Cat Empire claws into Cleveland

Erica Crist

Meeeeeeeeeeeeow! The Cat Empire will perform at the House of Blues in Cleveland on Wednesday.

Credit: Ben Breier


The Cat Empire

Where? The House of Blues’ Cambridge Room

When? 8 p.m. Wednesday

How much? $15


The Cat Empire, a sextet from Melbourne, Australia, which made the cover of their country’s edition of Rolling Stone last May, will make its debut in Cleveland with a show at the House of Blues’ Cambridge Room Wednesday.

With six members in the band, all with increasingly diverse listening tastes, The Cat Empire has developed a motto in hopes to describe its unique genre of music. The motto is: “Where the hip-hop community dance to Gypsy, the jazz purists jump to hip-hop, the Latinos bop to reggae, the Rastas shake to Latin, the elderly sweat to funk, the youth swing to dancehall and everyone wakes up a little happier.”

“Our music is like a buffet,” said Ryan Monro, who plays double bass and guitar in the band. “But you only want to make one trip, so you get two of everything. It’s all you can eat, from all over the world.”

Originally formed in 1999 as a trio of Monro, Ollie McGill (piano, melodica, banjo) and Felix Riebl (percussion, vocals), the group expanded a year later with the addition of Will Hull-Brown (drums), Jamshid “Jumps” Khadiwala (DJ, percussion) and Harry Angus (trumpet, vocals).

If there was a ruler in The Cat Empire, Monro said it would have to be Riebl, who originally had the vision to launch a jazz-hybrid band.

“But in reality, it is an empire of six rulers with equal powers,” he said. “All ideas are welcome here.”

Monro said Kent State students should see The Cat Empire’s show to avoid the normal, over-manufactured music that is played on American radio.

“We create the music right there on stage,” he said. “It’s uplifting. It makes you want to jump around. But then again, if you don’t feel like dancing you can just stand back and get into it musically.”

The fact that The Cat Empire creates its music during live jam sessions on stage makes every show exclusive and has inspired the band’s widespread word-of-mouth buzz.

Their success is a combination of the snowball effect among its multitude of fans, a strong Internet presence and an effective street team. Many of the fans are American college students, who learned of the band when studying abroad.

The Cat Empire displays an active profile on MySpace, and you can sign up for the street team on the band’s Web site, When The Cat Empire is coming to your town, they will e-mail you in advance with the information and some flyers to hang up.

Their self-titled debut album earned the group six ARIA (Australian Record Industry Association) nominations. Their second release, Two Shoes, was recorded in Cuba, and came out in Australia last April, debuting at No.1 and achieving platinum status in less than four weeks.

Contact ALL correspondent Erica Crist at [email protected].