We caught up with Dan Byers of Little Star and talked about the band’s new album, turning poems into lyrics, antidepressants and sitting in traffic. The Portland trio’s new self-titled album comes out April 14.
Her name, Cat Hoch (pronounced “hawk”), sounds like a mythic hybrid of feline and flight, and that may be just about right. She is a badass beauty of intrinsic talent, naturally displaying prowess in drumming, guitar, bass, and a strong, angelic voice. She keeps herself busy, working more than one day job in coffee and vintage shops, while also finishing her BFA. Her name has also been circulating through the music community as she has had her hands in several musical projects. Now, she is focusing on her songs. She is fronting her own band and is set to release her first solo EP with the help of producer Riley Geare.
How is she managing? ELEVEN met up with her after she had just worked a double on two hours of sleep to find out.
ELEVEN: You have been asked to be a part of many musical projects. How does it feel to be in demand?
Cat Hoch: I don’t even know how it all got started. I’m not actually playing in any other bands, now. I’m playing everything to pursue my own thing. It definitely is special. With those bands, a lot of us are friends and I was always meeting someone through someone else. I also think there is a demand for drummers in Portland. And maybe in some ways it’s kind of a boy’s club, so there’s something about being a female musician, a female drummer, that is appealing. It’s been this super community to mix with.
11: What are some of the bands that you have played with?
CH: Tender Age, Appendixes, Jackson Boone, Eternal Tapestry, Daydream Machine, and forever ago a punk band called Sex Ghost. I also sang on a Black Ferns album. That’s all I can think of. There’ve been some other little things.
11: Do you think those bands have a lot of things in common or a similar sound?
CH: Oddly enough, no. They do all have a psychedelia commonality. But here lately, that term is really covering a lot. Daydream Machine felt like actual psychedelic grounding, they grew up and played with some of the most inspiring musicians to me. The other guys kind of branch off. Tender Age and Appendixes are really inspired by ’90s Britpop and shoegaze, like The Jesus And Mary Chain. Jackson Boone is more singer songwriter folk.
11: So you’ve really busy, obviously. Did that ever get overwhelming?
CH: Yes. Each relationship with these musicians was different. How can I put this? Playing in all of these bands is very similar to dating. You have all of these emotional relationships with people and at one point I just couldn’t function working full time and doing all of these things. I had been writing songs and really just wanted to try my own thing. So eventually I think it all just kind of fizzled out. Jackson Boone has been a good friend and inspiration, and he really encouraged me to concentrate on my own music. To just go by my name.
11: How did you start writing on your own, what was some of your lyrical inspiration?
CH: Well, I was in bands in high school. I grew up in Virginia outside of D.C. But I’ve lived all over. I moved to Portland from North Carolina. I would just write songs but not really do anything with them. A while back I was living with my boyfriend who was also in a band that was having success. But we had a tumultuous relationship, there was a lot of heartbreak going into that writing. I also studied abroad in England for a year, and that’s when I decided I really wanted to pursue music. I was inspired by the land, the people, by missing my boyfriend. I was writing a ton there.
I’ve always been into poetry, but songwriting is a different animal. I think of it more as melody maker, and then go into it lyrically. I’m such a firm believer in punk music, like I want the audience to interact. But I always end up singing about how sad I am. I would like to have more of a political drive. So yeah, after that, I just started tracking, making recordings and demos, in the basement of my home. I would just use headphones. I had no idea how to record, and it sounded terrible.
11: How do you think things have transitioned from the demos to your new EP?
CH: I didn’t track any demos with this. I went into the studio with Riley and was like “here’s the song,” and we just went at it. It was a lot of work. We re-wrote a lot. It’s taken us a while to get these songs done. I’m so thankful to have Riley, because I had a vision, and he made it come true.
11: You play every instrument, and you’re primarily a drummer, but on your EP Riley headed up most of the drum work?
CH: He wanted to play drums on all of the songs. He was headstrong about making the drums. We wrote the drum parts together, we would switch off and try different things. But on some songs I think drum-wise there were some things I wanted, but knew I couldn’t do, and he’s a genius. I did play drums on “Celestian.”
11: So when you guys recorded, it was just you?
CH: Yes, it was only Riley and I in the studio. He was such a coach yelling “more vocals!” I did layers and layers of harmonies, but Anna is my backup and harmonies during the live show.
11: And you lead and play guitar and sing. You play a lot of instruments. What’s your favorite?
CH: Drums are my favorite instrument. But I’ve been playing a guitar with a Bigsby vibrato on it. My first baby is a Fender, but it’s a little too much dad rock.
11: I keep hearing everyone saying dad rock.
CH: Yeah, like Van Halen, Pink Floyd.
11: You guys covered Pink Floyd’s “Breathe?” I imagine that sounded awesome with layered female vocals.
CH: We did at one time, with Anna’s voice it was great.
11: I saw that ABBA was listed as one of your influences.
CH: Haha, yes. When Look What You Found was coming out, I was listening to a lot of ABBA. I think my inner soul child is a ’70s disco mama.
11: So tell me more about your band.
CH: Eric Sabatino plays guitar and he also plays in Appendixes. Anna Tyler is of The Fur Coats and plays keys, synths, and vocals. Theo Craig plays bass. He used to book Rontoms, he has a show on XRAY.FM, and works with PDX Pop Now, he has his hands in everything, too. He was also in Mascaras. Our drummer is Adam Breeden, and it’s really nice to have him.
11: Who did the piano on the song “Archer?”
CH: It was Quincy McCrary from UMO.
11: How do you plan on releasing your EP?
CH: What’s hard is that Riley and I decided that we want to put this out on vinyl, but it’s really expensive. But one thing that’s happening is I found this friend, Jesse Robertson. He goes by Happy Dagger, he makes great music with some similar UMO-type vibes. We are going to attempt to release at least a split. Since vinyl pressing takes a couple of months and I have already planned my EP release, I’m just releasing digitally, for now.
11: Do you think you’ll be releasing a full length soon?
CH: Soon, within a year I hope. Like I said it took us a while just to get these four songs. But I’m writing so much right now. Riley and I have become close and I feel like we’re a good team. We are going to start tracking again in February. He helps me to slow down. I’m like Speedy Gonzales, thinking that things are done and ready to move on to the next thing.
I think that the next record will have the whole band come in and play. Back to the dating thing. It’s weird leading a band. At the end of the day I wanted to write my songs and get them out there. But we wanted to be a band, more than just my name. So I have to work with that.
11: You recorded a new song called “Waving” at a The Rock N Roll BnB. I had no idea a Bed and Breakfast with a recording studio existed on Sauvie’s Island.
CH: Yeah, Sean Flora’s Rock N Roll BnB reached out to us. They were looking for a band to record a song. It was last minute, and free publicity. They did a video. It sounded a little too good at first to be honest. But it ended up being awesome. It’s three levels, with a pool inside, on a beautiful flower farm. I think we may go back there to do the next record.
11: Are you shopping labels? Are labels shopping you?
CH: I sent my EP out to about 20 labels. I had a lot of interest, but no one has released it. It’s nice when labels just know who you are now. »
– Brandy Crowe