If you’re wondering who to give thanks to for CATNYP’s forthcoming new album, Catnyp IIII, you can address your thank you card to frontman Henderson K. Shatner’s ex-girlfriend, and former Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney. Yes, inspiration and motivation come from unusual places, and that’s certainly been the case with this brand new CATNYP material, which you can get a sample of today with the debut of the band’s hip new single “Big Sky.”
The latest song has an unmistakable retro sound to it, recalling the early days of the alternative rock movement in the 1990s when the Pixies were setting the stage for a musical revolution. Like the rest of the album “Big Sky” has an adventurous theme to it, with lyrics that celebrate Montana’s landmarks while pondering whether these places are becoming out of reach for common folk due to big business privatization.
Explaining the song’s origins and deeper meaning, Shatner told us,
“‘Big Sky’ started life as a collaboration with UK drummer Emily Dolan-Davies (Bryan Ferry, The Darkness, Tricky, The Hours). For various reasons it was backburnered until I revisited it for Catnyp IIII.
“This one was a lot of fun. Emily had done a longer track with a different arrangement and I was struggling to make it ‘Catnyp shaped.’ I was playing with a slippery, aggressive bass part so I took a cue from Pixies and chopped it all up into pieces and put it all back together in an interesting way. By that stage, my Fender Jaguar pretty effortlessly cut two intertwining surf guitar lines through the song, and it was off and running. Or I guess surfing…
“The song references the inevitable and inexorable privatization of public lands across the U.S. and how all too often people fall in love with the idea of place, only to go there and proceed to turn it into a copy of what they fled in the first place.”
When it comes to the direction that CATNYP IIII began to veer towards, Shatner credits his ex-partner for setting the tone for the album by suggesting he go back to his quirky pop-rock roots when he began writing these songs. More recent CATNYP material had become more layered with various instruments and production so for this release, he went for a more minimalist approach, mostly consisting of just one guitar, a bass, drums, and vocals. This created a rawer sound, but it also created a greater sense of energy, typical of most bands’ earlier releases before they become more established.
As for how McCartney came into the songwriting equation, Shatner took a cue from the rock n’ roll legend by playing all the instruments himself for the album, just as McCartney did on his most recent solo outing. This required Shatner to learn how to play the drums, which he competently did within a couple of months of starting. He then tore through the recording process at breakneck speed, recording 14 instrumentals, taking four days to write lyrics and melodies, and then tracking vocals. He’d get through as many as four to five songs a day, which has offered the album a certain degree of cohesiveness since everything was done in such a short period of time.
This is Shatner at his most musically liberated, feeling as lose and unencumbered as ever.