Album Player Credits: Dylan Rodrigue- vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, pump organ, piano, and chair / Evan Jiroudek-drums, vocals/ Lincoln Mendell-Nord Organ/ Sie Sie Benhoff, Natalie Perez, Ian Lipson, Albert Hickman-vocals
Dylan Rodrigue, a 26-year old rocker and singer-songwriter based in LA, will release his first studio album, Cat’s Game on January 25th via Palomino Records in the US and Bad Paintings in the UK. The album was produced, engineered and mixed by Evan Jiroudeck (INNocent Alex, Lake Ryan & Bones Muhroni,) at Sound Orgy Palace (SOP) Studios and mastered by Jason NeSmith of the Elephant 6 Collective in Athens, GA (Of Montreal, Daniel Johnston, Casper & the Cookies).
Cat’s Game features stripped down acoustic folk, Neil Young inspired electric guitar rock, and Stooges-esque punk. Rodrigue, who loves exploring all genres and musical forms, can jump between intimate and quiet to loud and abrasive. Cat’s Game falls on the side of more intimate and acoustic, though there are some louder electric rockers, such as “The Money Game” and “Minimize the Damage”. “My main concern was to have no instrument get in the way of the lyrics,” he specified.
Rodrigue began playing guitar and writing his own songs at the age of 8. He studied classical guitar in high school and eventually obtained a degree in songwriting and avant-garde composition from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). He has recorded several lofi albums on bandcamp prior to Cat's Game. His professional career has shown the same sense of adventure with this year bringing about movement and change.
Playing guitar in 8 different bands, the artist, who considers himself a songwriter, realized he would need to narrow his focus if he was ever going to pursue his own music. Now playing live shows under his own name, he’s enlisted Marcus Hogsta (Fell Runner, Wistappear) on bass and Robert Anderson (Cerny Brothers, Albert & His Dreamboats) on drums. “Having such a small group with such wonderful players has been amazing,” he states. “I’m finally in a place where I have a band that feels expansive and unlimited.” Claiming that he doesn’t regret playing in so many bands, Rodrigue says, “It’s made me a better musician. Nonetheless, I’ve have always thought of myself as a songwriter, rather than a guitarist. I love playing guitar, but writing is what I do every day and it’s what makes me strive to move forward.”
Rodrigue reluctantly notes that Cat’s Game is a breakup album. “I almost called it The Stages of Grief just because I realized that’s what I was going through. What I find interesting about documenting the grieving process is that there is nothing logical about it. So many of the thoughts and concepts in the album are fueled by emotion rather than critical reasoning. This results in something that can even be contradicting itself at times.”
Rodrigue came to Jiroudeck with 30 songs and they slowly narrowed it down to 9. “White Moon” kicks it off, warm song about the world written from the Moon’s point of view. “Self-Love” is a straight-ahead pop song about manifesting a fictitious lover in one's mind in order to cope with loneliness. “Self-Love” will also be the first single from the album. “Some Kind of Heaven” is a simple folk song that was inspired by his upbringing in the spiritual community of Ananda Village. “They told me that if we meditate every day then we will all go to heaven and that there is a divine mother watching over all of us,” he says. “The idea is improbable, but it’s nice to think of an afterlife without all the pain and suffering and heartbreak, even if it’s all bullshit.”
The vocals for “Living This Way” were recorded in a bathtub. “It’s a song about wanting to die and not wanting to look for hope,” he explains. “The most over-the-top thing we did with this was record me kicking a chair to the ground after the line, ‘I wanna find me a rope, knock the chair and let it go’. It’s honestly so depressing that it only felt natural to go that far with it.”
A cool and subtle detail is on the song, “If You’re Not My Lover”. While recording, Jiroudeck had accidentally clinked his glass of whiskey on his desk right before Rodrigue sings “That’s why I’m seeing that girl from the bar”. They liked the effect so much that they kept it.
While all of the songs showcase Rodrigue’s deeply personal lyrics, “Minimize the Damage” is a more dynamic and epic sounding than the rest of the record. “If the songs on the album represent stages of grief, this song would represent acceptance,” he says. “It was really fun to work on. We spent a lot of time experimenting with Evan letting loose on the drums and overdubbing several guitars at the end, more than any other song.”
Cat’s Game is an introspective album and is recorded with all live instruments. “There’s no midi,” Rodrigue explains. “The songs lean more toward a traditional folk sound and less towards and avant-garde pop thing, like on my EP Scrimp. It’s not a bold statement from the beginning. I think it has many layers that are hopefully revealed through multiple listens.”