Purveyors of: Frenetic, stripped-down, rustic raunchy blues.
File Next to: B-17, BRMC, Howlin’ Wolf
Playing: Saturday, August 15th 2020 at our 800th show/Mini-Fest streaming on Facebook Live from The Piston!
catl. are probably one of the last rock n’ roll bands from Toronto. The duo have released five full-length records to critical acclaim and have been touring both North America and Europe for a decade. You know that feeling of walking into a space knowing that you’re looking good, have that swagger, and everything you say is going to be cool? That’s exactly what catl inspires. If you need a boost of self-confidence during this time of insecurity, sport a leather jacket, pour yourself a whiskey, and mouth the lyrics with a stiff upper lip. We were lucky to have CFRU 93.3 FM’s Funky Blues Doctor Devere Agard, ask Jamie from catl a few questions about the future of blues music, their past, and the future of live music. If you’re in the Guelph area, tune in to Planet Groove every Friday at 10am on 93.3FM.
Considering this year is like a surreal sci-fi B-horror movie of Orwellian proportions, how does catl the band see music post-COVID being marketed?
It’s an interesting time. The music “industry” has really bitten itself in the ass. Now that touring has been compromised, the only thing left for people to make any money is streaming. The whole thing needs a do-over. Musicians will continue to make music on their own terms. If the industry collapses, so be it.
What are some of the things that you are doing now in a promotion sense do you believe will remain constants?
Now that everything has been moved online, there’s even less incentive, as a music fan, to go out and try something new. Music and performance online is okay, but that playing field is definitely clogged up by a lot of garbage. We have fans and we are pretty selective with what we put out there in terms of content. Nobody wants to constantly hear from one single voice or have a bunch of “sponsored” ads rammed into their brains. We’re gonna sit back and see what happens and pick our opportunities carefully. I honestly think we have a better chance of surviving than a lot of bigger acts that require large venues and thousands of people packed into a space to support their large team. We can set up and play anywhere at any time, so not much needs to change for us.
What aspects of live performances and playing before audiences does catl miss?
I don’t think we have ever been in one place longer than this in our lives. So, the travelling is tough to give up. When we were playing live, we never used a set list and we would play songs according to the audience. That always kept it fresh for us. It was nice to blow into a city and play to someone who has followed us but never seen us live. There’s an excitement to those “anything can happen” moments that make life more interesting.
Are there favourite road stories you care to share?
Unfortunately, I can’t get into any names or specific locations, but on our last U.S. tour last fall we had two different people in two different cities pass out, unconscious and Sarah had to administer CPR to both of them. Whenever we suggested someone should maybe call an ambulance, all our American friends were shocked, “that’s gonna cost $5000!”. We’re just gonna take our chances with Dr. Sarah here. Sarah is, of course, not a doctor….!!
Blues music: what is its future in the realm of entertainment and as a performance art? Where do you see artists such as yourself taking it?
I don’t like to think about music and art and its “place” or significance. We make the music we make, and there is no “why.” Anything we come up with, the type of people we are, what we did on the weekend, and our musical influences all play a part in making the music. It’s funny, because I generally despise where blues music is at. Sure, it’s massively influential on many musical genres, but it has stagnated for decades and really run its course in the “wanker-noodle-department.” You can thank Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan for turning on a legion of aging white rockers, doling out the same insipid lame-ass song structures, tired clichés, and uninspired “technical” soloing. Does the blues have anything new to say? Probably not. But it can be presented in an interesting way and made fun for an audience to dance to. You can never get back to what it once meant. Oppression and hardship still exist, but are expressed differently as time moves on. We use blues music as a foundation for our sound, but our style and messaging is more a reflection of ourselves and the times we live in now.
I thought it was cool you guys paid homage to past blues artists at their final resting places such as Son House. Whom do you plan to see in the future?
When we head out on tour we check out if we’re going to be near any grave sites that we want to visit. I never knew Son House was buried in Detroit since he didn’t live there. One time we were just outside of Clarksdale, MS and we went to find Henry Sims, who was a fiddle player that played with Charley Patton sometimes. The graveyard was divided into a “black” section and a “white” section. The “black” area was very overgrown and neglected and we never found the headstone we were looking for that day. It was quite the metaphor of our times. That someone as talented as Henry Sims could be unfindable in the cemetery, is a reminder of our failings to appreciate and learn from what’s come before.
What’s on the turntable of catl. in your downtime?
We haven’t been record shopping since the quarantine started. The downtime gave us a chance to listen to a lot of records we picked up on tour from people passing us their music. So that feels good. As summer rolled in, I went back into my ’70s reggae records. Something that is grossly overlooked in Toronto is the massive reggae scene and all the Jamaican expats that are responsible for it all. All that music is around and there’s been many reggae stars that relocated to Toronto for various reasons, like Jackie Mittoo and Prince Jammy. I always loved the old school dancehall toasters like Prince Jazzbo, Sister Nancy or Dillinger. Whenever reggae shows go off in Toronto, they are massively well attended and fly almost completely under the radar. You have to know where to look, but they are happening all the time!
If you had a time machine, whom would catl. see?
Hmmmm. I’ve already seen the Ramones, so that’s covered. But I know John Lee Hooker played at the R&B clubs on Yonge St. in the ‘50s. Or maybe Bobby Blue Bland in Detroit. Or maybe Elvis in Memphis.
Don’t miss catl. at our Wavelength 800 livestream mini-fest on August 15 on Facebook Live.