IBG Interview – 8 Questions With… Alpha Cat

Creating connections within the music scene will always be the best way to build a career, as well as a community. Being a part of something bigger than yourself will always create opportunities. Our recent discovery Alpha Cat has been around the scene for many years in a variety of roles.

Now Alpha Cat is back with a new album in Venus Smile… Retrograde. We caught up with leader Elizabeth McCullough to get a little deeper into the current state of the band. Enjoy the interview here:

First off, how did the name Alpha Cat come about?

Well, the first band I gigged out with was a pick up band, and I chose to go under the name Meerkat, since I had seen some at the zoo and was a bit obsessed with them. But then when I was designing the cover of my first record I simply couldn’t make the word “meerkat” look right, and I remembered my sister talking about alpha dogs. So I tried alpha cat, made a nice logo with it and liked the idea of an alpha cat as a strong female. 

Funny thing is, after the record started doing so well, and I had to get an official band together, it ended up being three girls and two guys. It was then that it occurred to me that it was also about the strength it takes to live in your intuition and emotion, in addition to female empowerment.

How would you describe the band’s sound?

I suppose the best word would be eclectic. My songs range from rock to dream rock to pop to Americana. I take some pride in the fact that all my songs sound different from each other, so that when you listen to an Alpha Cat record, it takes you on a bit of a roller coaster ride, rather than a straight shot down a flat highway.

Which artists have had the biggest influence on you?

Everyone from the Beatles and Bowie, Joni Mitchell and Neal Young, and pretty much anything Motown, to the Pretenders, the Cure, Beck, Sugar, Machine Gun Kelly and yes, even the Biebs! And that’s the short list!

What continues to drive you to create music after such a long career?

My pure love of it. It’s gotten me through some of the worst times in my life, and still I always found joy and solace in listening to music, and fulfillment in making it. I’ve worked in just about every creative medium and learned a lot from each one. But it wasn’t until I wrote my first good song and made my first record that everything I’d learned seemed to come together for the first time. I write because it is the most complete way I can get out of me the things that need to come out. I write songs because I have to for myself. And I release them in the hope that what I’ve channelled can somehow help others through difficult times. Plus, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

How does a song come together for Alpha Cat? Tell us about the songwriting process.

Generally, I start with a phrase, a title, or a full lyric, and play around on the guitar to find the music to fit the words. Sometimes a song just pours out of me all in one swoop. And in the case of my song Pearl Harbor, I had the music fully composed, arranged and memorized two years before I got the lyrics. And I realized then that I couldn’t possibly have written them any earlier, because the events that inspired those words hadn’t yet happened.

What can you share about your new album Venus Smile… Retrograde?

I think it carries forward what seems to be my ongoing theme of how moving through difficulty makes you stronger, with the additional wrinkle of separations and the healing of them. My two favorites are Venus Smile and Orbit. Venus Smile talks about how it is having your heart broken that really shows you what you’re made of. And Orbit is about all kinds of separations: from another, from yourself, and the deep divisions on this planet now. It ends with the hopeful note that something greater will ultimately heal these. It’s up to the listener to decide what that is to them.

Share some advice for other artists making music on their own terms.

What I find is that if I write what’s true for me, then I’m on the right track. It generally works out that stuff pours out of me intuitively, sometimes pre-cognitively, as if I were writing letters to my future self, whose meanings don’t reveal themselves until later, sometimes much later. Though it doesn’t work for me to stop with a first draft, so I edit somewhat mercilessly as I go.

And I would say to anyone looking to be a songwriter or performer, don’t do it for the money or the fame, because even if you get those things, if that is your primary motivation, you will not be satisfied. Not unless what you’ve produced came from your heart. 

What does the future hold for Alpha Cat?

I’ve written a ton of lyrics during the pandemic and they just keep coming. I’ve begun to write music to them, and I’m looking forward to finishing some completely new songs. I’m also hoping to collaborate on some songs with some people I’ve worked with before, my lyrics and their melody. A first! We’ll see if that works out, but I hope so. Also, I’ve heard a lot of great music over the last few years, both new and old, so I would assume that some of those influences will come into play. I’ve been asked this question before and I look at it like it’s the end of the Matrix or Terminator 2, when anything is possible, yet you have no idea what the future will look like. It’s a bit of as frightening, but even more so, an exciting prospect.

Keep up with more from Alpha Cat and see what is next on their WEBSITE.

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