Bewitching songstress Cat Tassini, along with Alex Margolin, joined brothers Taylor and Aaron Eichenseer to form the dreamy synthpop band Wildcat Appollo. Earlier this week we had the chance to talk to this enchanting artist about her role in the band, the importance of nurturing your art, and, of course, their brand new killer debut album.
Who are some artists (or people in general) who have influenced you and your work?
I was very lucky because growing up, my dad introduced me to lots of great classical music and classic rock and the Impressionists and Art Nouveau, and my mom took me to the city to see the American Ballet Theater and Broadway shows. And everyone in my family is a classic movie nut. So those have definitely influenced me. I have to mention the great Lou Reed, since he recently passed away, and how important the Velvet Underground (& Nico) have been to me, ever since I bought a compilation of their songs in the 8th grade. I’ve been strongly inspired by the whole downtown New York scene, including Andy Warhol and the various Factory personalities, Patti Smith, and Television. I’ve also been influenced by the work of Carl Jung, Maya Deren, Lykke Li, Yoko Ono, Cat Power, Herman Hesse, Joni Mitchell, Odilon Redon, Edvard Munch, Ingmar Bergman, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Rilke…this list really could go on for days because I am constantly reading, watching movies, going to see art, etc.!
How did Wildcat Apollo get started? Share with us, if you could, the early formation of the band. We really dig the name, I have to say.
Wildcat Apollo is actually the product of Taylor, Aaron and Alex playing together in various incarnations over the years. They all grew up together in Austin and played in a band together in NYC as well. Wildcat Apollo formed in 2012, and I officially joined it a couple months later. I was very intimidated at first because I had never been in a band before and my only musical experience was a few months of piano as a kid and voice lessons for a year and a half in college. But Taylor and Alex and Aaron encouraged me a lot, and we sort of went underground for a year to work on our musicianship and sound and songwriting. So after a year of busting my ass with everyone else, I feel much more confident and capable. Thanks, we like our name too. It came to us by chance. I won’t tell the story, because I like a little mystery.
What sort of challenges has your band encountered being based in two locations? What are some advantages to this duality?
Being based in two locations is definitely a challenge. Right now Aaron is living in Austin and the rest of us are in New York, which makes things feel less cohesive. When we’re all together, like last summer when we went to Austin to prepare for and record our first album or when Aaron comes to NYC to play shows, it makes us focus and use our time wisely. And it’s great to have connections in both places and to experience each of them. They’re both great cities for music. But we are going to resolve the issue by moving to Austin in a couple months. To us Austin is a better fit because it’s much less expensive and you can have more space, so you don’t have to practice in a tiny basement box or worry about the neighbors as much. And of course there are tons of music festivals, venues, etc. New York has a special magic about it that makes you want to go out and conquer the world. But the reality of surviving here is so draining that it’s hard to keep making art. Austin is less exciting, but I find the more relaxed pace and natural beauty very artistically stimulating. Of course our ultimate goal is to be a touring band and be on the road a lot of the time and record albums in all different places.
Talk to us a little about your super rad debut album. Congratulations, by the way. What was the process like? How do you feel now that it’s been released?
Our album is the culmination of a year of hard work. My favorite songs on it were written during our summer in Austin, and they show how much our band has grown. For me, the recording process was completely new and alien. Taylor was recording our demos last spring, and he had done some recording with a previous band. But I didn’t have much of a clue and I was really thrown into the fire because we could only get 9 days in the studio. We were doing twelve hour days! It was really fun though. I felt like I was at summer camp or a slumber party. After Austin, we re-recorded some stuff back in NYC and Taylor did more production work so we could really get our ideal sound. We definitely all learned a lot and Taylor grew a lot as a producer. I feel proud of it and I even like listening to it, but it’s also our first record so it’s not like I think it’s perfect. I’m glad we have something to share with the world and that we get to go out and play shows instead of just practice, practice, practice. It’s always a good feeling when you finish an artistic project and have something to show for all the hard work you’ve done.
Music aside, your an artist across various mediums. Would you mind sharing some of your accomplishments in the art world?
Most recently, I finished editing a music video for the Wildcat Apollo song “No.6” and am getting geared up to shoot a new one with BullMoose Pictures in a few weeks. I showed visual and video art at the RAW:Brooklyn group showcase this past October. Also in October, I had an older Wildcat Apollo music video screened at the Bushwick Film Festival. In the past, my work has been staged and screened at the New Media Festival Los Angeles, the 14th Street Y, Williamsburg Fashion Weekend, the Loom, Secret Project Robot, and DUOC in Santiago de Chile.
How has your education and experience in the art world shaped your band?
My education at NYU was all over the place but I loved it and I developed skills that I bring to the band. I have a really strong vision that art school helped me develop and hone, and I bring an interdisciplinary skill set to the table. When I say I was a theater major, people think I just studied acting and ask “So you want to be on Broadway?” but it was much more diverse than that. I did study acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory for my first two years of college, and I also got very into creating my own movement-based theater pieces there. After that, I interned at Secret Project Robot for credit, took a filmmaking course, took an art direction class, did a performance workshop in Chile, and studied Renaissance Art in Italy. My senior year, I took directing and set design classes and finished up my Art History minor credits. In the band, I use my design skills to design our album art and work on our website, and I direct and edit our music videos. And of course, I use my performing skills when we play live. The art world has shown me that that having lots of different areas of interest is a great thing – most artists these days work in more than one medium, have more than one career, etc.
What are your plans for 2014?
I’m looking forward to the adventure that will be moving to Austin. I’ve gotten tastes of it by visiting, but I’m really excited to explore it more and make it my own. I plan to play lots more shows, record more, shoot more videos, make more friends, and become a better musician and artist. Also I just decided I’m going to learn how to read tarot!
And one last question before we let you go: what are some words of wisdom for budding artists and musicians? Anything you’d like to share?
My advice to budding artists and musicians is to get out there and do what you love. The most important thing to have as an artist is self-motivation. You have to be the one to push yourself to practice and show your work and make connections. There’s every excuse in the world not to be an artist. It’s so easy to listen to your doubts or discouraging things people have said to you. The arts (and artists) are severely undervalued in our culture and you will encounter a lot of hurdles. So you have to constantly fill yourself with positivity and look for inspiration and be your own cheerleader. Be confident and take risks. Be open. If you put energy into it, so many opportunities will open to you – so you have to be ready to reach out and grab them! The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is great for getting through blocks and learning how not to listen to the negative voices in your head (or outside it). Also, learn how to talk to people and write about your art (or music or whatever). Use social media to your advantage. If you feel shy or uncomfortable, try to remember why you love what you do, and let that passion be your guide. And take care of yourself! Physically, emotionally, spiritually. You don’t have to suffer to make great art. You need to nurture yourself.
ATTENTION NEW YORKERS:
Wildcat Appollo with Your 33 Black Angels, Crown Larks, and The Veldt TONIGHT!
Location: LEGION @ 790 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
When: 8:30PM, Friday 11/15
Aaron Eichenseer guitar, bass
Taylor Eichenseer vocals, guitar, bass
Alex Margolin drums
Cat Tassini vocals, synth
Buy the new album on iTunes!
Renée Aubern is a California born, New York bred poet, writer of songs, and kook. Constantly on the move, she documents the world around her in photographs and notebook scribbles. @reneeaubern