Cats Laughing

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Cats Laughing
Cats Laughing logo.png
Cats Laughing logo for 2015 reunion
Background information
Origin Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Genres Folk rock
Years active 1988 (1988)–1996 (1996),[1] 2015
Labels Spin Art
Members Steven Brust
Emma Bull
Lojo Russo
Adam Stemple
Scott Keever
Past members Bill Colsher

Cats Laughing is a folk rock band, most active in the late 1980s and early 1990s, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Several of its members, including Emma Bull and best-selling author Steven Brust, are better known as writers of fantasy and science fiction. A reunion performance took place on April 3, 2015, with plans for the release of a concert CD and DVD of the performance to follow.[2]


The original members of the group were Steven Brust on drums, Emma Bull on lead vocals, Bill Colsher on guitar and synthesizer, Lojo Russo on bass and vocals, and Adam Stemple on guitar and vocals. For the group's 2015 reunion, Colsher was replaced by Scott Keever, performing on guitar, mandolin, and keyboards.[2]

Both Brust and Bull are best known as professional authors of fantasy and science fiction novels. Stemple, a professional musician, is also the author of four fantasy novels, including two in the Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tale series co-authored with his mother, the fantasy writer and editor Jane Yolen.

Bootleg Issue (1988)[edit]

Bootleg Issue
Studio album by Cats Laughing
Released 1988
Genre Folk rock
Length 45:46
Label Spin Art

In 1988, Cats Laughing released their first album, generally known as Bootleg Issue, initially on cassette and CD. The album has also been distributed under the titles The Basement Tape and Reissue, and was re-released digitally in 2013 under the title The First Album.[3]

Production notes[edit]

Bootleg Issue was recorded on a four-track recorder, with effects created using guitar stomp boxes and a home stereo equalizer.[4] The track "Signal to Noise" was initially listed as three tracks, with its introductory section broken out under the title "FMera", and the ending section broken out under the title "FMera (reprise)."[4] The noise that starts "FMera" (or "Signal to Noise") was Adam Stemple striking a match close to the microphone.[4]

The concluding songs of the album were further described by Emma Bull:

Since the first CD was made from the original cassette, where there were no electronic markers for the beginnings and ends of songs, things can get kinda hairy. But here’s the Official Conception: "Back Door" ends. Then the strange ambient noise-jam starts up that we developed, when playing live, to suggest a radio being tuned across a series of frequencies that weren’t coming in well enough to identify—sort of a "driving across the middle of nowhere late at night and getting things on your radio that might be signals from outer space" feel. That’s "FMera" (which we didn’t name until we recorded it), which is really just the intro to "Signal to Noise." Since we were way into structure, we had to go out as we came in, so "Signal to Noise" ends with more space-jam noise, which is "FMera (reprise)". The album ends in a mighty doom-and-gloom crash with "More Thumbscrews," the song that starts with the lyrics, "The trees bowed to greet me as I passed by."[4]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
1. "The Enchantment"   E. Bull Bull 4:34
2. "Gloomy Sunday"   Rezső Seress (credited as trad. Hungarian) Russo 5:34
3. "Half-Dollar Blues"   S. Brust & A. Stemple Stemple 2:39
4. "Facade"   Lojo Russo Russo 4:29
5. "Tellers of Tales"   S. Brust & A. Stemple Stemple, Russo, Bull 5:54
6. "The Good Stuff"   Lojo Russo Russo 4:50
7. "Back Door"   A. Stemple Stemple 4:49
8. "Signal to Noise"   E. Bull Bull 6:52
9. "More Thumbscrews"   S. Brust Bull 6:08

Another Way to Travel (1990)[edit]

Another Way to Travel
Studio album by Cats Laughing
Released 1990
Genre Folk rock
Length 56:10
Label Spin Art
Cats Laughing: Another Way to Travel
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[5]

The group's second album, Another Way to Travel, was released in 1990 with ten original songs, and an arrangement of the traditional song "Nottamun Town."

Production notes[edit]

The song "Black Knight's Work" was co-written by Emma Bull and another science fiction and fantasy writer, John M. Ford.[6] Dave Stenshoel (fiddle) and Robin Anders (additional percussion), both members of the band Boiled in Lead, appeared on Another Way to Travel as guest musicians.[7]

The album featured cover art by editor and author Terri Windling, depicting the band members and a vehicle known as the Catmobile that was used to transport the band. The vehicle, owned by Brust, was a Cadillac ambulance that had been painted yellow, light blue, and dark blue, with murals.

Critical reception[edit]

According to AllMusic reviewer Richard Foss, "The original tunes on Another Way to Travel are as inventive as might be expected of a band with two highly original poets and novelists aboard... it's hard to listen to this disc without a pang of regret that Cats Laughing didn't stay together a while longer and record a few more albums."[5] Foss pointed to the album's "sophisticated, complex arrangements of all sorts of music", bringing "a sense of character and purpose" that spanned multiple genres.[5]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Bright Street Beachhouse Back in Business Blues"   S. Brust & E. Bull 5:52
2. "The Undertoad"   Lojo Russo 3:49
3. "Sing Out"   A. Stemple 5:51
4. "Nottamun Town"   Traditional 5:38
5. "See How the Sparrow Flies"   S. Brust 3:06
6. "For It All"   Emma Bull 4:12
7. "Elijah"   S. Brust & A. Stemple 6:28
8. "Wear My Face"   E. Bull & A. Stemple 6:59
9. "Stars Overhead"   A. Stemple & S. Brust 4:26
10. "Black Knight’s Work"   John M. Ford & E. Bull 3:57
11. "Draw the Curtain"   S. Brust, A. Stemple, & E. Bull 5:52

Musical career in the mid-1990s[edit]

As Cats Laughing became increasingly less active in the 1990s, Emma Bull also played in folk duo The Flash Girls, while Stemple was one of the lead singers and a guitarist for the folk celtic punk band Boiled in Lead. Russo switched from bass to mandolin to play in the Irish band Gallowglass, then began a solo career in 1993. The group occasionally reunited as late as the mid-1990s.

In 1994, two Cats Laughing songs were included in the soundtrack of a video, an extended promotional trailer for a potential film production based on Emma Bull's screenplay for her novel War for the Oaks (1987).[8][9] In addition to the two full-length songs, the trailer also opened with the introduction to "Signal to Noise" (also known as "FMera") from The Bootleg Issue.[9]

The video was shot on location in Minneapolis by Will Shetterly, and included "Nottamun Town" and a new Cats Laughing song, "Here We Go Again," that was based on War for the Oaks.[9] The full eleven-minute trailer was published at Green Man Review.[10] Excerpts from the trailer that included "Here We Go Again" and "Nottamun Town" were later self-released in higher resolution by Shetterly.[11][12]

2015 reunion concert[edit]

A reunion concert by Cats Laughing took place on April 3, 2015, at the Minicon 50 science fiction convention in Bloomington, Minnesota.[2][13] The Minnesota Science Fiction Society agreed to host a two hour concert on the convention's opening Friday night, which will be made available for live streaming.[14]

The reunited group includes Steven Brust, Emma Bull, Lojo Russo, and Minicon 50's musician guest of honor, Adam Stemple.[2] Bill Colsher declined to participate publicly, but remained engaged in plans associated with the reunion.[15] The group took on a new member, Scott Keever, on guitar, mandolin, and keyboards.[2]

The reunion project, including live video streaming of the concert and production of a concert CD and DVD, was fully funded in January 2015 by a Kickstarter campaign.[14]

References in other media[edit]


  1. ^ Meyer, Jim (January 5, 1996). "Lojo Russo seeks ethereal accessibility". Star Tribune. pp. 02.E. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "A Long Time Gone". Beyond Conventions. Archived from the original on 2014-11-16. Retrieved November 15, 2014. 
  3. ^ Cats Laughing (2013) [1988]. The First Album. ASIN B0019KFEKQ. 
  4. ^ a b c d "FAQ #1: "The First Album" or "Bootleg Issue"?". Cats Laughing (blog). February 14, 2008. Archived from the original on 2012-11-03. 
  5. ^ a b c Foss, Richard. Another Way to Travel review at AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-04-02.
  6. ^ Cats Laughing (1990). Another Way to Travel (Media notes). ASIN B000MBO21K. 
  7. ^ Nutick, Maria (2003). "Cats Laughing". Green Man Review. Kinrowan Limited. Archived from the original on 2010-12-16.  Reprinted as "Cats Laughing: Bootleg/Another Way to Travel". Sleeping Hedgehog. 2011. Archived from the original on 2012-03-15. 
  8. ^ Bull, Emma (2004). "Appendix: 'That Would Make a Great Movie!'". War for the Oaks: A Novel. Macmillan. pp. 321–332. ISBN 9781466804234. 
  9. ^ a b c Eldridge, Cat (2004). "Review: Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, War for the Oaks screenplay". Green Man Review. Archived from the original on 2011-12-02. 
  10. ^ Bull, Emma; Shetterly, Will (1994). War for the Oaks (official film trailer). Archived from the original on 2012-02-04. 
  11. ^ Cats Laughing (November 21, 2007) [1994]. War for the Oaks: "Here We Go Again". YouTube (official music video) (Will Shetterly). 
  12. ^ Cats Laughing (November 21, 2007) [1994]. War for the Oaks: "Nottamun Town" by Cats Laughing, and more. YouTube (official music video) (Will Shetterly). 
  13. ^ Minnesota Science Fiction Society. "Minicon 50 – The Gold Edition". Archived from the original on 2014-11-16. 
  14. ^ a b Brust, Dee; Brust, Corwin (January 2015). "Create a Cats Laughing Twenty Year Reunion Event & Album". Kickstarter. Archived from the original on 2015-01-08. 
  15. ^ Cats Laughing (December 4, 2014). "Throwback Thursday is it?". Cats Laughing (page). Facebook. 
  16. ^ Claremont, Chris; Adams, Arthur (1989). Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem. Marvel. ISBN 9780871356253. 
  17. ^ DeFalco, Tom, ed. (1991). Marvel Illustrated: Swimsuit Issue No. 1. Marvel Comics. ASIN B004DZE15S. 
  18. ^ McCabe, Joe (2004). Hanging Out With the Dream King: Interviews with Neil Gaiman and His Collaborators. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics Books. p. 254. ISBN 1-56097-617-9. 
  19. ^ Sherman, Delia (1999). The Essential Bordertown: A Traveller's Guide to the Edge of Faerie. New York: Tor Books. p. 164. ISBN 0-312-86703-4. 
  20. ^ Robinson, Spider (1995). The Callahan Touch. New York: Ace Books. p. 167. ISBN 0-441-00133-5. 
  21. ^ Lackey, Mercedes; Larry Dixon (1999). The Chrome Borne. Riverdale, NY: Baen. p. 166. ISBN 0-671-57834-0. 

External links[edit]