“’Crab Day’ is a made up holiday. It’s an exploration of the fear and the comfort that comes from acknowledging that.” Cate Le Bon explains on the phone from her home in LA, speaking about the origins of the title to her brilliant new album.
“It’s something that my niece invented maybe 4 years ago - she had a volatile reaction to April Fool’s day and we realised it was ridiculous. We renamed it Crab Day and spent the day searching for crabs with different hairstyles. I thought that’s as valid a reason for a holiday as any other,” laughs Cate.
This playful idea of spontaneity and little moments runs through the rest of the record. “It’s an exploration of that idea of how something can be hugely important to one person and mean absolutely nothing to anybody else,” she says.
“‘Crab Day’ is something that my niece invented maybe 4 years ago - she had a volatile reaction to April Fool’s day.”
Cate Le Bon
Yet, she had to be careful this theme didn’t transform into a fully blown crustacean overload. “’I Was Born On The Wrong Day’ was originally called ‘Crab Parade’… but then I thought people might think it’s a concept album about crabs,” she reasons. “I don’t think I can do those interviews!”
Soon, though, it became clear that she was on the right path. “When we recorded, I thought I’m getting somewhere here,” she says. That’s something of an understatement. ‘Crab Day’ finds new ways to explore Le Bon’s warmth and charm in glowing, inventive and esoteric ways. She’s got a knack for pop songs with sharp twists, finding new ways to express familiar ideas. On one song ‘Love Is Not Love’ she compares love to a coat hanger. She hoots with laughter. “I just like the idea of something as grandiose as love being compared to something as crappy coat hanger.”
These weirdly beautiful turns of phrase are one of the sparkling highlights of the album. Not that Cate prepares them in advance. “It’s always a last minute affair, and this time around I embraced the fact that I knew I didn’t have it in me to sit down and write lyrics until it’s absolutely necessary, the night before I sing them,” she explains.
“Instead of lamenting being a total dickhead for doing it like that, I embraced it,” she continues. “It felt like it was fitting for the record’s sense of anarchy and mayhem. So there was a lot of staying up all night foraging for words that fit with the feeling of the song.”
“Instead of lamenting being a total dickhead, I embraced it.”
Cate Le Bon
There’s certainly a sense of looseness and freedom on the album that makes it feel joyous. She attributes this partly to becoming more confident as she gets older. “I think growing older is probably the biggest influence on my song writing,” she says. “It’s a lot more wide open and less inhibited now.”
Working on her DRINKS project with Tim Presley from White Fence also played a part. The spirited, abstract nature that ran through those songs and shows was still fresh when she came to record ‘Crab Day’ – which she wrote and recorded in just three weeks.
“The DRINKS project was instrumental in a readjustment of an attitude, and it just reigniting my love of making music just for the sake of making music,” Cate says, “and not having any exterior influence.”
Cate Le Bon describes making the album as “a really special, joyous time”. Recorded with long-time band members Stephen Black and H.Hawkline, the band were also joined by none other than Stella Mozgawa from Warpaint on drums.
“Stella has been a really close friend of mine since I moved to Los Angeles,” says Cate. “This was the first time we’d worked on a project together really. I made the record with her – and also Huw and Steve. I wouldn’t dream of making a record without them. You have to have trust and history, and they’re two of my favourite musicians. It would be foolish and wholly detrimental to the project to try and do something without them.”
“The record really is the sum of its parts,” she goes on. “Huw played some guitar lines that really just bowled me over. Complete madcap guitar lines. And Stella is just one of the best musicians you’ll ever meet, there’s absolutely no ego. It’s just pure joy. She’s ridiculously talented and she’ll try anything for you.”
And for her recent live performances, Cate has sprinkled the shows with even more stardust, recruiting yet more musicians to create the semi-experimental, semi-improvisational music ensemble she’s called BANANA. Rock fact: the band is called BANANA because band member Josiah Steinbrick is allergic to them.
“Josh Klinghoffer and Josiah Steinbrick [who co-produced the album] have joined in, and it’s a really nice group of friends,”Cate says, adding “it also helps that they’re some of the most incredible musicians around.”
Cate Le Bon is speaking fresh from playing a show in the Masonic Lodge in LA. “It was incredible the reaction we got,” she says. The improvisational BANANA sets see Cate and the band switching instruments (including two marimbas), before Cate returns with the 4-piece band to play the album. “It’s nice to play, as BANANA ramps you up before ‘Crab Day’. It’s hard playing a record that no one’s ever heard before.”
Considering the Welsh musician’s Stateside relocation, Cate Le Bon’s pondering whether her American audiences understand some of her more homely turns of phrases – on one of ‘Crab Day’s stand-out tracks ‘Wonderful,’ she yells “my supper, my supper, my supper” over the top of crashing guitar riffs. Do Americans know what supper means? She laughs. “Probably not. They probably just think I’m pronouncing super incorrectly.” Super would be the right word to describe ‘Crab Day,’ at least.
Cate Le Bon’s new album ‘Crab Day’ is out on 15th April via Turnstile.
More like this
Ahead of the Hyundai Mercury Prize, she gives us a bit of insight into her unexpected fifth album.
Foals and Fontaines DC are also among the acts who’ll be vying for the prize this September.
Including a massive show at London’s Roundhouse with Cate Le Bon
Entirely captivating, with just enough moments of optimism to keep you hanging on.