What’s news in the Blues for The Cat Empire – The Echo

The band is going to be dynamite. It really is shaping up. And the stage is going to be very very full.

Bluesfest 2022 was the stage for the end of an era for The Cat Empire. Two of the original three founding members of the group, Felix Riebl and Ollie McGill will continue their legacy and have created a fresh, new era for the band. With boundless creative possibilities, a collaborative process, and musical curiosity, the new project will showcase a wonderful collective of rotating musicians who will still maintain the musical DNA of The Cat Empire. 

The band will be on a massive Euro tour just before Easter and will step off stage in Manchester on the Friday and onto a Byron stage on Monday. 

Seven had a chat with Felix Riebl at the end of a month of recording a new album, about what the new Empire will look like.

Hey Felix, what’s new? 

It’s a completely new chapter. We’ve been announcing some of the new musicians who are going to be part of the tour – Grace Barbé  is an amazing woman from the Seychelles who plays bass and sings and is a hell of a performer in her own right; Lazaro Numa is a Cuban trumpet player and a great percussionist, he’s going to be playing with us as well; Neda Rahmani is an Iranian Australian percussionist, who’s just amazing and bringing a lot to the stage. 

There’ll be a lot of familiar faces as well, like Ollie on the horns. It’s going to be a dynamite show. We’ve been really getting into rehearsals and the preparations for it [as well as] working on a new album.

From Europe to Byron in four days – how does that feel?

We’re playing in Spain, in the UK and Netherlands and a bunch of other places through Europe. It’ll be a fun tour, and as a band, to have a month’s worth of shows tends to really get that great festival confidence up.

I suppose you’ve spent the last few months busily writing?

Yeah, non-stop. We’re working on a very exuberant album. It’s great, for instance, to be working with these amazing female voices and things like that. It’s very, very festive. It’s very punchy, and bold, but it’s got a lot of tropical flavour in there, and, some classic Cuban/ Latin feelings in there too. We’ve sort of gone all out – like, some songs we’re starting with a Brazilian percussion, roving band thing – it’s not always just the classic rhythm section. There are songs that are starting with musicians from Ghana, and then a huge percussive energy being built around that. Also, some songs that will feel fairly classic Cat Empire I think, in terms of how I’ve approached them.

Coming to Bluesfest I am always very curious to know who people are interested in seeing…

I love this festival. I love Nathaniel Rateliff. We toured quite a lot together in the States and Canada in terms of a parallel festival run. Elvis Costello is amazing. Femi Kuti… it’s an amazing lineup. Lucinda Williams – she’ll be amazing. And Mavis Staples!

What do you want to punters to know about your show?

The band is going to be dynamite. It really is shaping up. And the stage is going to be very very full. The new project is anything but just me and Ollie – the stage is going to be bursting and we’ve got a lot of really amazing music, musical ideas and songs building and we really plan on bringing the stage to a new level.

The Cat Empire play Bluesfest on Monday 10 April. 

For more info on Bluesfest 2023, visit:

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