Who are you?
We’re Haggard Cat, which might feel a little unpleasant to repeat but think yourself lucky! We were originally branded by the much more unwieldy moniker of ‘Haggard Cat Bothday Present’, so thank god common sense prevailed. The name came from a ragged old street cat that once wandered into our old house/squat on my birthday and then refused to leave. We named him Stanley and fed him tuna. He was very lovable but extremely rough around the edges, a lot like us really which was kind of unplanned… the name became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Matt – I play guitar and sing like a sailor.
Tom – Drums, and offers up the occasional planned microphone grunt
Chris – A Wooden Stool (seriously)
Journey so far?
We actually started out very casually, absolutely ages ago, back when both me and Tom (not Chris) were in Baby Godzilla (later known as Heck). That band was starting to really pick up steam so we formed HC as a way to be able to still play shows in the downtime when BG needed to be more exclusive. The quiet non-gigging life really wasn’t for us and so the Cat was born… except we had no songs and had already booked gigs, so we quite literally had to just go on stage and make it up as we went along (inspiration helped along by a bottle of bourbon placed on Chris that was determinately finished by the end of each set) – although it can’t have been too bad because people kept booking us. Eventually, those impromptu songs became our first demo/album ‘Charger’ which is still poking about on Bandcamp.
Fast forward a couple of years to 2017 and Baby Godzilla (now Heck) was calling things a day. Now was our time to shine, as Haggard Cat stepped into the spotlight for real. We started to write real songs and write actual set-lists and curb the whiskey-drinking (a bit) and in the process managed to lock in a couple of tasty support tours with some heroes of ours (including the inimitable Jamie Lenman). We recorded our second album ‘Challenger’, which felt like the big brother to our first effort. We were just about to self-release once again through our Bandcamp page when Earache Records crept out of the woodwork and signed us to release the thing worldwide.
From here we played innumerable gigs, tours, festivals. Between 2018-2019 we were nonstop like we’d always wanted! Alongside this, we were already working on a follow-up album, our most accomplished record to date, ‘Common Sense Holiday’ (2020). We felt we had done all we could with our balls-out “cowboy riffs and shouting” approach of the previous records, so we set out to create something much more thoughtful and progressive. The record was an opportunity for us to live out some musical fantasies. Politically things were starting to escalate in the world around us and things were very unsettled which bled into the tracks of CSH, and also into our lives around the album; everything felt very uneasy. In the lead-up to release we sealed ourselves in a concrete box for 24 hours as a visual metaphor for the stifling effect Brexit was about to have on touring bands, a sentiment that mirrored the album track ‘European Hardware’. Things seemingly continued to escalate, it felt like we were building to some awful crescendo. Then literally days before the album came out, the worst happened as the whole world went into lockdown and we were unable to move or do anything else around the release.
Alongside this, our label fell silent, following many other issues we’d been having with them prior to this. By now we felt suffocated and like we’d come as far as we needed to go down this path so we decided to take matters back into our own hands and to do things our own way – once again becoming a completely DIY band. We felt freer than ever, able to carve out our own exciting path again. At this point, we were approached by double-Grammy-Award-winning producer Adrian Bushby (Foo Fighters, Muse) who had heard CSH and loved it. We started working on the next step together and that brings us to now…
We’re a big old melting pot, which starts out at the more obvious classic rock and prog rock pioneers like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and the Mahavishnu Orchestra and fuses it with the more abrasive punk sounds of bands like Fugazi, Metz and Nirvana. Throw in a pinch of high energy post-hardcore via At the Drive-In and Refused and a sprinkling of sexiness from Death From Above 1979 and Chromeo. Top it all off with big riffing metal bands like Baroness and Mastodon and you might arrive somewhere near what we do. Sound exhausting? Good!
Biggest gig/proudest moment to date?
There have been tonnes in the relatively short time we’ve been doing this band for real (just over three years really). We know we’re very lucky for all the opportunities we’ve had – but we like to think we’ve worked insanely hard through it all too. I think particular highlights for me have been playing the main stage of my favourite festival, 2000 Trees, to an absolutely enormous crowd, opening for Band of Skulls at the legendary Metropolis Studios and of course, most recently, working with Adrian which was a total “pinch me” moment.
What does the future hold for Haggard Cat?
The songs we’ve recorded with Adrian feel like yet another HUGE step forwards for us in terms of our sound. They’re the most direct and impacting tracks we’ve ever created and it very much feels like we’ve focussed all our song-writing chops into what is truly our best work. These tracks will feature on our EP “Cheer Up” which will be released independently on September 3rd and followed immediately with a huge UK tour (the same tour that has now been 18 months/4 reschedules in the making). After that? Try to take over the world of course.