Cat Crash Sounds Nothing Like Nirvana; That's The Point

By Leo Romance | May 6 2024

ID: A pink and red tinted image of Cat Crash performing. Cecil Yang, an Asian-American person wearing a cat ear headband, stands in the center, singing into a microphone. To the left of them, Brett Cornball plays guitar, with their hair completely covering their face. To the right of Cecil, Gabrielle Blevins, a feminine person with curly brown hair, plays guitar and stares stoicly into the distance. END ID.

From Fairfield, Connecticut, comes Cat Crash: an infectiously addictive indie riot grrrl act fronted by vocalist and bassist Cecil Yang. With 6 releases under their belt, now featuring their latest single "You Sound Nothing Like Nirvana", a spring tour on the way, and a newly announced gig at NYC's Punk Island festival, it's undeniable that Cat Crash is going places - even if it ends in a collision.

For our readers who haven't been lucky enough to hear about Cat Crash until now, I had the pleasure of speaking with Cecil about all things Cats and Crashes. It all started when a friend from high school said "Wanna start a band?" Cecil already had a list of potential band names, all of which were incredible, because who wouldn't want to see a band called They Slash Them or Yonic Wounds?

ID: Single cover for You Sound Nothing Like Nirvana by Cat Crash.

Cecil: I'd been in a band before in high school, but we'd never had any live performances, and never recorded any music. Maddie already had a lot of written songs with music. I've written songs before but have never had the capability of recording them or setting them to music.

Maddie was very insistent on recording songs professionally, which we did with the first three songs: Aphrodite, WDYMHDOSP?, and Dreamer. However, we quickly ran into time and monetary constraints as school started up again. My sophomore year of college, I spent a lot of time waiting for the songs to be mastered, then waiting to actually do something about them. Finally in February I was like, yeah, I'm dropping these, they have been sitting in a Google Drive for too long. So on February 3rd, we dropped Aphrodite Has A Plan.

Some more things happened where Maddie quit the band a couple of times, and I tried starting a new one called Lost and Found Out, but that one fizzled out, and I asked maddie if we could just have one live concert together, and then she can quit entirely.

Texas Is Forever: It wouldn't be an indie band without lineup drama!

Cecil: We had our first live show in my backyard, and it was awesome! Maddie decided to stay a little longer, and we started looking seriously for a drummer. We auditioned three people and I asked all of the candidates: Why do you want to join a riot grrrl band? I was looking for an answer around activism, but most people said something along the lines of "it's fun and cool!" Will Kneen [second to audition and selected as drummer] said she was LGBTQ, which was close enough to the answer I was looking for!

Almost immediately after we told Will he was our drummer, Maddie quit the band for the final time. We blocked each other on everything, which was a problem because I had scheduled another concert on November 25th in NYC. We found another guitarist and bassist and had the concert anyway, but it was time to find a new permanent guitarist.

I called Brett Cornball, the first person we auditioned for drums, back to be our new guitarist, and then Gabby Blevins joined the band as a rhythm guitarist, since she was already besties with Will. And that's the full Cat Crash lineup!

Texas Is Forever: Regarding activism, and being based in NYC especially, what do you think Cat Crash’s role is politically?

Cecil: I'm obviously very inspired by Riot Grrrl bands of the 90s, I believe a band like Cat Crash should have strong principles and the ability to stick by them. In the music scene, it's about making concerts feel safe for women and creating a space for other POC to make rock music.

It's kind of a difficult question because I don't necessarily believe anything I do for the band will have a direct impact on public policy, if I wanted to make a direct impact I would have gone into politics, I think it's more about providing a voice for people and inspiring others to make an impact. I'm an idealist, I describe what I think the world should be like, but it's up to us and the people who listen to us to make the actual changes. If I had my way everything would be fair and kind, but progress is unfortunately incremental.

Texas Is Forever: That's a really succinct way of putting it. At the end of the day, Riot Grrrl groups are here to provide a space that the mainstream punk community often doesn’t provide. With punk scenes often being exclusive, intentionally or not, does Cat Crash mesh well with the local scene, or are you doing your own thing?

Cecil: Okay, there's definitely been some friction, behind the scenes or not. In Connecticut, we have had some very lovely encounters, and some not so lovely encounters. Some bands are more interested in being oppositional for the sake of being oppositional, rather than to make any real change at all.

Texas Is Forever: Would you say that being oppositional for the sake of it and generally being shitty is what makes someone a "poser?"

Cecil: I don't know about calling people posers. I think doing those things makes you an asshole, yes, but poser's a term that could mean a lot of things, and feels more like something Holden Caulfield would call a person you just don't like.

Texas Is Forever: "Something Holden Caulfield would say"... Incredible description.

Cecil: There's been some really cool people too! Slow Pines, Don't Go Outside, Overlöded, and of course our dear friend Ren of Girlsona have been the most welcoming and cool people. I had met a really cool group of people at a concert in November, and they became our first cheerleaders. Seriously, they're such cool people, they are like the biggest wingmen for supporting your band and I'm so thankful for them.

Texas Is Forever: About influences, you're obviously inspired by Bikini Kill like you said. While the new single sounds nothing like Nirvana, it reminds me a LOT of Le Tigre. Were there any artists or songs in particular that inspired the single?

Cecil: Okay, so actually the song .stitches. by Frank Iero. That whole beginning part where he's going "I want what I want" over a drum beat and bass is what inspired the interludes of You Sound Nothing Like Nirvana.

Texas Is Forever: Now that you mention it, I definitely hear it's influence. Stitches is a good song.

Cecil: YSNLN makes references to Frank Iero, Gerard Way, Nirvana...It's all inspired by that scene of music that was queer but just queer enough to still be mainstream.

Oh, and Placebo, like the song Pure Morning I'd say is a huge inspiration, as well as Nancy Boy.

Texas Is Forever: Speaking of being queer enough for the mainstream, how does their art as a whole impact your own as a queer artist yourself?

Cecil: I make a lot of songs referencing Gerard Way, Nirvana, etc, but I'm not trying to sound like them, and I'm not trying to be like them, although I would love to be Gerard Way. If there was any artist I was "trying" to be, I'd say it was Fall Out Boy. We self-described originally as pop punk, and I spend high school deep within that scene, but MCR and Gerard Way got me into riot grrrl and queercore. Just from reading about Gerard's younger years and their influences.

Texas Is Forever: That reminds me that something I've noticed lately is a lot of newer bands trying to sound like My Chem, Fall Out Boy, Panic!, etc, to try and capitalize off the whole emo revival. It's really interesting to watch.

Cecil: Oh man, yeah. I think there's a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it, and it's pretty obvious which is which.

Texas Is Forever Generally speaking, it's been a big couple days for Cat Crash, what with the new single and the Punk Island lineup drop. 2024 is shaping up to be a huge year for the band.

Cecil: Yes! We haven't even made all the announcements we have yet! There's still more to come!

Texas Is Forever: You also have a spring tour coming up ahead of Punk Island. I imagine the excitement is palpable?

Cecil: It's terrifying and also exciting! Three shows in one weekend is the most we've ever done.

Texas Is Forever: Correct me if I'm wrong, but Punk Island is shaping up to be your biggest show yet, right?

Cecil: Yes! The Battle of the Bands on Saturday should be a pretty big gig too. We're really excited! I've been to Punk Island before and it was a blast.

Texas Is Forever: Does the excitement outweigh the anxiety of playing a show with such a huge draw?

Cecil: Haha, I'm more anxious about the Battle of the Bands to be honest. Punk Island isn't very anxiety inducing for me because I've been there before and know what to expect!

Texas Is Forever: In your wildest fantasy with no limits, what band would you love to join on tour?

Cecil, without hesitation: My Chemical Romance. Bikini Kill. Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I feel like those would be awesome.

Texas Is Forever: I see a stacked festival lineup in your future. How'd you feel if you got the chance to play Riot Fest orsomething similar?

Cecil: Oh my god, that would be amazing.

Actually, I feel pretty good about the chances of a Pinkshift/Cat Crashshow in the future, maybe in 2025.

Texas Is Forever: That sounds like a match made in heaven. What's it like balancing touring with school?

Cecil: Well, my classes just ended, and I'll admit my grades left something to be desired, but I don't think it was because of band stuff. I would rather be doing band stuff than school stuff, but it's not like I'm studying STEM. I'm in school for art, and it is kind of exhausting having to be creative like, 100% of the time.

I go to like, a lot of concerts, so that's always a nice time to myself and a reason to get up in the morning.

Texas Is Forever: I'm always counting down the days until my next concert.

Cecil: It's a lot cheaper than therapy.

Texas Is Forever: Just for fun as we wrap up, I've got a couple of would-you-rather's for you.

Riddle me this: Would you rather have a fifth MCR album, or a second Gerard Way solo record?

Cecil: Oh god... Fifth MCR album. I wanna hear what MCR sounds like in 2024 so bad.

Texas Is Forever: Warped Tour 2.0 with Fall Out Boy, or Projekt Revolution 2.0 with My Chemical Romance?

Cecil: I had to look up the lineups to these to compare and saw that ProRev 2007 apparently had Placebo, and Placebo x MCR is a combination that wipes out almost every other for me, so I'm gonna have to go with that.

Texas Is Forever: Saosin was on ProRev in 2007 too. Incredible lineup, however Linkin Park is also there.

Cecil: What do you have against Linkin Park?

Texas Is Forever: My dad says I look like Fred Durst every time I wear a baseball hat. Really tainted their reputatio for me.

Final question: Would you rather smoke a blunt with Kathleen Hanna, or Geoff Rickly?

Cecil, without hesitation: Kathleen Hanna.

Texas Is Forever: I so deeply respect the immediacy of that answer.

It's always a treat talking to bands about their music and sharing them with my corner of cyberspace, and it was a blast speaking to Cecil. You can catch Cat Crash this Saturday, May 11th, for the 3rd annual Battle of the Bands at Dave's Lesbian Bar in Queens, NYC, or on the road this May in NYC and Connecticut. Connect with them online at @catcrashband on Instagram, and purchase the new single over on BandCamp.