The Australians Whoopie Cat are one of the greatest bands of the decade | Interview
Interview by Haroula Nikolaidou (για ελληνικά κλικ στην ελληνική σημαία).
If there is one characteristic on the radio show “Eleven to One”, is the search for music from the past and the present. In both cases the procedure is not always easy because new bands are so many not to mention the endless music catalogue of the past . But, when I feel that I struck gold, my excitement is huge. And the next step is to address the source. The band itself.
The band Whoopie Cat consisted of five young musicians from Melbourne, Australia. Their music is very mature and disproportionate to their age in many ways. Maybe their most basic feature is the power of their sound and the fantastic melodies as well.
They were presented to us in 2016 with the EP “Whoopie Cat”, a blues rock collection of songs that gained the attention on You Tube worldwide.
In July 2018 they released their debut album “Illusion of Choice”. Their sound increased in leaps and bounds where progressive meets heavy blues and the sweet melodies on the guitars and vocals are always present.
This interview is addressed to Dan Smoo (Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar), Jesse Juzwin (Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals), Josh Brandon (Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals), Jaksen Juzwin (Drums) and Jo Eileen (Keyboards, Backing Vocals).
-Guys it is a huge pleasure for me to have this interview. Tell me how old are you? Jesse and Jaksen are brothers?
Hello and thank you for the interview, Dan Smoo and Josh Brandon are 26, Jesse Juzwin is 25, Jaksen Juzwin and Jo Eileen are 23.
Jesse and Jaksen are certainly brothers and Jo and Jaksen are partners.
-Psych revival on rock music is at its top. Already from your first release you have managed to create a completely personal sound with blues, prog and psych elements. Dan’s voice and Jaksen’s drums give the power to the band. Jesse’s guitar is so sweet on melodies and the inventive riffs complete your unique sound. Describe to me the story of the band. How did it all start and how did it lead to who you are now.
Dan Smoo and Josh Brandon have been jamming together since they were 14. They then met Jesse and Jaksen toward the end of high school and started a pop-punk band called Bad Repeat that lasted a few years before breaking up. We then took a year off to reevaluate and came back with a sound we could get more invested in and brought Jo Eileen into the mix for keyboard/vocals and began writing our self titled EP as Whoopie Cat.
-The first track of the album Illusion of Choice, “Ophidian”, is the brother of the last track “Cicada”, as I understand it. The pan flout sound on Jo’s keyboards is the connection between them as the duration of both tracks (11:23 and 11:01 respectively). I noticed that both creatures (Ophidian and Cicada) are on top of your official website. Do they symbolise something to you?
Dan Smoo and Jesse Juzwin both went to Peru in 2016 for a holiday and during their stay took part in an Ayahuasca ceremony. In Dan’s vision he became a horde of rainbow wireframe cicadas. To him, this horde of insects symbolised the positive energy of the universe resonating together to create the personal lives we experience.
Jesse finds it hard to translate his experience and prefers to let Ophidian speak for itself and let the listener decide what the lyrics mean to them, if they mean anything at all. The one thing he can say is that Ophidian means snake. This was a reoccurring negative theme during his visions. The snake had a connotation of fear and the cicadas of connection/love. We thought these symbols would be a good description of the concept album we created that it was loosely based on the concept of the 2 polar opposite frequencies, love and fear.
-Jesse’s guitar riffs are killers! A good example for that is the song “Dissolution”. The rhythm structure is a bad ass. And Jo’s keyboard sound is awesome by the way. Who are your guitar heroes Jesse?
To start off, Dan actually wrote most of these badass riffs for this song with the exception of the end riff. Jesse helped piece the song together with Dan after the structure was mostly written. Sorry to say that the song wasn’t inspired by that song. Jesse’s guitar heroes would mostly be Adam Jones of Tool, Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth, John Petrucci of Dream theatre, and of course Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi and Graveyard’s singer/guitarist (Joakim Nilsson).
-And who are Dan’s favorite guitarists?
Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, David Gilmore, and Robert Johnson to name a few.
-In “Gentle Goodbye” there is another brilliant guitar intro. And maybe some of the most beautiful guitar solos. Who writes the music and who writes the lyrics? Describe to me the process of the song writing and the recordings.
The music to Gentle Goodbye was written collaboratively by Dan Smoo and Jesse Juzwin, whereas the lyrics were written by Dan Smoo. Although, generally speaking, all songs are written the same way in the sense that one member will come in with a base tune/vocal melody and everyone will add their instrumental/vocal parts and build it into the songs you know.
-Which are your musical influences? Please name the bands and the musicians that you love.
Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Graveyard, Sunhouse to name a few. Basically any music with soul.
– “Sweet Jane”: You mean… “Jane” we all know?
This song has an unexpected fantastic change on its rhythm, where you expect that the song will come to its end. Thinking of this song, I have the feeling that when you write music you always have in mind the live performances. I would describe your music synthesis as piece of music specific for live. Am I right?
Sweet Jane was composed by Jesse Juzwin as an ode to his partner Holly Jane. We always make sure our music can be performed live. It’s all good to record something beautiful but unless it can be achieved live it is useless as a musician. That being said, there is always something extra that we will add in during the recording process and then have to rack our brains as how to achieve it live.
-Who takes the hard decisions for the band? Can you describe the part that each one of you has as a person in the band?
We are a family in Whoopie Cat, therefore all decisions for Whoopie are treated as such. We all have a valid opinion and equal vote in a decision. If we are undecided on a matter we generally discuss it as a group until we reach a compromise or resolution.
-In which cities of Australia have you performed? Have you ever played outside of Australia? Tell me your experiences from your concerts. How does the audience response to your music?
We are about to embark on our first interstate tour of Australia playing some rural shows as well as up the east coast. Our dream is to play internationally as we seem to have more fans internationally than in our own country. But are yet to get the finances to achieve it. We are hoping to do a European/US tour in 2020 but are seeing how this year treats us before we can commit to it.
As far as Melbourne gigs, responses to our music have been overwhelmingly supportive so far.
-On April 2019 you will be participating the Mojo Burning Festival on Australia. This is a big festival about bands from blues, psych and stoner rock scene. Congratulations for this participation. As you’ve already told me, the Greek band 1000Mods are going to participate too. Did you already know them and what is your opinion about their music?
We didn’t know about 1000mods until we saw them on the lineup for Mojo Burning, but after looking them up we are excited to play alongside them on a festival. Their rich creativity holds them high in the stoner/doom scene in our eyes.
-I think now that we got warmer, is the right time to ask you about the name of the Band. Does the word Whoopie mean good sex? If not, what “Whoopie Cat” means?
Hahaha we should go with that cause it sounds cooler. No, unfortunately our name was derived from a misheard lyrics from the song ‘Misty mountain hop’ by Led Zeppelin in which he says “would we care” but was heard by Jesse and Dan as ‘whoopie cat’ who loved it as a band name and had been searching for a name for the new band they were creating
-You have received excellent comments on YouTube. And the views on your songs are thousands. You have fans from all over the world including Greece. Did you expect that kind of response?
We definitely never expected the response we received on our self titled EP as it was posted on the page ‘Stoned Meadow Of Doom‘ (You Tube channel) so with a rainbow cat on the front cover and a lot of our music being softer blues we expected a lot of hate, but thankfully it seemed to go the other way quite dramatically. It’s always stunning to see the response our music has gotten around the world and across all age demographics. It fills us with joy to know people are loving what we create as it’s all we want to do in life.
-Tell me about the radio in Melbourne and Australia in general. Does the radio support new bands and rock music? Is it easy for you to get air play from the radio?
We have had minor airplay on smaller local radio stations and once on Triple J. With song lengths of up to 12 minuets we never really expected much radio play but to be honest we haven’t made a great effort to send our music into radio stations, we will begin making more of an effort this year and hopefully that provides to be fruitful.
-You don’t belong to any record label. The production is all made by you. Do you get support from the media considering that? What was the biggest difficulty you had to deal with?
It seems that most publicity is purchased now-days rather than people like your self reaching out to bands because they enjoy the music. So in that sense, we don’t really have a lot of support from our own media so our greatest difficulty is funding our dream of just recording and touring our music. With that being said, our fans have been extremely helpful in crowdfunding our last studio album “Illusion of Choice”.
-What do you mean by crowdfunding?
We ran a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo and raised just over $10000 by fans preordering limited edition Merch (shirts, CDs, vinyl)!
-Name some Australian musicians or groups you would love to play with.
Stonefield, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Holy Serpent, Karnivool.
-Your plans? What’s next?
So far, our next immediate goal is to tour Europe and the USA as well as writing our second LP but currently we are excited to embark on our first interstate tour and release some music videos for a few tracks off “Illusion of Choice“.