, jazz, and ska, Melbourne, Australia's Cat Empire formed in 1999 as a trio. Due in part to high-energy performances and constant touring, the band regularly reached the Top Five of their native country's ARIA chart. Keyboardist Oliver McGill, double bassist Ryan Monro, and percussionist Felix Riebl, the founding members, were eventually joined by trumpet player Harry James Angus, drummer Will Hull-Brown, and DJ Jamshid Khadiwala. A single and a live EP preceded the band's first album, The Cat Empire (2003), which eventually went triple platinum in Australia. At that point, they had already played the Melbourne Festival, the Adelaide Festival of Arts, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and WOMAD. Two Shoes (2005), their second album, was recorded in Havana, Cuba, and topped the ARIA chart. Cities followed a year later and made another impressive commercial showing, but it was So Many Nights (2007) that crystallized their frenetic, fun-loving sound.
Last fall, Cat Empire decided to record Two Shoes in Havana, Cuba, with the assistance of producer Jerry Boys (Buena Vista Social Club), who was a fan of the band’s first album, at the now-world famous Egrem Studios (Buena Vista Social Club, Afro Cuban All-Stars, Irakere). The product, Two Shoes, is atmospheric, tight and easy to listen to and enjoy. The first Australian single, “Sly,” debuted at #1 on the Australian charts and went platinum in just four weeks. The album does a great job of showcasing the band’s strengths, which include swooping hooks and layers of melodic musicianship, which can easily be expanded in Cat Empire’s live show. The disc itself sounds very live at times, especially on headphones.