Interview with Blake Cateris
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I feel with this, I had some fortune at every step along the way. My mum picked me up from school at the age of five and said “I’ve signed you up for piano lessons this Saturday” and I just said “ok”. So I had a very early exposure to music which I feel has played a very big part in my appreciation and interest. When I was twelve, I met some guys in high school that wanted me to play bass guitar for their band and I think that was the first of many, but major, pivotal points in my life - we stayed together for nine years - and without that I’m not even sure where I would be today. I even wrote it on one of the guy’s birthday cards a few years ago: “if I hadn’t met you my life would probably be very miserable so, thank you”
If I wasn’t doing music, my gut is to say still working a landscaping job for the council but… I got that job through one of the guys in my high school band so I probably wouldn’t even be doing that if I hadn’t joined that band! I’m extremely grateful for how they helped shape my adolescence.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
When I’m not playing music, I would like to say that I’m enriching my life with inspirational books, art, ideas and honing my craft as a songwriter.
But the reality is that I’m likely answering emails, talking to agents, other bands, looking up good places to play on a tour or learning how to use Photoshop & Premiere Pro.
These days, there’s this expectation of us to do everything and being a ‘Musician’ is one of those rare occupations where 95% of your job description actually has nothing to do with your job title.
How long have you been making music?
Well I started when I was five and I’m now peeking over the cliff edge of my 28th year.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’m based in Sydney, Australia. After living in this country for so long I feel there’s a big expectation (to the point of failure if not accomplished) to get placed on radio, a large contributing factor to this is that it’s so difficult to run a successful tour here due to our population densities being so spread out over our massive continent. You drive three hours from Sydney and you’re in Canberra, whereas in Europe, you drive three hours and you’re in another country.
So as a result, there’s this emphasis on making your music as accessible as possible. Whereas none of my favourite songwriters write pop music in their bands or careers - with the exception of Butch Walker who is an incredibly successful producer in his own right even though it’s his solo work that I’m in love with.
While I have to acknowledge that radio is a powerful and respectable tool in promoting your art and getting airtime is a huge achievement (my old band got some great radio play on Australia’s coveted Triple J airwaves) I feel like my priorities would be all out of whack if “can this get played on radio” is the only important box to tick in my creative process.
There’s one tiny little pocket of brilliance on Australian radio called Short.Fast.Loud. and it’s where I discovered so many of my favourite Australian acts of late.
With that said in mind, what influences me are the words written that bore into your soul, that are more stronger than a thousand armies and heavier than Slayer. The kind of music that sends your limbic system into disarray.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
The first that comes to mind was in a previous band Vanity Riots, touring the Philippines and playing their version of Australia’s Hot Damn - just a cool little place (and much more DIY) where all the punk and hardcore kids could hang out and party. We played an epic show there and made a ton on new friends, I think at one stage the power generator blew and all the lights and electricity cut out, which meant no cold drinks or music. Despite that minor mishap, the entire three weeks were a blast.
More recently a memorable show for me is the one where I invited a select few people over to my place (mainly because my backyard is small) and held a little house concert and got my friends Starcrazy (coincidently the guys from my highschool band) and Billy Puntton & The Mental Health Plan to play as well. I also got some great footage for the music video for ‘Days, Weeks, Months & Years’ this night as well.
What is your favourite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Obviously there are bucket list venues like Enmore Theatre in my hometown. I used to walk past it late at night thinking “One day, I will play on your stage”, I’ve done a few tech or driving gigs for promoters with that venue but yet to grace the stage with my music.
I always have a great time at Frankie’s Pizza as well, it’s been my home for 10 years now and I don’t think there’s a venue that can top it in Australia in terms of atmosphere, great sound and respect for the artist. It’s the trifecta.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Frank Turner, Will Varley, Jethro Morris, Chasing Ghosts, Social Distortion, Rancid & myself - what a show that would be.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
If you go out and do it yourself, you’ve earned it and no one can take that away from you. It’s not handed to you on a silver platter by someone who can hold that over you or take it away from you whenever you want. Once you’ve earned your achievements and they belong to you, no one can take them away from you.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
This is a very tricky one to answer, I’m sure I’m not the only songwriter to ever struggle with it either!
My most significant song to myself will usually come and go, songs are very much like tattoos, they’re a snapshot of your life at the time that they were created. It explains what you were going through in that very moment and if you’re lucky, they’ll ring true for a long time after, if not, the rest of your life. I have songs that in the moment, or the year or two following it’s release were my favourite and most proud of creations and now I’ve taken them out of my set because they’re almost embarrassing. The creative process is a constant evolution and songs that I love now, I might not even be able to stomach 5 years from now.
Having said that, at this point in time, I have a verse from a song that I felt was a throwaway for so long until I revisited it this year and realised how much it still rang true to this day. I ended up doing a live take of it at a friend’s studio and put it up as a B-side on my It’ll Never Happen To Me single.
The song’s called Good Thing Going and the verse goes:
You’ve lost your voice, you’ve lost your crowd The air in your lungs dies cold in your mouth Dreams of greatness and words profound Ruined by the faithless and holier than thou, The only thing slowing you downIs the weight on your mind you carry around Take tomorrow one day at a timeWith your head held high and your feet on the ground,
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I wrote a song about my cat called “Oh, Rocky”. It’s this song that is the absolute crowd pleaser of my shows of late, not the songs that I poured my blood, sweat and tears into for 6-12 months, it’s the song about my cat that took 15 minutes.
“pLaY tHe CaT sOnG” as my friends would say. It’s unexpected but I’ll take it and it’s a fun song to sing and see bringing a smile to people’s faces.
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
Life, this current body of work that I have going regales the listener with tales of lament and self-awareness, if feels like a grand stage of acceptance for my position and taking ownership of it via admission. Between undertaking the colossal task of actively wanting to get better and my long term relationship falling apart this year, I have plenty of new material to work with going forward after these songs are out.
I subscribe to that school of thought that thinks you can’t catch any fish if your line’s not in the water. To me, waiting for inspiration to strike isn’t a very effective way to go about getting my ideas out, it needs to be a constant focus so that ideas can develop and you’re filtering for opportunities to bring something new to the table.
I tend to start with lyrics and once the idea is fleshed out, I’ll start to work music to it and simultaneously redraft the lyrics to make all the parts work. It’s always different though and there’s no right or wrong way to write a song.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
I think my ultimate goal with my music is to make people feel the way that I feel when I listen to my favourite songwriters - “To pour out their truth in song for the rest of us to enjoy, absorb and apply to our own lives” as my favourite songwriter Frank Turner once said.
I feel like songwriting is an ever-changing and fluid mix of creativity & discipline, of freedom & rules, with no concrete ratio between the two ends of the spectrum accepted as gospel. Thus, far too difficult to explain and much too convoluted to teach.
A friend told me recently she put on my Careless Memories release as she ripped down all the polaroids of her ex-boyfriend on her bedroom wall after they’d broken up and to me, that is what
I want my music to be able to do. For me to enhance the experience for her with a song was an incredible triumph and if this is a way I can give back to people then I feel I’m the most successful person on the planet.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
October 7th is when my next release Days, Weeks, Months & Years is set for release and there are a couple of extra b-sides on there as well because I like to do that. It’ll be available to stream worldwide as well as on my website to download if you like to own things.
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
I’m on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bcateris
and occasionally TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@blakecateris
As well as having a website as a hub for everything at www.blakecateris.com