Cat Martino is releasing a new album under musical persona, Stranger Cat, joined by her co-producer/bandmate Sven Britt. Into The Wilderness is out 4/11/15
You can pre-order In The Wilderness now and stream the track, “Sirens” here.
My first question is, what influenced you most during the writing of this album?
Ca Martino: Hmm…influenced I’m not sure what you mean, but was led by the toys, the gear. We like to set up all the pedals, the synths, the loopers, the drum machines and play/improvise until it feels good, then do purposeful composing and editing around that. So I guess looking/listening to the moment. Being in the woods of Northern California influenced too
As far your lyrics for the album go, I picked up on references to life in Brooklyn, you mention Bushwick and a fig tree. The latter was really evocative of the place, because my grandmother (a nice old Italian lady) has a fig tree in her backyard, were you trying to evoke specific moments in your life or moods you experienced during the making of it?
CM: Amazing!!! Yes, on that one I am telling my Father’s life story, immigration from Sicily to NYC through the image of the fig. Starting with him in Sicily and ending in NYC where a fig presented to a child by his mother lets him know he is in a new home. That song is very close to me because I find a lot of inspiration in that story. So I’m speaking from my father’s perspective
Related to that, when you’re writing songs, are they mostly from your perspective, from the perspective of folks you know, or are you writing character sketches?
Cat Martino, photo by Shervin Lainez
CM: All three. “Fig Tree” is completely from Vito Martino’s imagined perspective. A lot [of songs] on this record are from mine, but I also play with my own alter egos or imagine I am a character to get to something more real I couldn’t express on my own. e.g.: “Ecstatic Energy” is like my super hero outer space self talking, “R.E.D.” is a lot about feeling really controlled by a situation so I created this character, Maybelle who is sort of at the center of an old-fashioned witch trial to talk about it.
When you begin working on a record, are you working on the music and lyrics at the same time, or does one come before the other?
CM: All ways. No format. But a lot of my best “seeds” for songs come from recording improvisations. If I start saying something over and over again, I won’t try to analyze what it means at that moment, just observe it. Later, I can make sense of what “unzip the skin” or “I just want to lose control” really means to me. But I know it’s important if it comes up repeatedly. The subconscious is strong, “Fig tree grow in me.” Also, I’ll mention that Sven and I improvise a lot as a team, then go back and forth shaping structure. First, find the strongest nugget, build around that.
This has been great, thank you for your time. I just have one more question: if you were a superhero, what would your power be and what would your animal sidekick be?
CM: Haha. If I was a superhero I would be Stranger Cat, and my animal side kick would be Sven Britt turned into a super hero dog! Stranger cat has magical powers…she’s way more bad ass than me or she’s me when I am bad ass.
Cat Martino, channeling Kate Bush in the “Wuthering Heights” video, photo Shervin Lainez