Gypsy & The Cat
Ever so casually, Gypsy & The Cat leapt into the hearts of lovers of synth-soaked, falsetto vocals with their debut release, Gilgamesh in 2010. The affair didn’t stop there. The local introduction soon saw the duo, Xavier Bacash and Lionel Towers, launched onto the international touring circuit, casting their dreamlike sounds over a devoted audience. Now, four years after their acclaimed sophomore release, The Late Blue, Melbourne’s own masters of mystical melodies are marking the end of an eight year journey. Leaving us on an auditory high is Virtual Islands, their third and final album as Gypsy & The Cat. Topping it off with a national tour, the pop pair are celebrating their success in style.
Announcing that the upcoming album would be their last on their Facebook page, Bacash and Towers assure fans that the more than amicable end comes as a dual decision to discover themselves through different artistic incarnations.
“We both feel like there’s other things for us to do within the world of music,” says vocalist Xavier Bacash. “We’ve given three records to this alias and it’s time to branch out and explore our musical abilities as individuals. We’re really slow workers so we’ve been writing our last record over four years, but at the same time we’ve been crafting our other directions. Lionel wants to move in to film scoring and I’m going to have my own solo project under a new alias.”
Excited by the minimal constraints placed on creativity in Japan, the pair have spent a significant amount of time piecing together Virtual Islands overseas. Admittedly, the duo says that the challenge of remaining true to the Gypsy & The Cat sound throughout the last four years was at times difficult.“It was such a long, long writing process for this record,” says Bacash. “That’s the other thing about moving away from the band, the longer you go on with it, the more you grow as a musician and your musical tastes grow and you can’t include all of them in your music. We’ve always been a bit of a musical chameleon in that sense; all of our records have been quite eclectic genre-wise. It took us a long time to come to a place where we were interested enough by what we were writing. That challenge meant that we were constantly pushing ourselves, so I think the record is really thorough. It’s got different corners to it that after a couple of listens will be exposed to you.
“It sounds like a Gypsy & The Cat record because I’m singing on it. That’s the common denominator. We definitely have a style of melody writing and chord progression that we use that makes it sound like Gypsy & The Cat, but the sound sonically is quite different and quite exploratory. There’s techno-y sounds in there and a lot more organic instrumentation. We’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between techno jumps and an acoustic guitar.”
Not only are Bacash and Towers using the highly anticipated album to trial their untouched musical realms but also to show fans exactly what they’re made of. Bacash predicts that, one track in particular, Odyssey Of The Streets is set to impress.
“There are heaps of classical composition sections that we wrote for the song and they’re kind of stitched together,” he explains. “We wanted to show off the musical knowledge that we have. It’s easy for people that can’t play an instrument to get a music program, some soft synths, DFTs and plugins and start making a record. Because they’re so beefed up, people can con their way through. Moving into the future, the thing that will separate artists or bands will be their virtuosity. Back in the day, you had people doing ten-minute solos on songs, which won’t happen anymore, but it was that level of instrumentation. As this is our last record we wanted to display what we’re about and what we could do.”
Kicking off near the slopes in Thredbo, Gypsy & The Cat will be making their way to Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane next month. The final tour will see the pair sharing a setlist of their new material as well as some older favourites that haven’t seen the stage for some time.
“When you’re putting out a new record, you always have to play the new music but this will be more of a best of show,” says Bacash. “We will be playing songs we haven’t played for four or five years and will hopefully get a few people that we’ve worked with to come and join in. It’ll be sad but it’s going to be a fun time. The Melbourne show will be quite wild because all my family and friends who are there at every single show will be there. It’ll be more about the fans and people coming together and celebrating the journey that we’ve been on.”
With a career that boasts ARIA chart success and award nominations, countless tours across the globe and some serious attention from triple j, Bacash says that there are plenty of high points on which to ponder. Expectedly, certain collaborations come to mind.
“We did a song with Paul Kelly two years ago (Climb Into The Music), that was an amazing experience because I’ve looked up to Paul throughout my entire life. I actually wrote about him in my year 12 final exam – we studied his lyric book. It was pretty phenomenal to sit there and be writing a song with him. Having our album (Gilgamesh) in the triple j Hottest 100 Australian Albums Of All Time was pretty special. For me, that’s the biggest thing.”
As he speaks about his musical confidant, it’s clear that Bacash is going to miss the instantly instinctive nature of his partnership with Towers. However, he asserts that their personal and professional relationship will continue to grow alongside their separate careers.
“Lionel and I are still so close and he comes into the studio every couple of weeks, has a listen to what I’ve been doing and puts his two cents in,” he says. “Sitting down and starting a song with him is very easy to do, I’ll miss that kind of compliancy of sitting down and writing something and by the end of the day it pretty much being fully formed. It’s always a longer process on your own but I’m excited about that too. There’s a bittersweet side to it. There’s an intuition when we work together, we never really discuss it. When you’re writing an album you don’t really know what the next song should be, you just start making it. A lot of the time we'd feed off each other and the energy – working for nearly a decade together that became really in tune. It was a privilege to work with him.”
After building their own record label, Alsatian Music, the duo are the ultimate endorsers of DIY. Imparting some parting wisdom on their fellow creatives, Bach says that super fans were their saviour when they became a “stillborn act” on their previous label.“We were lucky that there was a fanbase and we had people there that would buy our records and come to our shows, it's kept us afloat over all these years,” says Bacash. “I totally understand why people are starting their own labels or putting stuff out independently because record labels are so insecure, they will only jump on something when it’s already huge and at that point it’s like ‘Why would we sign to you anyway?’ That'd be my biggest advice to any up and coming artist. You’ve just got to follow the guidelines and make great music first and foremost.”
Finally, when asked if he has any last thoughts to share with Gypsy & The Cat fans, Bacash leaves us with a simple yet touching aspiration. “I absolutely have to say, thank-you. Hopefully in their later years they’ll be playing our records and explaining the time they had with it to their kids.”
BY PHOEBE ROBERTSON
GYPSY & THE CAT will say farewell at Howler on Saturday September 24. Virtual Islands is out Friday August 5 via Alsatian.