CAT'S EYES

Into The Cat’s Eyes

05.06.2016 | Music | BY:

Faris Badwan and Rachel Zeffira – AKA Cat’s Eyes – are offering up an antithesis to the homogenous, often fame-hungry, landscape of pop music right now. Over the last decade, the two artists have left an indelible mark on music in their own very different ways; Faris as frontman of British indie-rock band The Horrors, while Rachel was breaking down the often rigid barriers that stand between the dance floor and the operatic concert hall with her orchestral collaborations. It’s a creative bond that has so far culminated in their critically acclaimed, self-titled 2011 debut, as well as the lauded soundtrack for Peter Strickland’s film The Duke of Burgundy; both steeped in sophisticated orchestrations.

If there is a shared bond between the two artists, it’s their fascination with composition and belief that music has the capacity to evolve organically with time—time being something that is particularly thematic to the duo’s new album Treasure House. When asked about the band’s evolution, Rachel marks the contrasts: “Sound evolves—it has to! We take a futuristic turn in Treasure House. The lyrics seem to bridge a gap between the past, present and future, but this wasn’t intentional, you know. Faris and I didn’t, and don’t ever, sit down and deliberately create abstract, artistic subtexts – our collaboration is very organic, it’s very impulsive.”

Rachel, you and Faris approach music from two very different worlds, yet it seems like you have an easy time communicating. Has that always been the case? 
Yes. None of this was planned. There wasn’t ever a moment when Faris and I decided to “form a band”—in fact the whole thing was nothing more than an accident. We met through a neighbour years ago and started to write music together for fun. At the time Faris was heavily involved with The Horrors. I had no affiliation with pop music—and I liked it that way. I remember writing some stuff for Faris to use without me, you know I was telling him “try this with someone else it could be really good”. Then someone picked up a demo and passed it around and that was the first time we were heard outside of our sitting room in collaboration. Our creative partnership has always been a fluid one. In the early days we were actually ‘pen friends’ (pen-friends via email, of course). When Faris was touring with The Horrors, we would send ideas, lyrics, songs back and forth to each other which gives you a good idea of just how natural our relationship is and was. I think we have always had an easy time communicating.

Tell me about the song writing and recording process…
When we write a song we usually start with a simple melody or a word and it just grows from there. Faris has an extensive vinyl collection and that comes in handy. When we first started out, we’d listen to 1960s girlbands (like The Ronettes) in rotation. This would always be our starting point, then we’d move on to manipulate a given song, so much so that what by the time we had finished up our creation was no longer an imitation but a full circle evolution. Faris might digitise an entire piece or I may overlay orchestral sounds—all that mattered that by the end nothing is recognisable, everything is changed.

Was this a process you stuck to when creating your new album Treasure Island
Actually some of the songs on this album we’re written when we were producing our first album—making elements of this album over five years old! Every song went through a very different production process. Sometimes I will write a song alone and then Faris will come in and manipulate the sound. Other times we will come up with everything together, the chords, the melody, the lyrics—a linear musical process doesn’t really exist in this partnership.

The exploration of time seems to be integral in this album, was that intentional? 
We didn’t plan for it to be. We didn’t set out to make a lasting comment, impression or clear takeaway. When I was writing Everything Moves Towards The Sun I happened to be thinking about the past, present and future. It has a distinct mark of time around which the other songs rotate. The album trips towards the future, but recognises the past and how it has impacts both the present and future.

Which track from the new album are you most likely to listen to on rotation? 
No, no, no—I don’t listen to the album once it has been done! I can’t listen to my own music. If I was to recommend a song to you it would be Chameleon Queen. I think the track is an absolute balance between our DNAs and between our worlds.

What’s the best thing about being in a band? 
In this case it helps that we both have very different strengths. The things I care about, Faris doesn’t. I  might be more obsessed with…say a chord change, whilst Faris would be completely preoccupied by the voiceover. Musically we are totally different, but as cliched as it sounds, it just works.

Treasure House is out now on RAF via Kobalt.

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