The video for Wildcat! Wildcat!'s "Mr. Quiche" is a must-watch. Tyler Rumph directed it for one of the first Los Angeles indie-pop outfit's tunes, and it features a giant feline-person realizing he is on the last of his nine lives, so he heads out to the LA streets to use up what are presumably his final hours: He break-dances, talks with strangers, buys goldfish. By the end, he's slipping into a forest, apparently to end his own life before the world gets to him first.
It's a sad, striking clip that syncs with the tonal juxtapositions of Wildcat! Wildcat!'s music. It's akin to experiencing a Ferris wheel ride as the park is about to shut down: There's all this brightness and magic, but there's all this darkness, as well as a sense of foreboding. Using sumptuous keyboard lines, carefully thumping drums and drifting vocals, the music rides a line between sunny and miserable.
Drummer/vocalist Jesse Carmichael enjoys that dichotomy, too. "[Our music is] kind of a through-line to the people we are overall: very emotional, very sensitive guys who have gone down roller coasters of depression and various forms of mental and emotional trouble," the 30-year-old says. "But then we also have extremely high highs and very amazing moments of joy and happiness together."
Taking their name from a reference in The Royal Tenenbaums, Wildcat! Wildcat! started in 2012, but their true history dates back to a moving day in the late 1990s. A teenage Carmichael asked a friend to help him move from Moorpark to Thousand Oaks, and that buddy brought along one of his friends: future keyboardist/vocalist Michael Wilson. In high school, Carmichael and Wilson became friends with bassist/vocalist-to-be Jesse Taylor. The guys went through musical phases together–pop-punk, hardcore, emo, classic rock–and stayed in touch as they played with various projects. Eventually, they came together to make music for fun. After playing their first show, they threw a couple of songs onto Soundcloud and were eventually noticed by blogs. "Next thing you knew, we were kind of like, 'Oh, this is a real band now. People actually care about what we're doing, so we should keep going,'" Carmichael says.
Wildcat! Wildcat!'s sound was something they stumbled onto during early recordings. Wilson worked with an "old, pretty shitty keyboard" instead of a proper piano, and Carmichael didn't have enough space to set up drums in his loft, so he would program beats using the music software Logic. But those limited means led to a spareness and airiness that works with their music.
Although the road to Wildcat! Wildcat! might seem long, the group are still young. No Moon at All, their debut record, just landed in August. And Carmichael–as well as Wilson and Taylor–plan to keep going. "We all grew up having music [as] such a huge, emotional influence on our lives," he says. "[To] keep making music that makes people feel something and makes people connect with it . . . If you can do that, then you can keep going until you're dead."
Wildcat! Wildcat! perform with BØRNS at the Constellation Room at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.constellationroom.com . Mon., 8 p.m. $12. All ages.