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Interview: Felix Riebl

Felix Rieble press release

Melbourne wordsmith and frontman of The Cat Empire Felix Riebl has just released his second solo album ‘Paper Doors’. Following on from his first solo album ‘Into The Rain’, Felix shows us a new side to his music with 10 tracks inspired by the quiet moments of his career. We caught up with Felix ahead of his tour for a chat about the new album and his best moments with The Cat Empire.

What was the inspiration behind ‘Paper Doors’?

I’ve found a lot of songs in in-between places and about things that I usually wouldn’t have written about. It’s a really curious album to me and a very light spirited one as well, which I really like. The song Paper Doors starts off in a place I associate with being on a long haul flight. Usually those things are tedious, but occasionally though there are moments when it’s really quite special.

The image of the light out of a wing piece of a plane, imagined by the person sitting on the plane, imagined by the person down on the ground looking up at it, I was really interested in that subtle small light for this album and that seems to have been the best starting point for it. 

How does ‘Paper Doors’ differ from your previous solo album ‘Into The Rain’?

‘Into The Rain’ is a more emotionally dense album, it’s a kind of highway album. It’s got a sounds which is more on the traditionally band side of things. Into the rain was just a sound and every song was that sound from the studio. ‘Paper Doors’ is more exploratory in terms of its production. It has moments of space and quite, moments of bombastic sounds, and the electrics sides of things sweeps through it a lot more than relatively organic band sounds. It’s a more experimental album.

You’ve spoken about the importance of writings songs that “reside in an atmosphere”. What atmospheres are you trying to build in the new album?

The atmospheres crept up on us at certain points. The song Snowflakes came up very slowly, there was a lot of space between the phrases and notes. I wasn’t sure when we recorded it if we were playing in slow motion or not. This great space came up and out of that subtle african-like guitar lines crept in that were very unexpected. I loved performing it in that much emptier magic space. That was an atmosphere, that after i experienced that, I really tried to be aware of and tried to direct the songs that happened after that. I think atmosphere works as a bit of a surprise more than anything and I was really excited by that.

What’s your favourite track off the new album?

I like the title-track Paper Doors. It’s not necessarily my favourite song, but I like it because when I wrote it, it was a really different kind of song to write. It was very liberating to do that, to write a song that was totally unexpected about something that I didn’t understand. I think that that for me takes the album away from being a series of songs about your own feelings about stuff and turns it into something which is more unexpected both for the person signing it and to the person listening to it. That feeling is one is really worth wild following for me and it’s probably the reason that I’m most excited about this album.

Does the creative process differ writing for a solo album vs writing for The Cat Empire?

Not really, I mean sometimes…The Cat Empire has the advantage that I’ve played a lot of shows with that band so I can recall playing at a certain theatre of festival, not literally but atmospherically. Because it’s such a live band, when I go to write songs for that I often think about how’s this going to best sponge through to that live atmosphere. But having said that, there are songs that I were sure was going to be ‘Cat Empire songs that turned out to be solo songs. Songs have a kind of life of their own, thats how I like to think of them. They sort of decide where they want to go themselves!

I’ve heard you keep track of the number of gigs you’ve played. Is this true?

Oh yeah, our drummer Will keeps track. I think we’re well over eleven hundred now. He’s been keeping a spreadsheet…

Best performance memory of your career so far?

I know it’s a cliche, but probably Royal Albert Hall with The Cat Empire. I sang the encore with my brother Max, which was a very special moment for me. That room has got such a great atmosphere. It’s really my favourite show that I’ve done!

Seeing as you’ve been in the music industry for almost two decades, what are your feelings about the shifts that have occurred in music industry in relation to how we listen to music?

I listen to Spotify, I think it’s pretty amazing what streaming can offer. But I also have a really big CD and record collection. I think the industry’s changing and it’s going to go where it’s gonna go. There are a lot of challenges on both sides, especially for musicians moving forward. But in terms of the medium, I think it’s also a very exciting time.

Lastly, you’re about to kick off your national tour in September. Do you have any pre-gig rituals?

I go through stages with that stuff. With The Cat Empire sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I do absolutely nothing. With my show I have bit more reverence because it’s a much more unfamiliar space. Theres a kind of a blackness and a quiet that I get from that stage. Also, because I’m playing piano and singing a lot of the time I have to be a bit more concentrated them I am when I play for The Cat Empire. I don’t have a specific ritual, but I do like to say some kind of a prayer to some mysterious god of the stage!

Read our review of The Cat Empire’s latest album ‘Rising With The Sun’ HERE and check out Felix Riebl’s tour dates below!

Felix Riebl ‘Paper Doors’ Tour Dates

The Producers, Adelaide
Lizottes, Newcastle
Newtown Social Club, Sydney
Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne

Get Tickets HERE