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Praire Cat

Praire Cat sings the soundtrack to his quirky, indie, romcom life

...a Prairie Cat would be a somewhat reclusive animal; rarely seen by man. It would survive solely on fermented and pickled foods and would not breed well in captivity.

By Scott Wood

Vancouver’s Prairie Cat makes the type of quirky indie pop that would be the perfect soundtrack to your new favorite indie romantic comedy. Something starring the next Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Cary Pratt, the man behind the Prairie Cat project, describes himself as a “solo musician who is fortunate to play/record with, on, in or around some of the finer musical acts this city has to offer. If you go to shows in Vancouver or listen to CBC, you have probably heard me at some point, on some songs, doing something.”

Being an in demand session and touring musician means Prairie Cat hasn’t had much time for his own music endeavours. It’s been five years since the last Prairie Cat album. However Pratt has resurfaced with a new record Who Knows Where to Begin? Here’s your chance to get to know another one of Vancouver’s hidden talents.

Scott Wood: I'm betting that the name "Prairie Cat" is a reversal of the sounds before the first vowels in your real first and last name Cary Pratt. Hello folks, Scott Wood here! I'm the host of the interview show, which is a syndicated radio program you can find on several campus community radio stations across Canada. Each month, I profile one of the "hidden talents" in my local Vancouver scene. Basically, I am going to give the campus community radio readers the chance to get to know some of Vancouver's most interesting, up-and-coming bands. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but if a Prairie Cat was a real creature, what would it be like?

Prairie Cat: You nailed it, Wott Scood. The moniker was a funny happenstance of a name game we played in grade school. As far as a real creature, in its natural habitat, a Prairie Cat would be a somewhat reclusive animal; rarely seen by man. It would survive solely on fermented and pickled foods and would not breed well in captivity.

Scott Wood: You are known as the “go-to-guy” when Vancouver bands need a drummer. You've recently drummed for Canadian indie “super group” Mounties. What's one thing being a work-for-hire in a band has taught you about your solo work?

Drummer cliches... I do drool sometimes when I'm playing. That happens. I think it must be part of the "weird face" thing.

Prairie Cat: I've been fortunate in my musical path to have a busy recording and live performance schedule. In the case of Mounties, I have been filling out the rhythm section on percussion and back-up vocals, with a hefty lineup of amazing songwriters. The indomitable Hawksley Workman is positioned behind the kit, and that has been an eye opener to another style and approach to drumming and music. Hawk, Ryan [Dahle] and Steve [Bays] bring a fervor and punishment to the stage each show that is jaw dropping. I haven't been around that amount of rock/cock before.

I guess the most inspiring part of being able to sit in on other people’s bands is seeing their process. I am part of many rehearsals and high pressure sessions Cary Pratt is Praire Cat
where time is precious and stress is high. Seeing how other people manage this balance has given insight to how I do things. At the very least, you observe habits and think “I’ll NEVER do that.” I'm reminded of a time I was sitting in at a sound check of a band (I won't mention the name, but let’s just say the moniker was associated with drawings by René Descartes) and the front person was such an asshole to the band that I didn't even stay for the show. It ruined it for me. It's easy to point out people's faults in music; it's harder to be a fan.

Scott Wood: There are a lot of clichés and stereotypes about drummers in bands. What's one drummer cliché that fits you and one that doesn't?

Prairie Cat: Drummer clichés... Hmmm... I do drool sometimes when I’m playing. That happens. I think it must be part of the “weird face” thing. To tell you the truth, I had to google a few “drummer stereotypes” to answer this question. It came up that the drummer was the “most likely to be crazy or to commit murder”. That’s one that doesn't apply. I don’t murder.

Scott Wood: “Got Nothin'” is one of my favorite tracks off your new record Who Knows Where to Begin? The lyrics go “I could say one or two mean things / Make you slap my face / It would really sting, but"... When was the last time you were slapped across the face in real life (or should have been slapped across the face)?

Prairie Cat: I have had my share of heated conversations with the opposite sex, I admit that. I have a sharp tongue when it suits the situation. I won’t get into details, but I had a chocolate cake dumped on my head by an ex one time. We weren't even sitting together. She walked across the restaurant and plowed me with it. Hindsight, it was deserved and funny. It felt like a Hugh Grant movie sitting there; frosting on my face. I did the whole two-handed-wipe-your-eyes-off motion and flung the chocolate to the floor like I was drying my hands in a sink. Peoples' faces in the restaurant were priceless. Almost worth being humbled for that alone. I apologized to the server and walked out.

...I had a chocolate cake dumped on my head by an ex one time... It felt like a Hugh Grant movie sitting there; frosting on my face.

Scott Wood: I'll also link to the “Got Nothin'” video here, so could you intro the concept behind the video?

Prairie Cat: The concept for the video was simple. If you have nothing nice to say, just say nothing at all. However, you can still show people what you really think. I tried to capture as many different rude hand gestures from people around the city.

Scott Wood: It's been five years since your last proper record. That's quite a stretch. Why the long gap?

Prairie Cat: Making independent music is a balancing act. With each record I sacrifice financially, time wise, as well as in lifestyle and living situations. Every album I've released has had some social collateral damage (I assume this is the same for all people with goals and a predisposition to create something out of nothing). I went through some self-doubt and artistic turmoil during this last release. If it hadn't been for Ryan, Steve and Hawk (Mounties) being so supportive and into the songs, this project would still be on the shelf. I respect those guys a lot, and to have them enjoying the record before it was released and saying “this needs to be out” got that spark back for me.

Scott Wood: You've said before: “The studio is 90% of why I wake up and decide to make records... Sometimes I will bring a snare drum into the bedroom and tune it quietly as not to wake my neighbors, just in anticipation of recording it the next day. I lose my mind when I get to be in the studio. I lose sleep thinking of the microphones Ryan will bring out to record the drums or Wurli with. I lose girlfriends. It’s that important to me.” What would you collaborators say about working with someone this dedicated?

Shane Nelken (of The Awkward Stage) was coaching me through a particularly bad review I was having trouble with, and mentioned that he was once compared to Willlie Pickton. I haven't been so hard on myself since.

Prairie Cat: Yeah, the process is part of the art with this stage of Prairie Cat. Who knows? Maybe one day I will pretend to be a real singer and songwriter. Right now, this is art for art’s sake. I would like to think that people working with me get that I truly love the process. I am finally in a position with the project to be able to work with people and pay them. A lot of the first Prairie Cat record was done on favors. I like being involved with the photography, layout, recording, mixing, mastering, type layout, pressing, sticker making, drum tuning, piano miking, horn arranging, screen printing, etc. This is why I do it. I am a jack of all trades and I love learning from the best. I just hope they don’t hate me for asking so many questions the whole time.

Scott Wood: Given that you are this obsessed with making music, how do you make it up to those sometimes ignored girlfriends?

Prairie Cat: I don’t. They leave.

Scott Wood: While promoting your first record, you said, “A lot of my writing is done in transit or walking to or from work.” Is this the way the second record was composed? Could I see you on a Vancouver bus humming to yourself?

Prairie Cat: I have been a transit guy since moving to this city in 2001. I wear headphones in transit, but just so I can eavesdrop on the kids. I like to stay hip to their slang, Home Slice! (That's still a thing right?)

Scott Wood: There's a review of your current record Who Knows Where to Begin? that says, “Prairie Cat's vocals have a vague Kermit The Frog sound to them.” That made me chuckle. What's been your favorite reaction to the new record so far and why?

Prairie Cat: It ain’t easy being green... That’s disappointing as I was trying to channel my inner Ernie. I don’t read reviews. Thanks for bringing up this painful comparison. When I first started this project, I was a little more sensitive to reviews and the public opinion. These days I don’t read them and I am just thankful that people listen to it. Rather than focus on the driveling of a 55-year-old blogger who has no musical compass for what is being referenced (“Beatles-esque” should be a red flag for any editor), I think “Holy shit, people from Berlin are listening to my records!” Shane Nelken (of The Awkward Stage) was coaching me through a particularly bad review I was having trouble with, and mentioned that he was once compared to Willlie Pickton. I haven't been so hard on myself since.

Scott Wood: Thanks for answering my questions! Please introduce your favorite Prairie Cat video and give the readers a few words to make them want to click play!

Prairie Cat: Who wants to see some boobs?

Listen to upcoming episodes of the interview show for an audio chat with Prairie Cat!

Find more about Prairie Cat online.

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