* Disclaimer- I put Cat Bear Tree on at my club night but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re awesome, if anything it makes their awesomeness more obvious.
Seeing live music and bands make up the majority of my free time and while I love seeing new bands I couldn’t remember the last time I saw a band that truly took my breath away and made me think they had the potential to go all the way. That was until I saw Cat Bear Tree and was totally blown away by their complex song structures, poppy influences and beautiful harmonies. For weeks after all I heard from my friends was chatter about Cat Bear Tree and how great they were.
For the uninitiated Cat Bear Tree are a South London three piece made up of Zoe Konez (vocals and guitar), Claudia Mansaray (bass and vocals) and Sarah Smith (drums and vocals). Cat Bear Tree sound like a mid noughties revival with their poppy riffs, jangly guitars and shouty vocals. Think Sky Larkin mixed with Bloc Party’s guitar craft and Sleater-Kinney’s dedication to romance and politics.
I’ve been meaning to write about Cat Bear Tree for months so when I heard that they a new EP coming out I decided to pay the girls a visit and ask them a few questions about their new EP, how they got started and why they cite Beyonce as an influence.
Don’t Dance Her Down Boys: How did you form your band?
All: Well once upon a time in London town, one sunny day in 2011 – Claudia was having trouble getting her horse through the oyster card barriers at St Pancreas Station. Luckily Zoe, being a Labrador could go underneath the barriers and was able to free Claudia and her horse. They started chatting and realised that they both liked gardening and playing music. Claudia presented Zoe with a shrub to say thank you for helping her with her horse problem. The shrub, having a love for Riot Grrrl music also, wanted to join in. They started meeting up at the local park every week and playing music. After a while, they realised the name ‘Horse, dog, shrub’ was not going to work so settled with ‘Cat Bear Tree.’
DDHDBs: Why did you want to form your band?
Claudia and Sarah: When we met we were all involved in other musical projects but had a common desire to start an all-female band. I have always been into female alternative bands. Warpaint were just making it when we met and their sound, style and vibe was a big inspiration to us.
DDHDBs: Have any of you been in bands before?
Zoe: We have all been in other bands before. I play acoustic music under my name Zoe Konez with a drummer Will Connor. I have also played in a number of bands from a range of genres’ including metal and post hardcore.
Claudia: I have sung and played bass in a few bands before, most notably an indie pop-punk band called Kids Love Lies a few years back.
Sarah: I have been in a few bands before too, mostly in my home town of Bournemouth. However up until now I have always played in bands where I was the only girl.
DDHDBs: You’re new EP Let’s Share Hearts is out soon, what can we expect?
All: A mix of high energy, Riot Grrrl punk songs to dance along too and also melodic, harmonic tunes to chill out too. We standby our decision to wait a while before jumping into the recording studio. This period of development allowed us to hone our sound and produce an EP that we are all very proud of. The EP has a variety of tracks which we feel show off the growth of the band and demonstrates our love of making complex parts fit into our songs very naturally.
DDHDBs: What bands are you listening to at the moment?
Claudia: God where to start…this week I’ve been listening to Deap Vally, Matt Corby and Hooker who are actually one of the bands supporting us at our EP Launch Party. They kind of have a Sleater-Kinney sound to their music that I love.
Sarah: There is no one cool on my iPod, much to the disappointment of the rest of Cat Bear Tree. Ha! I heart pop!
DDHDBs: Describe your band in five words?
All: Fun, Energy, Refreshing, Happy and Uncool
DDHDBs: Who are your musical influences?
All: Our musical influences are pretty diverse…..Warpaint, Electrelane, Pretenders, Mew, Land of Talk, PJ Harvey, Cocteau Twins, Garbage and you’ve always got to throw in a little Beyonce.
DDHDBs: You’re known for your three part harmonies, how do you devise them? Did you start the band with harmonies in mind?
Sarah: No we didn’t start with this is mind, however as our writing and confidence improved as a band we wanted to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and part of this included developing our vocal parts.
Zoe: I was the main driving force in adding vocal harmonies. I knew it would sound amazing to get the three of us singing over the music we were making. I facilitate music workshops in community settings so I’m used to giving people a nudge and encouraging people to get their voices out.
Claudia: Every new song that we write pushes us forward a little more. We’re really excited and proud of the music we make together and our three vocal parts are now embedded in our sound.
DDHDBs: How do you find inspiration for your songs?
Sarah: Mostly Zoe’s love life! Ha.
Claudia: We often find inspiration in London, it’s such an interesting and highly cultural city to live in. There’s always something going on. One of us will turn up to practice with some story about something that’s happened to us and we’ll chat about it and eventually it will turn into a song. Recently we wrote a song called ‘Do you see me’ which is all about commuting and spotting someone that you think is cute on the tube.
DDHDBs: You’re having an EP release party on Friday 2 Aug, can you tell us more about that?
All: We’re hosting a free Launch Party at The Finsbury in Manor House, London, on Friday 2 August to celebrate the release of our debut EP Let’s Share Hearts, which is out on iTunes and CD on Monday 5 August. Our aim for the party was to have a strong line-up of female fronted bands and female acts that would compliment our sound and that we could have a great night with.
We’re very exited about the line-up. Alongside a live set from us, we’ve got Minnie Birch, who writes sad dreary music that will leave you feeling happy. Hooker, a gloriously brash Manchester-based femme-punk outfit and The Ethical Debating Society, a pseudonym for Tegan Christmas, writing anti-love songs on a hooty piano that then blossomed into a full band.
Let’s Share Hearts EP launch at The Finsbury Friday 2 August. Let’s Share Hearts EP is released on 5 August.
For more information: www.facebook.com/catbeartreeband