“Here and now rushes by like it’s already been,” Felix Riebl sings in the opening line to his latest musical exploration. That line hints at the urgency of the music: electric guitars surge and soar, the energy is intense, in your face.
The song, Black Room, is unlike anything Felix has released in a career that has always been about deftly side-stepping definitions. That has guided him across a career that spans nine albums, and many laps of the globe as the lead singer of The Cat Empire through to more introspective solo work and a deep journey into the heart of Australia in the Spinifex Gum project, featuring the all-female, all-Indigenous Marilya Choir.
“With Black Room I wanted to write a song that hit people with a blast of something that was equal parts angst and positivity,” Felix says. “I wanted something with no fat at all, the guitars and synth hooks direct, the sort of thing you can imagine a band playing at a big festival.”
He got that right. The song opens a stand-alone EP, ‘Black Room White Walls’, that fits the mood of 2020 even though it was written and recorded before images of fire, pandemic and protest filled our screens and uneasy dreams.
Felix’s career with The Cat Empire, one of Australia’s most enduring bands and most in-demand live musical exports, has been all about being open to diverse sounds and cultures.
He is no different in his solo work. ‘Black Room White Walls’ not only takes inspiration from the stark power of bands like New Order, but also from Russian composer Rachmaninoff. In particular, the bold, strident imagery of the Prelude in C# Minor.
“I was learning it on piano and sometimes that opens up another harmonic world,” Felix says. “I had these images of someone dropping a bomb on an orchestra and there are only a few instruments left. When I went into that world the lyrics started to flow. The songs weren’t written in response to the things happening around us now but it does feel like the right time to release them.”
“I feel that these songs have a lot of optimism and spirit in them, but they don’t shy away from the black keys, knife-edge, or high drama. For the most part, That’s the atmosphere I revelled in while writing and recording these songs. I think there’s one in a major key to balance it out…”
Now ‘Black Room White Walls’ is another surprising twist in Felix’s musical adventures.
“When I started out people would tell me if you want to be successful you have to find a sound and pin your identity to that sound. It just hasn’t worked out that way for me. I draw music from so many places and let my voice and writing style pave the way, often unexplainably. Maybe later I’ll be able to step back and see it as part of a bigger picture.”
‘BLACK ROOM WHITE WALLS’ IS RELEASED ON AUGUST 21
PRE-SAVE & PRE-ORDER HERE
‘BLACK ROOM’ IS OUT NOW. LISTEN HERE.