you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

14 November 2015

Interview: Cat Hoch

photo by Party Boyz podcast
CAT HOCH is an ascending sorceress of musically ambitious, otherworldly dream pop. The Portland, Oregon multi-instrumentalist (her last name is pronounced "hawk") crafts longish songs that feature unusual structures and unexpected transitions. The tracks’ misty layers are topped by her own lead and harmony vocals, her voice endowed with silken texture and natural loveliness. Her songs project a sense of mysteriousness enabled by a canny blend of melody and strangeness.

WTSH stumbled into contact with Cat serendipitously when she was in the midst of preparing her first solo single, “Look What You Found,” for digital release. She shared a rough mix with WTSH and it completely knocked our socks off (in fact, we’re still looking for the ones we were wearing when we first heard it). We soon had the honor of premiering the track—and the massive concomitant honor of introducing Cat as a solo artist—here this past February.

“Look What You Found” is now both the lead and title track of Cat’s just-released, four-song debut EP, which you can listen to and purchase for download here (you can get the CD edition here). Cat records with Riley Geare at the helms of engineering and production. Riley’s best known as the drummer for the USA/New Zealand psychedelic pop combo Unknown Mortal Orchestra. He has provided most of the drumming for the present EP, along with contributions on synth, guitar, and bass. Aside from guitar cameos by two guest artists, Cat is responsible for the rest, including drums, guitar, bass, piano, and all vocals. She brought some of the material to the studio well mapped out in advance while other passages represent collaborative experimentation between herself and Riley.

After contributing drums, backing vocals, and guitar to early efforts of Tender Age, in the last year Cat has made significant live and studio contributions to Daydream Machine, Jackson Boone, Eternal Tapestry, and Appendixes, all while finishing the EP and beginning her solo career. In the months since she launched her project, Cat has been profiled by Willamette Week and interviewed by Eleven PDX. Meanwhile Noise & Color PDX has premiered “Archer,” now the EP’s closing track, and Red Lab Films has put out a video documenting the recording of a new song called “Waving” at Sean Flora’s Rock N Roll BNB studio on Portland’s Sauvie Island (embedded immediately below).

Cat Hoch now leads an eponymous performing quintet. (Eleven PDX tells us that “Cat’s stage presence would be enough to captivate at any venue in any medium she chose.”) Guitarist Eric Sabatino is known to WTSH readers for his role in Appendixes. Anna Tyler from The Fur Coats provides synthesizer and vocals. Bassist Theo Craig plays with Mascaras and Spectrum Control while wearing several hats in the Portland independent music scene. Drummer Adam Breeden may ring a bell for his participation in Jetman Jet Team, whose full-length We Will Live The Space Age came out on Saint Marie Records in 2013.

Originally conceived as a live vehicle for her songs, the band, as Cat and Eric recently related in an interview on Portland’s KPSU, has gelled happily as a creative entity with its own spark. You can sample the powerful, fluid collective sound that has emerged in the video above.

With its first gig only six months back, the group has already shared a stage with Crocodiles, A Place to Bury Strangers, PINS, Valet, Eternal Tapestry, Sinless. HASTE, and other artists, while appearing at the twelfth annual PDX Pop Now! festival this past July.

Cat Hoch opens for Ride at Portland’s Crystal Ballroom on Sunday, November 15th, 2015.

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How and when was the band formed?
The band was formed around February 2015. Riley Geare and I began recording in October of 2014 and a buddy of mine from another band asked us if we wanted to open for Crocodiles at the end of May. I knew that would be enough time, so I started asking friends if they wanted to play live with me months in advance.

Can you tell us what the band has been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc.)?
I’ve been writing a lot of new music, I’ve been taking it to the band and it’s getting a unique twist because it’s not limited to Riley and myself. It’s been really awesome—our EP just dropped and we just booked a mini trip up to Seattle and Canada! 

Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene? Do you identify closely with any genre?
I love shoegaze definitely, but I don’t wanna be contained to it. I really want to make things last and try to stay true to myself but make it unique.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?
Perhaps Beach House or Ringo Deathstarr. I actually don’t listen to a ton of new music, but I go in so many phases. I honestly have a soft spot for the new Tame Impala record, Currents, but I’ve also been listening the hell out of The Dovers and The Mamas & the Papas. It changes constantly.

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?
Man, our guitarist has this Princeton Reverb amp that just every incredible Black Angels record. I’m obsessed with it, but it’s not mine. He did just sell me a ‘72 Univox Hi-Flier tho...that bad boy is my current prize.

Eric's Princeton Reverb amp
What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
Currently I’m recording with Riley Geare who’s got some actually crazy Geare. He does things I have no idea about...However, when I first started I didn’t have any microphones or anything and was desperate, so I just used headphones and I downloaded this software I can’t remember on my Samsung. Eventually I taught myself an 8 track digital recorder and did some demos on there.

How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway. How do you see it and do you feel it’s positive at all?
There are definite positives and negatives, the possies are that with the interweb we have access to create viral awareness within musical community, negative things are that everyone is trying to do it too, which in a weird way is positive. I was recently talking to Peter Holmström of The Dandy Warhols and he told me back in the day there was one real way to do it and that was it. Get your music to a higher label and so forth. Either way, the future is promising!

Cat's Univox Hi-Flier
When it comes to label releases versus DIY/Bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
I’m currently DIYin’. I am a believer in Bandcamp, people get heard that way.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or MP3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?
Hmm, well recently I’ve noticed how rough MP3s can be. I do love vinyl but I truly ultimately love CDs...something nostalgic for me, when I was a kid I had toooo many of them…cassette tape is cool too, in fact that’s what my car takes. 

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
Oh my god...Well, where do I begin. I’m a sucker for so much, it ranges from Drake to early Red Hot Chili Peppers to Ride, MBV, Stone Roses, Spiritualized (one of my all time favorite songs is “I Think I’m in love” by Spiritualized). Girls, The Allah Las, Paul McCartney, ABBA, Happy Mondays, A Tribe Called Quest, Spacemen 3, Broadcast. The Horrors are one of my favorite bands. The list goes on and on and on…oh, this super cool band I saw at Pickathon called Wand!
T-shirt idea sketch by Cat

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc.)?
Felicity the TV show, all things Halloweeny, 2-3 hour walks, pedal searching…currently reading Hollywood by Bukowksi but want to start reading Life by Keith Richards. Been watching a ton of “rockumentaries” lol.

Can you tell us a little about your songwriting process?
To be honest, a lot of it is me waking up getting stoned and sitting down at an instrument. It varies though. Been through a lot of struggles this year ranging from substance abuse to heartbreak and it comes out in the writing.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?
Lol, well, I guess my philosophy is…“You can do anything.”
That’s it! xoxo
Mercy McNab Photography