After hearing for the synthy, spacey single ‘You Are Not Alone’ and falling for the other tracks on the EP, we felt we had to chat to Brent about influences, LA and playing live.
When and how did CATALINE start?
In 2015 I had just finished an album of singer/songwriter material under my own name (Brent Puls). All of my income at the time was coming from recording singer/songwriters. I was constantly listening to and performing these really melancholy and introspective songs and I was feeling a consistent malaise permeating everything I did. One morning I woke up and thought- to hell with this. Let’s make something fun. So I started CATALINE with the intent of making music that made you feel good, even if it was about the end of the world.
You have a distinctive synthy, spacey electro-pop vibe. How did this develop and who would you say your musical influences are?
I got my start in music making beats for hip hop artists in Chicago. My heroes were people like Terminator-X and Dan the Automator. Then one day I heard Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds- a relatively obscure and insanely overproduced synth record from the 70s that just blew my mind. I became obsessed with classic synths then and collected any obscure keyboard I could find. When I started CATALINE I realized it was time to tap that well and indulge my tone-junky side and started letting myself spend hours playing with bleeps and blorps.
I’ve listened to your ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ cover; would you say that Bowie was one of your major influences and are there more covers on the horizon?
Ya know- funny story about that. My plan was to follow up Turing Test with a Bowie cover EP. I had finished Man Who Sold The World and was in the studio working on a version of Heroes when I started receiving texts from friends offering their condolences. I jumped online to see what they were talking about and my heart sank. I’m such a huge Bowie fan (I have a tattoo of the cover of Low on my arm) that all of my friends and colleagues knew I’d take his death personally. I ended up dropping the rest of the covers because it felt like sacrilege. That being said I’ve decided I’m going to follow up and finish that EP. Next is Heroes, and following that is All The Young Dudes.
What would you say is the progression from the Turing Test to the Disentanglement EP?
When writing Turing Test I was feeling alive and hopeful. Even though I’m a cynic and tend to think that nothing really means anything I was finding that feeling liberating. However part way through Disentanglement, the election happened and I started having trouble finding that same enthusiasm. You Are Not Alone was written as a message from future humans to us- or me specifically. I was considering the scope of history and trying to remind myself that although it may seem that we’re all doomed, there have been darker days in human history and we will survive the Great Orange Baboon as well.
I read that you had been pursuing a degree in sculpture and then another in astrophysics, before dedicating all your time to making music. How have these other interests (in other forms of art and in science) influenced your music?
I think my love of science both hurts and helped my music. I thrive on a lot of the technical aspects of engineering and record production- the science of sound- however when you’re constantly thinking about the scope of the universe it’s hard to find a personal connection. Depicting the sense of wonder I feel when reading about science is a lot harder than, say, writing about a breakup.
Which bands are you listening to at the moment and is there a definite LA scene right now?
I still have the James Supercave record from last year on repeat- and the new SOHN and Baths are in a pretty steady rotation. However, I don’t really listen to music. When I’m not working on music I’m almost always listening to Radiolab or Hardcore History podcasts.
I noticed that you’ve played some live shows earlier this year in LA. How did these go and as a one-man project, is it a challenge to transfer what you create on the records into something you can play live?
This town is so full of amazing musicians that its not too hard to put together a great live show. The key is to have a great drummer- after that any instrument I can’t get someone to play live I can put in the accompanying tracks or in the synth pads.
What’s next for CATALINE, some more tour dates or some more tracks?
I just recently produced some great music for a Chicago band called Terrible Spaceship that will be out soon, but I plan on not taking on as many production gigs coming up so that I can put out more CATALINE material. I have that Bowie cover EP to finish, and have already gotten a few songs into the next record which so far is becoming a lot more political. I’m planning on calling it Skeletone.