The Native Cats
The Native Cats | Credit: Eden Meure

The Native Cats: “There Is a Real Overlap in Our Sensibilities and Interests”

Hobart/nipaluna post-punk act The Native Cats released their fifth album, The Way On Is the Way Off, in November 2023. It’s the duo’s first LP through Melbourne/Naarm indie label Chapter Music, though band members Julian Teakle (bass) and Chloe Alison Escott (vocals, synths) have both worked with Chapter on separate projects in the past.

The Native Cats have been active since the late 2000s. Their first album, Always On, landed in 2009, followed by Process Praise in 2011, Dallas in 2013, and the singles ‘Catspaw’ and ‘Transportation’ in 2010 and 2012 respectively.The Way On Is the Way Off is their first LP since 2018’s John Sharp Toro.

The band’s five-album discography is an idiosyncratic body of work, distinguished by Escott’s speak-singing lead vocals and Teakle’s always-urgent bass playing. Ahead of a national album launch tour, Music Feeds speaks to Escott about The Way On Is the Way Off and the pair’s creative bond.

The Native Cats – ‘My Risks Is Art’

Music Feeds: Your solo album, Stars Under Contract, was one of my favourites during 2020-2021, a great companion during Melbourne lockdowns.

Chloe Alison Escott: Oh, thank you so much. That was made in late February 2020, so it was right before everything.

MF: You also released The Native Cats seven-inch, Two Creation Myths, in 2020.

Chloe: We recorded that in 2019, but we were just starting our launch tour for that in the middle of March. We had an Adelaide show and a Melbourne show booked for one weekend and it was the last weekend of Australian live music basically.

MF: When did you and Julian start thinking about making another The Native Cats album?

Chloe: We knew that we wanted to do another album after those couple of seven inches. We hadn’t written anything new for a little while, but there was this kind of regular local show here in Hobart called PRISM. It was a nice regular thing, people would do experimental projects and works in progress and so on.

We got asked to do it and we just decided, let’s do the show but since it’s a really small, local, low-stakes show, let’s write an entirely new set and perform it at the show. And the songs ‘Bass Clef’ and ‘My Risks Is Art’ came out of that. We played both of those and both have been pretty much unchanged since then. That was essentially the beginning of the album.

MF: Was that a novel strategy for The Native Cats – to come up with a whole set of new songs before a show?

Chloe: A whole set, yeah. There have been a bunch of times we have written a song right before a show we’ve had booked. ‘Olivia’ and ‘Mètre des Archives’ from Spiro Scratch, I think both of those we wrote literally the day of or the day before a show.

It’s interesting – sometimes I really like to fuss over things for a while to get everything exactly right and sometimes it’s just really exciting to have that very short space of time to work in, even just for the fun of it.

MF: There’s always a temptation to tidy things up and make it more sophisticated, but when you’re working at a pace that doesn’t allow you to reflect, you can generate some pretty excellent stuff. I’m intrigued to learn more about the finer details of yours and Julian’s writing process.

Chloe: We’ve had an interesting working relationship. I guess there are some exceptions, but for the most part Julian writes his bass parts – he writes a lot of them and he sends me a lot of instrumental demos of bass and drum machine or whatever. And whichever ones of those seem like something I could write to and sing to and affix other synth parts and things to, that’s what we move ahead with.

We tend to work very separately to each other. He writes his things and I write my words. I’ll hear his demo and just walk around listening to it and write on my own. So, in one sense, it’s kind of like we’re like two people with two separate projects, but in the other sense, you can’t always quantify these things. There is just a real overlap between our sensibilities and our interests. It all comes together in a really interesting way that’s kind of hard to boil down to a specific process.

MF: Do you really trust each other’s instincts? Like, do you ever have to offer feedback on the demos Julian sends you?

Chloe: Yeah. There will often be something that’s just like one repeated line and I’ll ask him to come up with something else to shift into for a little bit. Like with ‘Dallas’ for instance, you can kind of hear a few subtle variations on it. Like, it stays in the same key the whole way through but I guess ‘Dallas’ is one of the most structurally complex songs that we’ve done. We really had to work out some variations on that simple bass line because I wanted to shift the mood and shift the sense of drama a little bit more subtly than we usually do.

MF: ‘Dallas’ is one of a few sort of epics on the new record. You’ve done drawn-out songs in the past, but there is a contrast on the new album between songs like ‘Dallas’ and ‘Tanned Rested and Dead’ and the likes of ‘My Risks Is Art’ and ‘Small Town Cop Override’.

Chloe: We just kind of follow our instincts on it. Like ‘Small Town Cop Override’ was a little unusual. That’s one of the few songs that we’ve had where it’s started with the words. I wrote all the words to it before we had a bass line for it. I knew that I just wanted it to be this minute-long thing.

It’s interesting to consider – I say that we go on instinct and intuition but it’s interesting to consider where that instinct and intuition comes from. Sometimes it’s just that there’s a particular thing that Julian plays that reminds me in some kind of oblique way of a song that I’ve heard and loved somewhere and so it’s like, OK, that settles it, I want this to be really powerful and explosive and done in a minute, or I want this to be a real long motorcycle ride kind of thing.

Get your hands on The Native Cats’ new album, The Way On Is the Way Off, here

The Native Cats 2024 Australian Tour

  • Friday, 12th January – Polish Club, nipaluna/Hobart TAS (w/ Baltimore Charlot & 208L Containers)
  • Friday, 2nd February – The Metro, Kaurna Country/Adelaide SA (w/ Aumbudsmen & False Colours)
  • Saturday, 3rd February – The Curtin, Naarm/Melbourne VIC (w/ Parsnip & Ov Pain)
  • Saturday, 9th March – Gaelic Club, Eora/Sydney NSW (w/ Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys & more)
  • Saturday, 23rd March – Jerkfest @ The Barwon Club, Djilang/Geelong VIC

Tickets on sale now

Further Reading

Amyl and the Sniffers: “We Might Never Play Again Until We’re at the John Farnham Point”

Angie McMahon: “You Have to Experience All of the Things That the Chapters Hold for You”

Miss Kaninna: “It’s a Privilege to Listen to Black People’s Stories”

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