A musician once asked me if I was mad at him. When I told him I wasn’t, a wave of calm washed over him, he shared his music with me and became my friend.
Since then, I have also been on a mission to make sure people are not mad at me. That mission has failed time and time again, but I’ll be dammed if I don’t give it another try, be it by talking your ear off, writing, music, trying to be funny, anything… Now, years later, I joined another old friend who unlike me never abandoned music for a moment, and who had learned an important truth in the process: that chasing acceptance through creativity is like herding cats. In fact the title of his project was Like Herding Cats, and he was ready to make it come alive.
A year ago, just when my creative passions were degenerating into mere hobbies, I heard a familiar rhythm, a melodic sensibility in an EP mailed to me by that band-mate from my teens. It was evident he had decided to put up a final fight against mere survival by committing to his best work. His name was Dom P. I couldn’t help working with him immediately.
The Lit Lounge date for the CMJ Festival in this video was changed to 10/13 at Fat Baby.
Getting back in touch energized us into joining with post-punk revival heroes Kevin McAdams, the drummer of Elefant, and Tim Jansen, the bassist of The Hourly Radio for a collaborative, four-piece Like Herding Cats.
After a year of bringing our inspiration out to gigs all over New York City, the CMJ Festival has offered Like Herding Cats two showcases in 2015, Fat Baby in New York’s Lower East side on October 13, and Pine Box Rock Shop in Brooklyn on October 15th.
A new recording is in the works. Back when Dom P. and I reunited, I wrote a review of that original, eponymous EP. Here it is again:
New Wave and The Art of Herding Cats
There is a certain inimitable swing, a sway, a wind rocking Dom P. of Like Herding Cats, new wave’s new guard, shaking him from the inside, bringing forth infectious melodies that stand out while they make you dance, because they only fit that recognizable charm, Dom P.’s own effortless style. I’ve heard the future of new wave. It can contain a texture as wet as The Cure‘s CE-2 chorus while also sonically managing to sustain, weaved within its tapestry of newly found rhythmic chill, the dry attack of early New Order‘s 70’s Gibson SG as well as the rich, GE-6 equalizer-boosted ring of Johnny Marr’s Telecaster from The Smiths. Mainly, the new wave of the future is about a groove. Like Herding Cats finds the perfect outlet for Dom P.’s spot in our musical culture as the godfather of post-new wave, a perfection of something he has been working on for over a decade. In the late 90’s third wave of punk rock, Dom P. was like a swinging palm, dancing drenched in bubbly sound in a storm of punk noise, an intuitive style in stark contrast with the rest. Dom’s own band The Nobodies were a part of a movement within a movement, along with The Habit and Match Party, who did not subscribe to distortion as much as chorus. Then came the part of life when everyone gets startled by increasing seriousness. I never thought I’d hear that infectious strumming and single note pick attack again. Until a few days ago, when a CD arrived in the mail. Cats reminding me of siamese twins on the cover, along with plenty of gray providing background for a puzzling phrase: “Like Herding Cats.”
Lift, the first song of the EP offers the blueprint, the DNA of Dom P.’s pop sense, pulling you in with an atmosphere and a guitar melody strummed in that unforgettable timing. It is an instrumental with a subtle hummed vocal tune, the source code to this engaging sonic algorithm. Now that your cells have been trained you’re ready for Touch, a poetic love song that rises from a Krout-rock-influenced minimal beat, a North European dance club flavor supporting Dom’s warm swing, and taking you into a lyrical bitter-sweet melancholy that continues where The Cure left off, going into a perfectly crafted change for the chorus.
“I’d say what influenced the album and of course the artist name was a series of personal letdowns,” says Dom P. of the album’s unifying sentimentality. “I was going through a lot with an intimate relationship and with band members. I started working on mastering my production skills which led me to write and produce a solo album.”
The groove becomes satisfyingly syncopated in Rich Girls, taking the spotlight, and would very likely be the part of the set where I personally break it down on the dance floor. Trendsetter is the true anthem of the set, held together tightly by a clap, with lyrics praising individuality and featuring a single string memory heaven. Years Gone is where the early New Order influence brings a smile to my face, and is a perfect closer. It feels like a sunset.
In the old days Dom was one of the go-to sources on imitating the sound of The Cure. He had found a connection between his unique sense of timing and that of Robert Smith, and had created his own psychedelic-meets-punk amalgam, in his teens. By the time Dom P.’s early band The Nobodies hit the North Jersey punk scene, there was a heavy early New Order ready-for-synth dose in his sound.
The sound of The Cure‘s 17 Seconds album mimicked by Boss pedals: A Boss BF-2 Flanger (now replaced by the BF-3 but easy to find on the second hand market). The settings were manual 60%, Depth 75%, Rate 50% and Res 25%. A Boss DD-3 Delay: all knobs more or less at 50% (I love the DD-5, personally though it is discontinued, and the DD-7 is now available). A Boss RV-3 Reverb (discontinued too and replaced by the RV-5): balance 25%, tone 30%, r.time 40%, mode 10.
Dom P. describes his organic approach, much of it influenced by pre-MIDI Minimal Wave: “Many of the sounds were organic and not software presets. They were created by me fucking around with loops and running the keyboards through amps and tracking live. Some of the sounds I’ve had a hard time reproducing so when I gig live I will be using the stems to perform. As for the video. It was DIY. I shot most of it and edited myself. The conceptual work and direction was also my own. It was shot all on an iPhone using a Super 8mm filter.”
Just as important to Dom P.’s unique sound in his latest incarnation as an inventor of post-new wave was the period in his musicianship when he had decided to shake that Chorus-drenched Goth image by studying jazz guitar techniques. A bent for the progressive is what I was expecting when I loaded the debut by his new band, Like Herding Cats, into my laptop’s CD port. Not only did the return of that cozy, tickling sound warm my heart in this year’s geographically misplaced Arctic winter, but its union with an informed, Johnny Marr from The Smiths – reminiscent, curious, explorative technique brought a smile of pride in my old scene to my face. There is a refreshing surprise in Dom P.’s blend of early New Order and minimal wave sounds, a Cure attitude with Smiths studiousness. Combined with the resurgence of Dom P.’s unique groove, the style creates a platform for a brand new army of moody musicians, emerging with guitars in hand, looking for a songs that tell them something about their lives. Like Herding Cats is a possible sound-map for new wave’s new guard.
“Musically, I was listening to a lot of modern electronic stuff like chill wave and of course new wave. The percussive minimalism of Bands like Washed Out really gave me the confidence,” Dom P. explains. “I’m certainly not a good a drummer and realized that chill wave revolved around great melodic concepts more so than complex rhythms. I’d say I was listening to bands like: Washed Out, New Order (Power Corruption and Lies era), The Cure, The Smiths, David Bowie (Eno trilogy era), Brian Eno‘s Here Come the Warm Jets. I focused a lot on melody and textures.”
This sound is worth keeping up with. I see a career path in Dom P. similar to LCD Soundsystem‘s James Murphy–a single vision of a debut album just itching to be taken live, so it could grow into a cultural revolution.
In an infinite universe there is a version of me turning blue, forgotten in a bathtub somewhere in Jersey. There’s a version of me that made the jump from a man releasing premature ideas into the world to a man who plans world domination while telling his children that they are better than everyone, but nothing without connections. There’s a version of me that secretly rekindles his dreams, secretly, because he is responsible for a family.
And then, there is this version here.