TURKU-based indie pop band Cats on Fire has enjoyed a growing following in Finland and overseas alike. The band was established in 2001 and has since released a bunch of EP’s and two records, The Province Complains and Our Temprance Movement. A few months back Cats on Fire released a compilation Dealing in Antiques with a mix of songs from way back and a few pleasantly surprising new tracks. This summer the four strong band spreads its wings and tours across the seas with, unfortunately for us, no gigs to their name in Finland. SixDegrees caught up with Mattias Björkas, the band’s lead singer, on the eve of the big tour.
Our Temperance Movement lifted you to a great popularity within Finland as well as internationally. How does it feel to get all the extra attention?
I can’t say that I’ve noticed any sudden change in that regard. I think that over the years, we’ve slowly reached more and more people. We’ve never been hyped, as far as being a new Finnish music export prospect. We’ve been tediously exporting ourselves. No... it’s been fun, it really has. Why did you decide to release a compilation right now? We played an old song at a gig in Helsinki, and after the concert, the people at Johanna Kustannus suggested that we’d do a compilation of old songs. We had quite a few, so we thought that if we don’t take the chance now, they may never see daylight.
How has the band developed over the years and can a change be heard on the album?
I think you can hear it, although the songs are not in chronological order. But I wouldn’t overstate the development in this case. I think the lack of development, or the consistency as we’d rather put it, is also something that characterises the collection. Of course, the sound quality on the first recordings is really dodgy.
Which song on the compilation do you hold dearest and why?
That would be On His Right Side, a song that we started recording for the last album. We finished it some months after the release and then just kind of forgot about it. It’s a song about being the submissive, overly admiring part in a friend relationship, and how good it can feel. I still love him, although I’m here and he’s there. I consider it one of my best songs.
You live in Gothenburg and the rest of the band in Turku. How does the collaboration work across the Gulf of Finland?
Well, it makes some things harder. But it has made my life a lot easier. I really feel at home in Gothenburg. I’m in touch with the others almost daily, of course. We have never had a constant rhythm, a continuous f low and we’ve been spread out before. As long as we have a reason to exist as a band, I’m sure we’ll find a way.
During the summer you’re touring internationally from Hong Kong to California and back to Europe. How do you feel on the eve of the big tour?
It feels absurd to travel across the world like that, but we couldn’t have said no, could we? The saying “travelling broadens the mind” is so deeply rooted in Western middle class mentality that you are considered not quite right in the head if you say no to free plane tickets. You are supposed to travel to faraway places to collect memories that you can conjure up later.