“Take my hand
I’ll come your way
Are you in….The warmest place
From somewhere safe
Are you in…The warmest place”
So begins THE WARMEST PLACE, the debut record from Sydney’s CATCALL. The raw, purposefully lo-fi acappella title track and album opener was written after Catherine Kelleher’s father passed away very suddenly from a heart attack. At the time, she was a teenager playing in DIY punk band Kiosk, and she tells it best herself:
“In August 2006 Kiosk came back from a two-month tour of America and about a week and a half later my Dad passed away. I had made a lot of amazing friends in the US, and I received an email from one person who’d just heard about my Dad and they said, ‘I’m sure he’s somewhere warm’. That sentence really stuck with me.
“I thought a lot about the idea of what happens after you die. I thought about how it’s a comforting idea that someone who has died is OK because they’re safe and warm – they’re in a happy place. And so ‘The Warmest Place’ became this place where my Dad was, and he was safe there and he was OK. The acappella song was written soon after, and I performed it first at a Kiosk show right after everything happened. Then the song ‘August’ was written and the lyric appeared in the middle 8.
“The whole lyric and concept resonated with me so much that I wanted it to become the theme of my first album.”
And what a debut it is. THE WARMEST PLACE is an album full of life; sex, death, happiness, love, heartbreak. It is a dedication to CATCALL‘s deep love of ’80s pop, but there is nothing disposable here. THE WARMEST PLACE is a musical Trojan horse; a bold and empowered voice contained within a killer pop record.
The album’s vision is pure CATCALL, from the raw, funereal chant of the aforementioned track The Warmest Place to the grounded, sneering swagger of Art Star. The stirring, heady carnality of Swimming Pool, the visceral longing in her cover of I’m In Love With A German Film Star by UK band The Passions, and the dreamy exultance of Satellites showcase the inherent sexuality in CATCALL’s music, while the shimmering I Believed, the ethereal-electro track Paralysed and the defiance of On My Own and Shoulda Been hint at a converse vulnerability to her fierce strength. The World Is Ours and That Girl are perfect ’90s party jams, while August, the aching central track from her first EP Anniversary, is here given extra treatment by British producer and mixer Lee Groves.
CATCALL grew up on a diet of punk; “I loved noisy bands so much. It was the only thing I could understand,” says Catherine. “I started learning how to play and write music in Kiosk. I’ve never been a “music school” songwriter or singer, so there is always an imperfection in my music because punk inspired me even though I had no skills or equipment, and I still work with that idea. I listen to so much different music now and that inspires what I write, but I still have a connection to the punk bands that fuelled my obsession with music. So the past is always there but it will always be mixed in with the present.”
Since releasing her debut EP, the bratty, hip hop charged Anniversary, CATCALL has come a long way. Her sound has evolved into lush, moody and evocative dance pop, and she has already garnered huge amounts of critical acclaim. Gawker described Satellites as “sublimely catchy”, and influential US music blog Gorilla vs Bear placed the track in its top 100 songs of 2011. The yearning and soulful Swimming Pool topped Hype Machine upon release, received high praise from sites like Rose Quartz, Fader and Electrorash, and was voted the best local track of 2010 by Mess+Noise who described it as “…the most resonant pop song to unexpectedly emerge in 2010… This is a rare species of pop music that doesn’t press itself upon you. It bleeds and smears and evolves and gradually becomes alive”.
It’s been some time in the making, but THE WARMEST PLACE is an album that will take you somewhere. Exactly where is up to you, but CATCALL has a few ideas.
“‘THE WARMEST PLACE’ is what I feel when I listen to music that makes me happy, when I listen to music that is really giving and unpretentious. But it’s subject to interpretation for everybody; it can be heaven, your bed, your bed tangled up in someone’s body, an island, sex, love, a summer’s day, a womb, a cup of tea, freshly baked bread… anything that brings comfort. I want this album to be comfort food and to keep people warm.”