I first saw Cat Signs play back in 2013 at the Wayfarer, when it was still called the Detroit Bar, and Anthony Perry was still the bassist of the Growlers. “That was one of our first shows,” Perry told me, reminiscing fondly over what started out as a side project. Although the band had been hatched nearly four years ago, Cat Signs wasn’t officially “full time” until the beginning of this year. And boy what a year.
With years of material ripe for recording, Cat Signs started laying down tracks at Perry’s house on an old Tascam. But the final final album, The Fine & Mellow, recorded by Kyle Mullarky at his Pump House, will be their official debut. For now, check out their single “New Colour”, an older song with a taste of what’s to come. And read our interview with the band below. –Maya Eslami
This interview took place in January outside Non Plus Ultra (RIP)
WHAT YOUTH: Tell me how the band started?
CAT SIGNS: Well, I was doing the Growlers, and I started to miss writing my own music and singing, like with TRMRS, so I was like, I’m just gonna start Cat Signs.
A few of the members of Cat Signs were in TRMRS, right?
My buddy Max was in TRMRS, he plays drums in Cat Signs. His dad’s Casey Royer from D.I. and Adolescents, who I grew up listening to. And Albert joined around then and played bass. So when TRMRS fizzled out, after a while I was like, I wanna continue playing with Max. He’s my best friend, and we’ve always played music together and gotten along musically on that frequency. And I wanted to play music with my brother. He’s one of the reasons I even started playing. I started playing guitar with him and was like, Max should play drums, and Albert should play bass. Cat Signs, in a way, almost continued off of TRMRS, but completely different.
Where’d the name come from?
The name came about because Brooks – we had a party at the old studio, the one you’ve been to.
The warehouse that burned down?
Yeah. I was drunk with Brooks in the kitchen and we were joking around about how there’s a sign for everything, like your color sign. We were just making up stuff, and he was like, “What’s your cat sign?” And I probably said “tabby” or something like that, and Brooks goes, “By the way, that should be your band name.” And like, that’s awesome. I love cats. I know you love cats.
I definitely love cats. Back to Cat Signs. Tell me about your brother joining the band. Had you guys played together before then?
I mean, we grew up together. We’ve always been playing music together. But never officially. All my life my brother’s always shown me rad punk bands that my mom didn’t really care for. And he’d teach me the songs that we’d listen to, how to play ‘em. Like we’d listen to “Static Age” and then he’d show me how to play it. So we always played, but never on an official scale. Finally when I was gonna start a new band, I was like, dude. I want my brother to play guitar.
And how long have you known Max and Albert?
Albert, who plays bass, I started playing guitar with him when I was in tenth grade. He taught me so much. Max and I started playing when I was a freshman. All the people I play with in Cat Signs have been the most influential on me, musically. Michael, my brother, we got guitars when I was in fourth grade. It’s a family band. And even though my actual brother plays guitar, I consider the other guys my brothers, too. Just like with the Growlers. We’re all brothers.
And the lineups been the same ever since?
Yeah, we haven’t switched anyone. So now, I’ll be focusing on doing my own thing, only doing Cat Signs. We have a bunch of new songs that we’re recording at our house. And we’re gonna rerecord with Kyle Mullarky at his studio in Topanga during April and May. We’re really stoked to get going on that.
How many songs do you have down?
We have 8 songs so far that we did recently, they’ll be the album. We’re calling it “The Fine & Mellow”. But we have about 40 songs that are in our total “collection”
How are you recording at your house?
I have a Tascam 688 cassette, and we’re bouncing that to the computer and using Ableton, and adding weird analog type sounds, but it’s still pretty digital. And at Kyle Mallarkys, he has a 16 track 1-inch tape machine that he runs onto his computer with Pro Tools.
How do you like that sound?
It’s awesome. It’s nice to be able to control it through the computer. But then have it run through that analog sound. That’s kind of in line with all the records I’ve done, only a couple have been solely tape.
Does it pick up the crackle of analog?
Yeah, it just adds a different element that you can naturally hear. And then when you get into the digital, you can kinda get that vibe, but you still know it’s not from there. If you’re kinda going with lo-fi garage things, you can actually get away with digital. Back when I first started, if you wanted that garage sound, you couldn’t really accomplish it on a computer. You had to use analog. Nothing really compares with that tangible vibe and sound that tape has.
What do you think about that? The fact that you can manipulate digital to sound like analog?
I mean, however anyone wants to record, I’m cool with. I used to be all “analog guy” but time’s have changed, you gotta go with what’s new, and that’s what I think is cool about Cat Signs, we have a new sound, but you can’t put a time on it. I feel like it’s timeless, almost. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish, at least. I’m not saying we are, but we’re trying.
So back to the album. You guys have a release date yet? Are you done recording?
We’re gonna release a single a week for the month of April that we’re calling “April Tunes Day!”, which will be composed of mostly songs that we’ve kinda been playing for a while, that we recorded with Bobby Harlow at the Burger Studio (now Gnar Tapes) in Highland Park. And after that we’re gonna debate whether to release a single from “The Fine & Mellow” before it’s even pressed for the consumers. I know that we’re gonna be coming out with a video soon, so super pumped to just flood our fans with musical content that to be honest, we have been depriving them of, since we are so particular about songs, like critiquing whether or not we could do it better and if it sounds good enough. So we just said fuck it, while we keep them waiting for the debut album, lets put out some of the tunes we like from the Harlow recordings.
You seem super stoked about it all.
I am stoked. This year is a new year for me. To be able to start the actual year off with a clean slate – almost like a new chapter in my life, being able to solely focus on music that I’ve written with Cat Signs, and just do my own thing, which is what I’ve always been striving to do. I’m really excited. Someone came last night who worked in Phoenix during the day, then drove after work and made it to our show in Costa Mesa, with his buddy. Just to see us play.