Chasing Tails with Cat Dad
Welcome to the 15th edition of the IMF Artist Profile, a series dedicated to the Indie Music Feedback community. The goal of this series is to take a look at the personal lives of some of IMF’s biggest contributors, giving you a peek into who they are as human beings. We’ll pull back the curtain as far as our guests allow and hopefully we will all walk away with a better understanding of the music these individuals are creating as we learn more about them.
Our friend Ian was born and raised in Tucson, AZ. An absolutely gorgeous area of the United States, Tucson is flanked by Saguaro National park, a massive and beautiful place with mountains and some of the largest cacti on earth. Ian’s feline family consists of Lin and Mac (Linguini and Macaroni), his self-proclaimed daughters. Currently studying for a Bachelor’s in Percussion Performance at the University of Arizona, Ian also keeps busy with his music production tutoring side job, alongside his current accompanist job at a local dance school. Most of his hobbies outside of school, music, and work are playing games, messing around with creating music hardware, and fricken rollerskating! How cool is that? Ian found IMF earlier this year when he was attempting to promote his 2nd album (New World, it’s amazing!) when he came across the IMF on Reddit and decided it might be fun to see what people thought of his live performance of Sorceress (one of the tracks off that album). In his words, “People liked it, I liked how their feedback system worked, and when I found their discord I loved all of the people and games that were around”.
Cat Dad’s music reminds me of sitting in my grandparent’s basement with my cousin playing SEGA till 2am and then waking right back up around 7am to play some more. Most of his tracks have a distinct dance groove peppered with a ton of layers to add nuance and style. Knowing more about Cat Dad at this point in time, I can finally put together where all of the percussive layers are coming from and genuinely appreciate them a lot more. Listening to Coastal specifically makes me feel like I’m walking through a level in some Cyberpunk cityscape videogame. Neon lights reflecting in the puddles on the street, the salty sea air whipping around me as it all culminates in some high stakes boss fight. Overall I find Cat Dad to be hypnotic and nostalgic with a strong emphasis on unique percussive approaches to filling out each beat.
Now onto the questions:
Baaz: Most of your tracks make me feel like I’m living inside a Nintendo game. From the 8-bit influences to the dance-like lofi style. What are some major sources of inspiration for you when you sit down to create a song?
Cat Dad: I’m glad that my songs sound somewhat video-gamey! I feel as though I never really have a solid genre to grasp on to whenever I’m writing but whatever comes out is whatever comes out in that regard haha. My biggest inspirations when I’m making music are definitely Tennyson, WRLD, DAOKO, and RIOT. It’s a little odd sometimes whenever I list my inspirations because I don’t think I ever end up sounding like them, but I love their music and frequently use similar song structure or format that they use even if it might not be the same sounds, mixing, etc.
Baaz: Your music video for Rebooted is funny and a little bit sad, but it also seems hopeful. What was the motivation for this song? Why did you choose to make a video for it?
Cat Dad: Rebooted is the product of a relatively lonely night in April that came about thanks to a Robot voice VST that I downloaded and wanted to mess with. A lot of the lyrics came from my own thoughts on how I thought it would feel to be lost and out of time in an age that is so rapidly evolving. As a musician trying to get my name out, I always feel like if I’m not keeping up with everything happening in the world then I’m behind, and need to reboot. This song got a video because I really wanted to make a robot outfit out of all the cardboard we had in our spare room. This song was actually signed by a German record label, Bringnewunity, so I didn’t know when they were going to release the song until it was already released, but once it was I began video production immediately. Also, it had been a while since I made a proper music video and I figured this would be a fun project to distract me from the world’s happenings.
Baaz: I’m extremely fascinated to learn that you’re studying for a BM in Percussion Performance. Can you explain some of the coursework you’ve taken and how you decided to specify in this major?
Cat Dad: I always feel like a Jack of All Trades — Master of None whenever trying to specialize in specific areas, so one of my motivations for getting a degree in Percussion Performance was to try and have something that could break from this generalized skill set area. I dip my toes into a bit of all walks of art, but I have been doing percussion since 7th grade and once I got into Drumline in high school it became a big deal for me. So far in my degree, I’ve been doing a lot of standard theory, piano methods, music history, and ensemble coursework, but the most unique of all of these has definitely been the electronic percussion ensemble that I joined my freshman year, Crosstalk. This ensemble is the reason why Cat Dad exists, and the reason why I use Ableton Live. Now that I’m a senior, this is going to be my fourth year in Crosstalk, and what that entails is composing and arranging music for the ensemble to play, live mixing if not playing on a piece, and if you are playing: programming and performing on MIDI instruments. It’s all been such a fun time and I don’t think that I would be here today without them.
Baaz: Elaborate on your accompanist job at the dance studio. What is it that you’re doing here and what about it do you enjoy the most?
Cat Dad: Well, freshman year our Percussion Director asked if anyone had experience in hand drumming and wanted to work with the dance studio. I vaguely knew how to play hand drums, and said “Ah yes, I can do that.” Since then, it’s been history. I work with Modern Dance classes, everyone assumes that I’m a grad student (which is pretty fun), and I have improved exponentially in hand drumming since. When starting out, I barely could play along with the class, but now I can pretty much whip out patterns and fills on the fly. Everything is improvised of course so even if I mess up, no one will know or care (unless it ruins a performance).
Baaz: Can you share some of the musical hardware you’ve created?
Cat Dad: As mentioned earlier, Crosstalk is the reason why I do a lot of the things I do today, and while working with the MIDI instruments in Crosstalk, I became curious about the mechanisms within these drum pads and decided that I should figure out how they work and make my own. Turns out it’s both simpler in theory but way harder to build than I thought. When I was a Sophomore I built a large cubed drum interface with pads on either side inside the box, it was called the DAD (Digital Audio Device) and it ended up as quite the design failure. After this, I got an old briefcase from a yard sale for around $2 and turned the inside of that into a 4 pad drum interface which once again had some fatal design flaws. At the moment, I’m in the process of designing another drum interface, but aside from that I just got all the parts in to create my own Light harp! For those that are unaware, a light/laser harp is a fan of lasers that send MIDI data to trigger instrument notes when a bean is broken (i.e. you hit the laser, it plays a note). With this light harp, I’m hoping to create a small enough enclosure to make it a portable Bluetooth device that I can bring with me anywhere. Also, I’m kind of hoping that this light harp project will be a good portfolio filler for when I go on to Grad School.