LAMPOON, Cats on Trees, A French duo
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Alie, third studio album for the French indie duo Cats on Trees

«We’ve regained the freshness of our early days, while also growing in maturity». With their brand new album as Cats on Trees, the French duo is back to big on stage

Cats on Trees, Alie

The third album by French duo Cats on Trees has been released in January 2022 via the Parisian label Tôt ou tard. It is called Alie and it is the most complex and multifaceted work; created so far by Nina Goern (on vocals and piano) and Yohan Hennequin (on drums). Two sensitive artists from Toulouse and long-time collaborators, but above all old friends.

The power of melody

Cats on Trees, an English name for a French pop band with international success. There are countless cinematic scenes depicting kittens, trapped in high branches amid foliage, who are swiftly rescued by brave firefighters. Let’s delete these images: there is no helpless creature to save in the Cats on Trees’s world; but elegant and powerful pop music, where melody is the law that governs balance and movements. Two of Alie’s first singles featured engaging and timeless melodic lines. 

The excellent reception

Please please please, out in June 2021, has garnered significant public acclaim with many streaming listeners. The official video – a black and white short story – received the same excellent reception.

This song, which Goern and Hennequin regard as one of the most effective melodies they have ever written. A kind of instant hit talks about the need to accept the other person into our lives as they are.

The dreamy and melancholy melody drags it up to the explosion in «million songs, a million dreams» of the chorus, catchy and cinematic, with languid strings making the atmosphere magical and bright. Here and there even some vague reference to ABBA’s disco pop appears, because what works in music can go through time and seasons.

About accepting changes 

The second official single from the new album, She was a girl, was inspired by Sébastien Lifshitz’s documentary Petite Fille. It is about Sasha’s story – an enfant transgender. Sasha is an eight-year-old boy who wants to be a girl. She feels uncomfortable within his body and the strict limits imposed by the conservative stereotypes.

Lyrics are plain and simple. In this song, the theme of transition, considered a physical and psychological passage, is strong. It could be insidious but dealt with tact and sensitivity, as is necessary for a material to be handled with care. It is a metaphor, beautiful and appropriate as there are so many others throughout the album.

Nina Goern on vocals and piano and Yohan Hennequin on drums formed Cats on trees music duo

Alie, the third studio album for Cats on Trees

The third studio album by Cats on Trees, Alie, takes its title from its most impactful songs. The whole project instills and spreads the emotional universe of the French band. Alie is their most introspective work so far. It has the full flavor of confession, of the stream of consciousness, of the outburst without recriminations or violence. 

Nina Goern, writing all the lyrics, let her thoughts go, drawing inspiration from the poets she has always loved. The surrealist Louis Aragon, participated in the avant-garde movements that shaped France’s literary scene in the 20th century. But also Jacques Prévert, another author close to Surrealism, a strong advocate for freedom of expression, gave us a language made of brief and striking inventions, poetic syntheses, verbal and visual metaphors full of pathos. Both of them inspire Goern, who learned from these masters the love for metaphors and the visual rendering of words.

Alie and human emotions

So, Alie talks about human emotions and its lack, even if we live immersed in a hyper-connected world. So then, the twelve songs (plus a bonus track) talk about the difficulties of being a parent and raising a child, being in a couple, or living alone today. The cathartic journey through sadness and melancholy seems necessary for the Cats on Trees, more than in the past.

Working with Liam Howe and Spike Stent

After two successful albums – the first, self-titled (2013), and the second, Neon (2018) – the Cats on Trees also changed their approach to writing and composition. As Nina Goern said, talking about the brand new album, «We wanted to convey in song form the things deepest inside of us, becoming self-sufficient in terms of our sound. I’ve never played so much piano or taken such a close interest in production techniques».  

So Yohan Hennequin claimed that «This album demanded a massive amount of work and loads of good fortune – happy strokes of luck like meeting Liam and Spike. We’ve become mellower, we understand each other better – and that has brought a fresh depth».

London-based record producer, musician and songwriter Liam Howe

Liam and Spike are not two random professionals, but they are nothing less than the London-based producer and songwriter Liam Howe. He has worked as a producer for Adele, Lana Del Rey, FKA Twigs, Ellie Goulding, and the sound engineer Mark ‘Spike’ Stent.

His hands and ears have been behind hits by Madonna, Björk, Goldfrapp, Arcade Fire, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Muse, Frank Ocean, Ed Sheeran, Florence and the Machine, and other stars on the international scene. Both Howe and Stent said they fell in love with Cats on Trees’ project at the first listening event, as it rarely happens.

Nina Goern and Yohan Hennequin have done what we have all done in the last two years. They faced the pandemic crisis that forced them to block and, despite the period, they resumed writing and making music again. For them, art has retained its healing and regenerating power, so they found a way to start over and go even deeper into writing and introspection. When the French government eased or lifted health restrictions, they gathered in their Toulouse studio to complete and finalize the recordings. The collaboration with Liam Howe and Spike Stent began and paid off at that stage.

Fresh but mature, a friendship in music

As Cats on Trees said, a significant achievement brought by this album was the rediscovery of creative harmony between them. For over eighteen years, the pianist Nina Goern and the drummer Yohan Hennequin have made music together. They came from two different experiences: Aeria Microcosm (Goern) and My Own Private Alaska (Hennequin).

Cats on Trees, Alie

Cats on Trees is a French indie-pop duo, formed in Toulouse (France) in 2007 by Nina Goern (on vocals and piano) and Yohan Hennequin (on drums). After the success of the first two studio albums, Cats on Trees (2013) and Neon (2018), the band is coming out with a brand new project called Alie, mixed by Mark “Spike” Stent and produced by Liam Howe.

Claudia Galal

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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