Jaya The Cat is a 4-piece punk-rock reggae group based out of Amsterdam, and originally formed in Boston, MA. Just ahead of the release of the band’s 5th full-length studio album A Good Day For The Damned, we connected with Jaya The Cat frontman Geoff Lagadec (vocals/rhythm guitar). Geoff opened up about the creation of the new album, the European reggae scene, and debates whether he’d rather party with his late idol Joe Strummer or rappers Drake and Lil Jon.
Lagadec is joined by Karl Smith (lead guitar/vocals), Jan Jaap “Jay” Onverwagt (bass/vocals), and David “The Germ” Germain (drums). After two members of an earlier incarnation of Jaya The Cat left the band, Lagadec simply decided to move himself and the band to Amsterdam following a European tour. Since the relocation, the group has built up a strong base of punk and reggae fans alike throughout Europe. Self described as “drunk reggae,” Jaya The Cat produce a raucous live show each night that they take to the stage.
Sipping on a glass (or two) of red wine from his home in Amsterdam, Geoff gave us some insight about his adopted city, as well as his appreciation for both the German reggae and party scenes. Geoff also discusses the rise of former label mates The Skints. Finally, we find out what’s holding Jaya The Cat from returning stateside for a few tour dates in the homeland.
Interview: Jaya The Cat
Your 5th studio album A Good Day For The Damned is about to drop, how long start to finish was the creation process?
Geoff: Maybe 4 years. That sounds dramatic, but our last album was about 5 years ago, and then I sorta started thinking maybe I should start a new album, like you do. But I’m lazy. So a song comes out here and there, you know, in between touring, but at some point we said to ourselves, “Shit it’s been a while.”
I had about 30 songs written, and we just picked a few and went into the studio.
Have you guys gotten to play any of the songs live off the new album? and if so, which ones have gotten the best reception from crowds so far?
Geoff: We’ve been doing “Amsterdam” live for almost 2 years now, actually. That was one of the first ones I wrote. For the rest, we just did two dates last weekend, and now we’re trying to integrate new shit into the set. So we did 5 new songs or so. But it’s hard. The first leg of this tour starts next Friday, so this whole week we’re just gonna go in and practice em’ and hopefully get em’ good. You never know how people are gonna respond, it’s surprising. So we’ll see!
Speaking of the track “Amsterdam,” it seems sort of like a love/hate relationship with your adopted city. Do you feel like there are other cities in Europe that are actually better party cities?
Geoff: Definitely, man. That’s the whole point of the song. Amsterdam’s got this reputation as this hedonistic fuckin’ playground. I’m in the center of the Red Light right now, that’s where I live. It’s really not what the Dutch want, and it’s not what this city is about actually. It’s more like a museum of what it used to be. They’re really trying to make it into a shopping district for high-end tourists now.
And you know it’s whatever, fuck it right? It’s fine. I guess the whole point is that if you go to Hamburg or Berlin, for your money you’re gonna get..You can stay up all fuckin’ night. You can go to a sex club in Berlin and stay there for a week, you know what I mean? The bars on my block, which is the Red Light, they close at 1 on weekdays. And you can’t sell beer at a shop past 10pm.
But it’s not like I hate it! The whole point of the song is actually about how beautiful of a city Amsterdam is. It’s lovely, with all the canals and shit like that. I was coming home one night, pissed off that there were no bars open, and I stood outside the canal outside my house, and I was like “you know, this is fuckin’ beautiful man!” I love this city. So it’s not what you’d expect, but I love it.
If you had the chance to party with any musician dead or alive for one night, who would you choose to go out with?
Geoff: Oh my god, I don’t know. I don’t like to meet people that I like, you know what I’m saying? I had a chance to meet Joe Strummer once, and I didn’t because The Clash are my favorite band ever. From all accounts he was a lovely person, but if he had been at all weird it would have ruined it for me.
It would have to be someone that..maybe an over the top rap artists or something. I’d go out with Drake! I’d do cocaine with Drake, how about that! Only because I wouldn’t care. If he was a dick it would be whatever. I’d go out with Lil Jon. Only because they seem like they’d be fun, and if they fuckin’ sucked I wouldn’t go home and say, “Shit man! that just ruined ‘Hot Line Bling’ for me.”
So you mentioned The Clash obviously. Is there anyone else that was a major influence on the sound you guys make, or that you were listening to growing up?
Geoff: The Pogues. Yeah, writing wise Shane MacGowan. Maybe that’s a better answer to that question. I would actually go out with him. Because I know he’d be a dick. I still wouldn’t turn down a night with Lil Jon or Drake, but Shane MacGowan is probably a more appropriate answer. I think it would just be interesting, he’s a great writer.
Touring is usually pretty taxing on bands. Even ones that don’t seem to keep the party going post-performance. What do you do to relax once the tour is over, or do you just keep it going?
Geoff: I don’t know, I travel a lot and I’m kinda restless. I’ve been over to Vienna to write, lately it’s been Hamburg, and Sofia in Bulgaria I really like. But just everywhere. I go to the UK a lot too. We don’t party as much as we used to which is good.
I actually quit drugs recently, which is weird.
How’s that going so far?
Geoff: I got bored, you know? I knew exactly what was going to happen now, so I was like fuck it. I basically just realized it wasn’t leading me anywhere. The negatives were outweighing the positives, and I was just like, “I don’t need that.” It’s too expensive to fuck up your life. I’ll fuck it up for cheap, ha!
The new album is releasing via Bomber Records, I know The Skints used to be with them as well. Have you two bands ever crossed paths?
Geoff: We’re really good friends with them, yeah. We’ve toured with them a bunch, and yeah, they’re part of our musical family. Great kids, and an absolutely fuckin’ blinding band. They’re that good, and you wish them the best because they started out opening for us, and then it flipped over and we were opening up for them in the UK.
They really work for it. Never seen a band that works as hard, especially Josh, he’s so focused. We’re lazy, ha!
Any other bands in Europe that you’ve toured with or enjoy listening to that the Americans back home are missing out on?
Geoff: There’s a band from Wales called Captain Accident & The Disasters. He’s sort of roots, but really light. Amazing talent. There’s also a band from Hamburg called Le Fly. They worked with our manager, and they did a track with a bunch of German hip-hop and reggae artists, and I did some part of it. They were really nice.
But for reggae, isn’t it all about Germany, man. Seeed and Patrice and stuff like that.
Oh yeah, Seeed is legendary! Peter Fox is a genius.
Geoff: That’s all stuff that I’m not sure people are familiar with back home, right? When I first heard that shit I was like what?! The Germans have it locked down reggae wise. Gentleman, what the fuck! Have you seen him live? Amazing, he just has a show. You see some bands with the keyboard player doing the horns, stuff like that. They have one guy and then three kids they don’t have to pay much. And then you see Gentleman and he’s got 20 fuckin’ people on stage. He brought out a different guest for each song when I saw him in Cologne.
Sounds like things are going well in Europe, but do you have any plans to come back to the States and do a tour?
Geoff: It’s been a wicked long time, man. It’s such a pain. I would like to though. To be honest, we do alright on the East Coast and people seem to know us now, but we’d have to almost start up again over there, you know. Me and the drummer are American, but the rest of the band are either English or Dutch. So we’d have to deal with visas. Then suddenly you’re just in a goddamn van playing for next to nothing.
The way that we would go there is, say we get some breakthrough single, but I don’t think we’re that kind of band. Or if we got an offer to support. That’s how The Skints did it, they poured their own money into it. They went and opened for people and kept doing it. But I don’t know if I give a fuck. And hell, it’s a nightmare back there right now, you know? I feel sorry for everyone back there.
It’s sad, it’s not entertaining for my friends that are minorities, or poor, or gay, or anything. But sometimes in the morning I just google “Trump” to see what the fuck he did. You couldn’t make that shit up. It’s not a reason not to go, I mean it is our country, I still love it, and it’s beautiful. I would love to do a West Coast tour. If we put the effort in maybe we could do okay.
Geoff, thanks for taking some time to catch up with The Pier. Best of luck with the new album A Good Day For The Damned! The album officially drops Nov. 17th via Bomber Music. You’ll be able to stream it on Spotify or own it via iTunes by clicking HERE!
Watch: Jaya The Cat – Amsterdam (Official Video)
Jaya The Cat Website
Jaya The Cat Facebook
Interview by: Brian Winters
Watch: Jaya The Cat – Here Comes The Drums (Official Video)