Catholic Guilt Interview

by the partae

Answered by Brenton (vocals)


Congratulations on the release of ‘Can You See Me?’ Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the song and its meaning?

Thank you! It’s always a blast putting new music out into the world, but you’re never sure that anyone is going to hear it, so thank you for listening. The song is written about a period in which I felt completely out of touch with the person that I thought myself to be. That feeling of being a ‘stanger in my own skin’, was brought on by a bunch of intense setbacks across all facets of my life. Writing this song was part of my process of working through those issues and getting to know the new version of ‘me’ that exists on the other side of that healing. 

The single ‘Can You See Me?’ has a nostalgic vibe. What influenced the sound and style of this track?

The song showcases our knack for pairing intensely emotive or downbeat lyrics with bright, energetic, upbeat instrumentation and melodies. I’m not sure why our brains work like that but they do. The soundscape on this one was inspired by a lot of our favourite bands from the ‘00s Aussie punk & indie scenes. Acts like After The Fall, Kisschasy, Horsell Common, Trial Kennedy, Jebediah, those vibes. The result is an uplifting backdrop to a tale of lost identity. I like to think of it as ‘feel sad hit of the summer’. 

What was the creative process like when working on ‘Can You See Me?’ Did any particular moments or experiences inspire the song?

This one was a journey! It actually started out life as an acoustic Dashboard Confessional styled idea that Dean and I wrote as we were coming out of lockdown. I’d just been to visit one of my favourite childhood places, Barwon Heads and I came up with the melody while I was on a paddleboard on the Barwon River and sent it to Dean and he sent me a demo and so was born the first of a lot of versions of this song that have existed. We wrote a bunch of different arrangements searching for the one that felt just right for the message we were trying to convey. The final version of it didn’t come to us until a few days before we hit the studio to record it. That’s when feel we finally nailed what we’re looking to do. 

Could you share some insights into the songwriting and recording process for ‘Can You See Me?’

As I alluded to above the songwriting process was quite a lengthy one. The final version of the chorus was actually written during pre-production with our producers Ash and Evan at The Loud Noise Estate. Once that chorus was locked in, it finally felt ready and the recording proess ended up being one of the most natural feeling sessions we’ve ever had. Everyone worked so well collaboratively in the studio, really locking in and nailing their parts. We’ve been working with TLNE for the entire duration of the band and it feels like they really speak our musical language and understand what we’re trying to achieve as a band. Their two dogs Raph and Freya made for the perfect companions in breaks between takes. Dean’s general ability to come up with ideas and execute them on guitar and in the vocal booth, and his obsession with finding the right tones was also one of my personal favourite in-studio happenings to watch go down. 

I do want to give a massive shoutout to our two newest members Megan and Michael. It was Megs second time in the studio with us and Michael’s first, and they both added so much to the song. Having that fresh energy about was pretty rad. Every person who has ever been in this band has brought their own flair to it and those two are starting to really let their influence be felt in the best possible way. I also learned a lot more about vocal theory from Dean and Megs, they’re both amazing singers.

How does ‘Can You See Me?’ fit into the overall theme or narrative of your music as a band?

Sonically it slots in alongside our previous single ‘Live For The Rush’ and I’d also say ‘A Boutique Affair’ off of our EP ‘This Is What Honesty Sounds Like’ those songs are also very ‘happy’ sounding ‘sad’ songs. So there is a degree of sonic continuity with ‘Can You See Me?’ in our catalogue for sure. 

As for fitting the narrative, it does that quite well in the sense that our approach to songwriting is always about finding the right fit musically for the story or the message we are trying to convey. As a result there a few different sides to our band, there’s the big, slow-buildng, emo rock anthems like ‘Nothing’ and ‘Life In Three Part Harmony’, there’s the more stripped back introspective songs like ‘Talking Fake’ and’ Paper and Ink’ and there’s the folk-punk vibes of songs like ‘Song Of The Renter’ or the modern rockabilly vibes of ‘The Awful Truth’, all of those stories got the music we felt they were naturally calling for. These methods of musical storytelling all come together with songs like ‘Can You See Me?’ to create a canvas we like to call ‘honest music’. 

What can fans expect from the upcoming show at The Tote on November 18? Any special surprises or guest appearances planned?

They can expect us to give the set every bit of energy and emotion that we have. We’re a very energetic live act, we like to move around, so there’s a fair chance you’ll see me cop a knock to the head or two from a stray guitar headstock due to the tight confines of the stage. There will also be lots of opportunities to singalong and embrace the magic of live music together. In addition to that we’ll all get to experience the joy of seeing Nick Keogh and Trauma Ties play live. It’ll be a fun night in a venue that we are so thankful was saved by our community from what seemed like near certain death by gentrification a year ago. 

What do you enjoy most about performing live, and what sets your live shows apart from other bands?

There is a transformation that happens when a band walks out together and strums the first note of a set. The barrier between performer and crowd dissapears and the barrier between the crowd, who often come from all different walks of life, disappears too and everyone in the room sort of comes together on a unified emotional wavelength. That moment, and the moments of connectivity that follow are my absolute favourite thing in the world. Whether I’m playing the show or I’m an audience member, that space is the closest thing I have to church.  I understand it’s the same for everyone else in the band too. We actually wrote a song about the impact of live music on our lives called ‘Life In Three Part Harmony’ that was on our second EP, that song is a loveletter to that near spiritual community experience. 

As for what sets us apart from other live bands? That’s a tricky one, I’d never want to place ourselves on a pedestal of any kind, because all artists are giving it their all, at all times in what is a very difficult time to be a musician. So I’d never put us above or below anyone else.  What I will say is that a Catholic Guilt show will always be an honest, emotive and genuinely live experience. We will wear our hearts on our sleeves throughout and if you want to come grab a mic and singalong with me, we’ll absolutely be up for it. 

Are there any specific tracks, including ‘Can You See Me?’ that you’re especially looking forward to playing live at the show?

Honestly, all the upbeat ones. I love that we have a variety of sounds and we get to take the audience on an emotive journey throughout the set, but those softer, more lyrically intense songs are very emotional experiences for me and sometimes that can show. So from a pure performance basis, songs like ‘Live For The Rush’, ‘A Boutique Affair’ and our signature closing track ‘Song Of The Renter’ are the most fun to perform live. Oh and the three-part vocal section at the end of ‘Nothing’ when we nail that live, that is the BEST feeling! I also really look forward to people who haven’t heard Megs sing, hear Megs sing, and of course to seeing the insane faces Dean pulls when he is shredding! If the wind ever changed, he’d be in trouble. 

Tell us about the atmosphere and energy you hope to create at your performance at The Tote. What emotions do you want to convey to the audience?

We want the room to feel like one big, particularly emotive, house party. There’ll be moments where it feels like everyone is in a mass deep ‘n’ meaningful and there’ll be moments where people are screaming their lungs out at their landlords or engaging in some old-fashioned mosh action. There may be tears, either from me or from someone who has felt some of the things we are singing about on personal level, drinks WILL be spilt, at some point one of us will make a minor error  but all of that will add up to an experience that only live music can provide. 

In addition to ‘Can You See Me?’ are there any other singles or upcoming releases that fans should keep an eye out for?

A bit of spoiler alert here, we did actually record another single during the same session as ‘Can You See Me?’ but I can’t tell you anything about it other than it is one of our more emotive numbers and that the video clip is going to take everyone on a nostalgic trip through an animated version of the town I grew up in. 

What’s the story behind the name ‘Catholic Guilt’? How does it reflect your band’s identity and music?

I grew up Catholic and while I’m definitely not a practising Catholic now, the experience left me with a lot of cultural conditioning I can’t seem to shed. The omnipresent feeling of guilt, which we call “Catholic Guilt” is one of those conditionings. When I first started writing what would become the first batch of Catholic Guilt songs, a lot of the songs had ties to that feeling of being “guilty” or perhaps more accurately, feeling like I was not “enough” at all times. The fact that it also serves as a double entendre, for the Vatican’s sins, is a very fitting bonus, given what we went to address in some of our songs. It also provided a template for our imagery, the Church has so much iconography and as cat lovers, we really like to play with it by playing up the fact that CAT is in the word Catholic. Hence our logo and Lucy Furr and all the references to Cats in well, pretty much everything we do. We may not be Catholics but we are CATholics. 

It has created some rather funny and frustrating experiences though, a lot of people think we’re a Catholic or christian band, then others think we are this satanic black metal sort of proposition. 

Both groups of those people either think we’ll go to hell or wish our music would, so that’s been interesting. 

The positive responses from fellow sufferers of Catholic Guilt are the predominant ones though. A lot of ex-Catholic school kids out there seem to have a chuckle when they hear the name for the first time. 

Looking ahead, what are your long-term goals and aspirations for the band, and how do you plan to achieve them?

We want to continue to evolve as a band. We want to expand our sound and expand our world. We’d love to expand our team to include management and overseas booking agents, because we’d love to explore overseas touring next year. Our eyes are fixated towards Japan and Europe at the moment, however there is a natural home for our music in the USA and Canada. So we are looking at how to get our hands on those pesky visas! First things first though, we’re looking forward to heading out on the road in Australia and playing these songs on stages both big and small for anyone who is kind enough to share their time with us. If we do that well enough, often enough, the momentum, hardwork and maybe a little luck will hopefully carry us to our other goals.



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