The Catamounts :: Surf, Sweat, Suits



by Gil Carroll

Winnipeg’s favourite surfer dudes The Catamounts are playing the Big Fun Hungover Breakfast on February 1 at The Good Will Social Club. Stylus chatted with drummer Andy Rudolph and Guitarist Michael Henderson-Castle about what it is like surfin in the WPG.

Stylus : How did The Catamounts come to be?

Michael Henderson-Castle: Two words. Matching suits.

Andy Rudolph: No, really. We were all playing in bands together (Mahogany Frog, The Calculus Affair) and we were lamenting the fact that our bands didn’t really jive with the concept of matching suits. Hence, we formed a splinter group: the Catamounts. We played the Windsor all winter that year just to get together the funds to buy said suits. Everything since then has been gravy.

MHC: The suits actually predate the formation of the band. One day we just randomly bumped into each other in Le Chateau Warehouse. We all thought it was pretty strange, seeing as none of us really shop there, normally. Then, when we realized we were all buying the same suit, we knew it was kismet. We were meant to be in a band together.

Stylus :How does being an instrumental band work in regards to the songwriting process?

AR:Ultimately, I should think it’s exactly like the songwriting process in bands that have “words”. Someone writes a song (to a varying degree of concreteness) and then the rest of us rally ’round it, filling in the gaps. Some people say it with poetry, others say it with flowers… we say it with reverb-saturated guitars and tape echo.

MHC: When looking for inspiration for a new song I usually check my closet or go shopping for new clothes. When I look at textiles, I hear music. It’s like synesthesia but just for fabrics.

Stylus: What type of emotions/moods do you try to create with your music?

AR:I like to think that the Catamounts ride the waves, ready to embrace that which flows to them, i.e. we don’t try to create any particular emotions; different songs simply tell different stories. Some songs are maudlin narratives about an historic journey, others conjure up a minimalist interpretation of hollywood theme songs as performed by a NeoGeo console from `94. Who knows? Next week we might pen a surf ditty entirely via the method of tossing the I Ching.

MHC : A big advantage of instrumental music is that the artist is not dictating to the listener what to think or feel. The listener can filter a song through consciousness without being beaten over the head with a message or specific imagery. Sure, some songs might make you feel excited or sad, but that can totally change by just playing it differently. For example, We have a side project called the Voyager Ones where we do Catamounts repertoire but we play super slow with tons of distortion and delay, and make it sound like Psych Rock. It’s the same notes, played with a different feeling and it creates a totally different experience. Likewise, if you’ve got a white shirt on you might feel clean or classy wearing it, tie dye that bad boy and suddenly your’e far out dude, but here’s the thing: it’s still the same shirt!

Stylus: How has the Winnipeg scene changed since you all started being in bands in the city?

AR: Things ebb and flow. There are crests and troughs. Musicians in Winnipeg are a particularly adaptable bunch. Bands come and bands go. Some of them are spectacular musical triumphs, seemingly fated to fade away, to remain only in the annals of Winnipeg band history (ex. Ham, Hummers, Hot Live Guys). Others carry on, despite all odds. Venues are the same… all things are impermanent. We just ride the surf, baby.

MHC: The Winnipeg music scene is a like a polyester suit. It’s practically indestructible but every now and again you lose a button and have to sew a new one on.

Stylus: What is next for the band, any shows or releases you are particularly excited about?

MHC: Our next big show is on Sunday February 1 at the Good Will for the Big Fun Hungover Breakfast. We’ll be playing with Odanah and Human Music. The show starts at noon, so come on down! If we sell enough albums, we’ll buy the audience matching suits.

Stylus: What is the most memorable or special show you have played?

MHC: Last year we played Lester Fest which is this tiny festival made up of cabin people from around Lester Beach. There were adults, grandparents and young kids sitting around picnic tables, hanging out and eating the food and stuff and then there were globs of teenagers kind of lurking in the shadows, smoking and pretending not to know anyone. It was memorable because it was the first time we wore our long brown tweed coats.

AR:We are excited about each and every show we play. We love all of our children equally. Hang Ten.

Stylus : What are you looking forward to most in 2015?

MHC: Two words: Designer swimwear.We want to play a surfing convention in California. I think it’s a week long
beach party with a huge screen where you can watch pro-surfers ride these huge like 50 foot waves. You divide your time between surfing and drinking cool beverages in the sun. We’re going to get an endorsement from a surf board company and they’re going to pay for us to drive down there in the corporate woody. It’s kinda a cool deal, this endorsement, except having to lug around these gaudy promotional surf-boards to all our
shows. We’re also working on this cruise ship gig. We’re supposed to spent like 2 months on the Mediterranean next winter, playing nightly shows for inebriated seniors… Yeeaah. . . that’s all more like wishful thinking than reality but seriously, anybody who wants us to endorse their surf board company or has connections on a cruise ship. . . contact us immediately.

AR:I should think it’s about time for a new recording, no? Surf’s Up.

Learn more about The Catamounts from their awesome website :