Stupid pet tricks: Cat Empire looks to expand if they must 

click to enlarge Surprisingly, these guys didnt pen the jingle for the - Meow Mix commercials.
  • Surprisingly, these guys didnt pen the jingle for the Meow Mix commercials.

It's tough to say whether the latest Australian sensation trying to cross the Pacific feels any sense of urgency about making it big here.

Actually, the eclectic Cat Empire seems indifferent about its upcoming tour of the States.

"It's not like we were a bunch of guys who got together to get famous," says lead percussionist and vocalist Felix Riebl, on the phone from the band's home city of Melbourne. "We started playing together when we were 18 just to pay the rent."

Riebl has a cool, mild-mannered approach to, well, pretty much everything. But maybe his nonchalance is justified. In Australia, The Cat Empire's already a big hit the band's had two double-platinum albums. They've been nominated for 10 Australian Recording Industry Association Awards (read: the Australian Grammys), and last year they won the Best World Music Album award for their Australia-only release, Cities.

So it's fitting then, that the band's label, Virgin Records, decided this was as good a time as any to expand their Empire's reach. Next week, they'll appear on "The Late Show with David Letterman." And this week, they'll release their first Stateside disc, Two Shoes, most accurately described as what happens when you dump Chumbawamba, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, KC and the Sunshine Band and the late '90s Latin music explosion into a blender and hit "puree." Sure, it may look revolting but it's one helluva good time.

Riebl stumbles a bit when asked how the band's sound was cultivated. First, he offers up his hometown as a reason.

"Melbourne's different," he says. "It's creative. It's wild."

After a little more consideration, though, he credits his band's travels which do include a few jaunts through the States' college towns and larger cities.

"We've toured all around the world, really," Riebl says. "When you go to these places, you learn that anything can happen musically."

And, fittingly, "anything" is exactly what happens on Two Shoes. The first single, "Sly," is a cacophony of horns, keys and lyrics about the mystifying ways of women. "The Car Song" tells the story of a procrastinating high schooler and his inability to fix up his car or do anything else, really, except write music. In a similar vein, "The Chariot" charms with a chorus about how all one needs in this world are instruments and music.

That's the repetitive theme of Two Shoes: that music is all you need. Riebl, Harry James Angus (trumpet and vocals), Ollie McGill (keys and bells), Ryan Monro (bass), Will Hull-Brown (drums) and Jamshid Khadiwala (turntables and tambourine) are having fun here, playing music. And you can hear it.

That infectious vibe is part of the reason The Cat Empire has earned itself a reputation for unparalleled live performances. Last year, at the Bonnaroo Music Festival, the Empire's performance made headlines. That's why Riebl's not worried about what'll happen here in America on this upcoming tour.

"When we have the chance to play in front of someone who has never seen us before, we embrace it," he says.

It's easy to believe him; he sounds so confident. Or maybe it's just his Australian accent.

"America's going to be great," Riebl reiterates. "I'm really excited to kick back and see how it goes."


The Cat Empire with Diverse and DJ Rootz

Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder

Monday, Feb. 5, 9 p.m.

Tickets: $16; visit foxtheatre.com.


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