There are a lot of cats on the landscape of independent rock music these days. It’s a strange trend, to say the least. Historically, musicians have had hobbies like drinking until they passed out and freebasing whatever chemicals they could get their hands on. Now, however, hobbies seem to be more along the lines of playing with string and perusing I Can Has Cheezburger.
While this trend is a bit surprising, upon deeper analysis, it actually begins to make some sense. First it’s really only taking root in the indie rock scene. You don’t see rap stars all of the sudden breaking out freestyle verses about their pet cats. That would get them shot. Country music stars have big dogs, because they have land for them to roam free. Mainstream pop stars are still obsessed with their tiny rat dogs, because they’re all idiots. I don’t even want to tell you what would happen if a metal band got a cat.
So it’s narrowed down to indie rockers, but why? As a general rule, indie rockers were losers in high school. They were weird, awkward introverted people that holed up in their rooms and learned to play guitar in the desperate hope that it would make someone like them. It didn’t. At least not in high school. When they went off to college at some small liberal arts college in the Northeast or way out West they found enough other people like themselves that they formed a band. The band was pretty good for a college band, but as graduation loomed they couldn’t agree on the terms of their continued existence, so they split up. This drives almost everyone in the band to get a cat. Seriously, this is how it works.
For the indie rock disposition, cats make a lot more sense than dogs. Cats are generally cold and distant, only warming up to you if you give them sufficient attention, and only if that attention is when they feel like it. This is pretty much the same attitude that most indie rockers have. I don’t mean to say that they are incapable of being warm furry creatures (I’m talking about both cats and their owners here), it’s just that, generally, they’re not.
Hence, we have cats invading the indie rock scene. Perhaps the most famous one is Snacks the cat. Snacks has not one, but two bands behind him, Best Coast and Waaves. For the uninitiated, Best Coast and Waaves are two bands from California that make music with the beach in mind (Waaves is a bit noiser). Bethany Cosentino, lead singer for Best Coast, and Nathan Williams, leader of Waaves, were drawn together by their similar tastes in music and love for cats and started dating in 2010. This has created an unstoppable PR machine for Snacks, Bethany’s cat, who has appeared on a Best Coast album cover, in numerous blog posts about the bands, and has inspired his own contest. Snacks was however left out of the latest Best Coast music video which predominately featured many other cats, go figure.
However, it’s not just Best Coast and Waaves that are in on the cat action. My favorite use of a cat by an indie rock act for 2010 (I’m lobbying to get this added as an award at the Grammys) is either the cover of Surfing the Void, the second Klaxons album, or the music video for the song Red Lights by Holy Fuck. Both of these examples manage to circumvent the cliché of cute cats by simply making the cats hard as fuck.
So what’s next for cats in indie rock? Well, unfortunately for cat lovers, anytime anything in indie rock becomes a trend, the natural tendency is for indie rockers to get the hell away from it, lest they lose their street cred (which can’t get you food but can get you drugs or at least catnip). And much like the closely related phenomena of economic recessions and recoveries, it is often only in retrospect that we are able to recognize something as a trend in indie rock at all. So 2010 came and went, and you may have not even realized it was the year of the cat in independent rock music. Surely, in the next month or two that kick off 2011 we will be inundated with videos of cats accompanied by shitty indie rock tunes, but all of these will by people we must mock as poseurs (lest indie rock critics lose their street cred). The loss of cats will certainly leave a void in the music world, which will need to be filled. “By what?” you may ask. Well, I’m calling 2011 for the frogs. You heard it here first people.