Opposites might attract, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a clean fusion. Take Brighton’s Cat The Dog; a band borne out of natural aggression. Even their name comes inspired by violence, the logic going that if a cat and a dog were to exist in the same body, the beast would be a craven, violent thing, thrown together from opposite worlds: the feline hunter and the passive canine together, making a monster so delectable that it shouldn’t really exist.
Cat The Dog – the band that is – shouldn’t really make sense themselves. Pungent desert rock in the same body as spring-loaded new wave; urban paranoia underpinning occult psychedelics; these four young riders on the storm make new magic from old spells; and even they seem to be scared of what they seem to be about to achieve. With ingredients stretching from Television and New York Dolls to Kings of Leon and Queens of the Stone Age to Beach Boys and Beatles to The Pretty Things and The Stones to Cheap Trick and The Cars; together they light a sonic touchpaper and everyone else stands well back. The chain that led to Cat The Dog stretches throughout rock’n’roll time and space, and, in the physical realm, from Vancouver to Brighton. “We just beat the songs to death really,” says Chris Mellion, “and it rubs off on us.”
What was always in perfect harmony was the friendship between Chris Melian and Andy Newton; from the moment they were expelled from separate schools and found themselves the new outlaws in their locker room.
The two became instant blood brothers and proceeded to tear up their unique brand of hell around their new block, building on their musical fascinations, developing a love for The Doors, and sixties psyche and beat groups when they would have been learning about civil wars and algebra. When Andy was suspended he made a snap decision, and quit school on the spot. Well, he did; Chris had to get permission from his parents because he was only 17.
“We did it,” says Andy; “we stood up and thought; ‘we’re both gonna drop out of school today. And we’re gonna join a band and move to England and we’re gonna have it.’ That’s what we were saying to all these people’ and they were like, ‘you’re just a bunch of wreckheads.”
But Toronto was already too small to hold them, with a big hip-hop culture but not much for young bands. Besides, since the drinking age is 19, they weren’t actually allowed to play any gigs. So with $1000 each, they boarded a plane, with only a phone number of a distant aunt of Chris’ and a plan for world domination.
Flying into Manchester on Andy’s 19th birthday, they befriended a goth outside the city’s towering tourist jewel the Urbis complex and spent the weekend lowering the tone in spectacular style. By the time they arrived in Euston, they had spent all the money. “We got to Euston Station and thought, ‘fuck what have we done? We had no phone, no nothing, we couldn’t even figure out how to dial the numbers to call his aunt’.
They tried living in a hostel, where they were to work for their board, except they didn’t show up for their shifts, so they had their bags thrown out of the windows. So they found a park in Greenwich and slept there. “It was so cold we put on everything we owned,” says Andy, “we were burning our shirts to start fires and stuff. We slept in the park for a good two weeks.” When they got bored of the park, they slept in a cemetery. “What else are you gonna do when you’ve got no money and you don’t know anyone. You’d just got fucking fired. We were like, ‘fuck it, this is amazing’.”
The next and last stop on their travels was Brighton, where they met Darryl and Dan. And that was where the fusion would become even deadlier.
Darryl Pruess, a music obsessive with influences stretching from jazz to sixties beat to the Dead Kennedys to Captain Beefheart, had moved to Brighton for the same reasons as Chris and Andy, though from a less far flung location in the south east. After a number of aborted bands, he found his holy grail in the Canadians through a mutual friend and together they started to jam, mixing a buzzy new wave sinew into the brew. In the short term, Dan Logan, a boy home-schooled by his hippie parents, joined the band.
Dan had been a hip-hop child, until his one day his Dad declared: “this music’s shit,” and brought a box of records down for him to gorge on: Zeppelin, Chuck Berry, The Kinks, Lindesfarne. “He told me that was the music I should be listening to, and it changed my world.” So he had the ‘Gotta Leave’ experience too, moving down for the same reasons on the recommendation of his sister.
The experience of leaving home and being flung together bonded the foursome and inspired one of Cat The Dog’s earliest and fiercest tunes: ‘Gotta Leave’. But, says Andy, “it was more getting away from a moment in our lives, it’s not getting away from the place itself. We didn’t hate Canada, it’s a pretty cool place. But at the time it didn’t fit what we wanted to do.”
With the full line-up complete, they had a name, a clutch of songs and before long, a flat to share in Brighton. Their journey had properly begun.
Now, two years on, they’re ready to work that magic on the world at large. Two-parts desert rock drawl, one-part new wave dynamism, all parts utter chaos, Cat The Dog find themselves mining a virgin sound. “All we knew at first was we
wanted to sound loud, really loud,” says Andy. “We’ve dabbled around so much, we started off like a real Sonic Youth art thing, and then we built in the sixties music, you need to do that just to find where you really want to be. But at the end of the day, how we sound is how we feel. We just try to give it everything.”
And right now they’re plotting their debut album with legendary producer Jack Douglas (credits include New York Dolls, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick), the first fruits of which being the snarling calling card ‘Devil In Me’ – a call to their legions of future fans to, er, commit suicide.
“That has a suicidal tendency,” nods Andy. “It’s almost, in a weird way a good core symbolism of the band - although it’s about suicide, telling people to go and kill themselves. But everybody’s thinking it and we’re saying it; that the world’s getting fucked up pretty soon, so we might as well just live for today so we don’t have to think about tomorrow.”
But with future pop smashes ‘Gotta Leave’ and ‘One Up One Down’ still to come from their arsenal, it’s not all doom and gloom – there’s too many tunes for that. And for Cat The Dog; far, far too many good times on the road ahead. Stand well back.
Cat The Dog are:
Chris Melian – lead vocals and guitar
Darryl Pruess – guitar
Dan Logan – bass
Andy Newton – drums
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