Formed in Melbourne, Australia and adored the world over, The Cat Empire is a musical success story that continues to be written. Throughout their 20 year career, the band’s stratospheric trajectory has continued unabated, sustaining a career defined by independence. Beginning as the self-funded enterprise of a group of musicians who were not yet 18, the band built their Empire on the foundation of hard work, innovative ideas and a musical signature that makes people love, laugh and dance.
One of Australia’s most successful musical exports, The Cat Empire garnered fierce devotion in all corners of the globe. Since their teens, the six bound together by a love of music have gone deliberately about the business of crafting infectious, genre-embracing anthems and releasing chart-topping, multi-platinum selling albums to take to the live stage. The band played hundreds of world-class, awe-inspiring shows a year while sustaining and growing an army of ardent fans at home and abroad.
It seems The Cat Empire brand of feel-good, high-energy, smile-inducing music has a global address when it comes to winning hearts. It was not unusual to find the band selling out the world’s most famous arenas, mobbed by supporters and media at airports in Spain and performing on iconic T.V. shows Letterman, Leno and Ferguson. While riding high at the business end of international album charts, they dominated global airwaves and main stage bills at international music festivals.
From the outset, and off the back of a hugely successful 3x platinum Australian debut album, The Cat Empire’s sights were set on international climes. An early invitation to play in the U.S. whet the appetite for the band to tour and put in motion a plan to devote as much energy to international markets as they did to Australia. The results elevated The Cat Empire’s status and demand as a global commodity, as reflected in the achievements that the band were rapidly stacking up. This led to the opportunity to record their second album, Two Shoes in Havana, Cuba.
Early forays into the European market were fruitful, with high rotation airplay secured on the prestigious BBC Radio 1 for the single Two Shoes. Further exploration by the band into the U.S. and then into Canada saw the band ultimately sell out their 2005 tour, in the process setting themselves up for key festival dates the following year. The band featured on Bonnaroo (USA), Toronto & Montreal Jazz Festivals (Canada), Nuke (Austria), Quart (Norway), Edinburgh Festivals (Scotland) and Summersonic (Japan), plus headline shows across the world. The following year the band were profiled in Rolling Stone Australia and appeared on the front cover of U.S. music trade publication Pollstar, further cementing their recognition stateside as major international players.
As Rob Zifarelli, the band’s agent for North America, observed, “The Cat Empire are one of the best live experiences ever and because of that their fan base only grew, never diminished. From New York to Montreal to San Francisco to Vancouver and beyond, it is pure JOY on stage, and the audience feels a part of that. These guys seem to showcase what it means to be Australian. They are vibrant, talented, self-deprecating, original, and world-class.”
Festival appearances followed, including SummerStage New York Central Park, Quebec City Festival, Glastonbury Festival (England), Rock am Ring (Germany), Rock im Park (Germany), and Wireless festival (England). These led to a string of late-night T.V. performances, including The Jay Leno Show, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and a coveted Late Show with David Letterman performance. Sold out performances continued to punctuate the band’s touring schedule that included a full house sign affixed to the front doors of The Brixton Academy in London.
The band’s album releases continued to have a significant chart impact across the globe. Their 5th, Steal The Light, released on the band’s newly formed independent global label Two Shoes Records, achieved top 20 chart debuts in 5 countries; Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, and Australia. The album triggered more touring, including the band’s first shows in Rio, São Paulo, and South Africa. Festival credits stacked up in North America with headline spots at Montreal Jazz, Calgary Festival, Winnipeg Folk Festival, Ottawa Blues Festival and Vancouver Jazz Festival.
After even more international travel, and prestigious full houses at every stop, including the Royal Albert Hall in London, the band released their 2016 album Rising With The Sun. The album debuted #1 on the Australian ARIA charts, #9 on the Worldwide iTunes charts, top ten in six countries; Romania, Hungary, Sweden, Canada, Czech Republic, Switzerland, and celebrated top 20 debuts in 16 countries including; Malaysia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, South Africa, United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain.
Releasing a new single each month across 2018 and 2019, the band’s last album as the original 6-piece, Stolen Diamonds, proved to be a masterstroke, galvanising its incredibly loyal supporter base and generating close to 6.5million plays and hundreds of thousands of YouTube views before the album release. With radio additions in Europe, Spain, U.S. and Canada, the record at home was awarded the #1 position on the AIR (Australian Independent Record Association) chart, #4 on the ARIA album chart (their 6th top 10 album) and #3 on the global iTunes album chart, also securing Album of The Week on Double J. Stolen Diamonds received rave reviews from audience and critics alike with the U.K.’s Daily Express calling out its “an energetic and thrilling sound.”
As ever, touring continued to be the band’s raison d’être, and many miles travelled around the release of Stolen Diamonds with multiple tours to North America, Europe and laps around Australia are testament to the band’s impressive live work ethic and their understanding of the importance of touring internationally while regularly connecting with their homegrown audience to sustain their career.
The band’s career-long guidance from their Australian-based Global Manager Correne Wilkie (who also acted as Agent and Promoter for Australia) honed a global business and strategy that built musical dreams into an international success story. Dj Jamshid (Jumps) Khadiwala says, “Through Correne’s brilliant creativity, instinct, intuition, expertise and leadership we truly have an Empire. One that is here to stay and will echo in the worldwide music industry forever”. Wilkie represented the band for 20 years after frontman Felix Riebl invited her to their 3rd show in 2001. This has been a rare Management match with an enduring relationship that saw Manager and Artist remain firmly in step with each other and continuing to grow within the ever-expanding machine, all the while without a single change in the onstage line-up. Wilkie has represented the band and contributed to the Music Industry with unsurpassed energy, professionalism and ingenuity, and enthusiasm to match the band’s music, which brought partners, team and crew members along for the ride of their lives under her leadership.
The Cat Empire’s career-long commitment to always have an Australian support artist on overseas tours has opened international markets for many great Australian acts, including Pierce Brothers, The Meltdown, Tinpan Orange, Ash Grunwald, Blue King Brown, among others.
The band has also been committed to charitable outreach throughout their career, providing fundraising support and using their public voice to engage their audience in proactive action around the environment, asylum seekers, and First Nations Peoples.
After releasing new music Going To Live and Great Beauty, in July 2021, and then in August The Scream and Coming To Meet You, The Cat Empire announced in September of 2021 that after twenty years of touring the world together, the original line-up would dis-band. Final shows of the original line-up were announced for Australia, with the intention of delivering a massive farewell show in their hometown of Melbourne on December 16, 2021, broadcast to the global audience as a virtual concert on December 18.
The next chapter of The Cat Empire begins with founding members Felix Riebl and Ollie McGill stepping forward with “a re-imagined, vibrant, cross-cultural, and joyful collective of musicians and artists”. With new music planned for 2022, Riebl and McGill show no sign of resting on their search for new sounds, rhythms and ideas to continue the joyful legacy of The Cat Empire.