Words: ROBIN MUMFORD
I would be lying if I told you I knew what Art-Gaze Indie was before I had listened to Cat Ryan’s newest track ‘Rex Mundi’. Usually, bands like to suggest that they are pioneers for a new brand of music, when in fact, they sound just like the rest of the indie music scene.
Nowadays, there is very little room to make an indie record without sounding like the grittiness of Britpop or the groovy temperaments of Two Door Cinema Club. It seems like these two soundscapes are those that sit at opposite ends of the alternative music spectrum, and new arrivals to the industry will fit somewhere in-between.
This isn’t the case with Cat Ryan, though, who impressed me instantly with a sound that is better likened to art - something that they obviously thought thoroughly about when deciding what genre their music fits into. After discovering more of their music, in particular ‘Mannerism’, it quickly became crystal clear that their collection of songs belongs in a gallery, with their latest production proving to be a standout milestone for the Newcastle rockers.
A song about an Irish greyhound of the same name, ‘Rex Mundi’ features an other-worldly synthesis of joyous sounds and dance-like ebullience that fuse together to support Mary Anne’s atmospheric vocalism. Shoegaze meets dance, indie rock, and fleeting indie pop - this is one of the only ways to encapsulate even half of what their latest release entails.
And while it is glaring how many layers there are to the creation of ‘Rex Mundi’, talking to Mary only added to the profuseness. Talking excitedly, she said: “‘Rex Mundi’ came to fruition whilst I was visiting my family’s remote farm in rural Ireland. Having recently finished university and with no service or any Wi-Fi, I was able to sit down and write without distractions.
“The musical basis for the song arose from a fun bassline I created with a midi keyboard. With the addition of the upbeat drums, it evolved into a fast-paced song which, naturally, called for lyrics with a fast-moving theme – hence the greyhounds! In terms of the lyrics, these came about after visiting my aunt and uncle nearby, where I learned that they’d recently got a new greyhound named ‘Rex Mundi’ (Latin for ‘King of the World’), which instantly resonated with me and, as greyhounds are known for their speed, it seemed like a perfect theme to fit with the musical vibe.
“When writing, Rex emerged as the character in the lyrical narrative. However, the song isn't specifically about greyhounds, rather the symbolism of them being a strong and fast dog breed. In the song, Rex is running from social injustice but realises this won’t make a lasting change so adopts an alternative mindset. He attempts to fight and revolt against the perpetrators to become the 'king of the world'.
“This isn't meant in a literal sense but to place emphasis on his strong character and mentality. Sonically, it’s quite different when compared to other things in the Cat Ryan discography in the sense that it incorporates piano instrumentation, as well as a drumbeat, I wouldn’t typically favour. The lo-fi intro also adds a uniqueness against our other songs. To date, it’s definitely my favourite song that I’ve written and we’re very excited to play it live!”
With gig dates cascading the northeast already secured, it won’t be long before ‘Rex Mundi’ is given a dynamic new undertone through the mesmerising live performances that Cat Ryan are capable of. But while immersive experiences are waiting in the wings, watch this space, because art-gaze is here to stay…