Cat Empire
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Nexus -Cat Empire
Cat Empire
Australian band The Cat Empire has built a formidable reputation for its infectious musical style - mixing rock, jazz and Latin sounds and now the Empire has invaded new territory in a musical experiment with the Australian Youth Orchestra.
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FELIX RIEBL, THE CAT EMPIRE: We come from a kind of a different musical world, a lot of jazz musicians and rock musicians and sort of worldly musicians and classical musicians seem to be in another category altogether. It was interesting for us to bridge that gap, really, and make string players perhaps do something that they wouldn't usually do.

HEATHER EWART: Their worlds couldn't be any more different. Yet, they're embarking on a big musical experiment together.

The famous fusion band The Cat Empire, who now tour the globe playing to sell-out crowds...

... and the elite Australian Youth Orchestra, a training ground for Australia's best and brightest classical musicians. The Australian Youth Orchestra has tried for two years to get this project up and running and finally The Cat Empire team has found a spare week to form workshops with the Australian Youth Orchestra. Their challenge is to teach each other a thing or two about musical styles. And they'll appear together in concert by week's end to show off the fruits of their work.

FELIX RIEBL: I think the one thing that we've always been good at is surprising people and doing things which are quite unexpected and people have never been able to categorise The Cat Empire, anyway.

HEATHER EWART: The usual Cat Empire fans are certainly in for a surprise this time. The band's aim at these workshops is to get the orchestra to abandon its traditional methods.

FELIX RIEBL: We are trying to get them to improvise and to do things they would otherwise not do.

COLIN CORNISH, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, AUSTRALIAN YOUTH ORCHESTRA: I think the process will actually bring them to the kind of brink of fear.

DALE RICKERT, AUSTRALIAN YOUTH ORCHESTRA: It's a pretty amazing experience coming from a background where we usually have to play what's written on the page to come and sit down and have people say, "OK, you sit down, play three minutes solo improvised".

ROSS IRWIN, THE EMPIRE HORNS: They're having to let go maybe a little bit more than they're used to which is exciting, and some people are really warming to it.

ALICE BUCKINGHAM, AUSTRALIAN YOUTH ORCHESTRA: The first morning was a bit kind of, "Oh, what are we going to be doing? How are we going to do this?" But once we eased into it, it was really natural.

HEATHER EWART: What do you think you're learning?

ALEXIS ROUTLEY, AUSTRALIAN YOUTH ORCHESTRA: I'm learning how to make the horn sexy.

HEATHER EWART: By mid-week it starts to become clear that The Cat Empire are learning from the orchestra, as well. Even the band sceptic was coming around.

HARRY ANGUS, THE CAT EMPIRE: To be honest with you, I actually wasn't interested in doing it, I wanted to have a week off. But it has been fun, I have to admit, in retrospect.

HEATHER EWART: There's a mutual feeling in the orchestra.

ALEXIS ROUTLEY: I've been very sceptical about the whole pop-classical cross over thing. Because it seems it doesn't always work. But the way they're doing it is not just The Cat Empire with a backing band it's The Cat Empire and us working to make something really special, which is fascinating to be a part of.

HEATHER EWART: And on the night, so it was. Is it something you might try again?

FELIX RIEBL: Absolutely. I've got a real twinkle in my eye about this. It's quite exciting.
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