The Hot Club de Albuquerque
Le Chat Lunatique on work, style, corn and more
By Jessica Cassyle Carr
How long have you existed, and how did you come to be?
Muni Kulasinghe: Well, long version is this, and I going to claim the central role in getting us together ... though, that is somewhat inaccurate. It was really pretty organic. We’ve been together as a band for nearly two and a half years. Fernando and I met three years ago at Pearl’s Dive (now the lovely Blackbird Buvette) at their weekly jazz jam. He and I, within a drink, had become pretty damned good friends. We talked about starting a band (this was March 2005). We were also friends (and still are) with Gabe Bass, who plays bass (really) and we started kicking song ideas around, and thought maybe we’d start a band called The KGB (Kulasinghe, Garavito, Bass) Trio. Well, right around then I ran into a mysterious figure whom everyone referred to as Johnny. He was a quiet cat. Further research revealed that he was, indeed, quiet. But then one day, he walks into my house, we were throwing a party (no one was there), picks up this shitty, shitty guitar, pulls a slide out of his pocket and proceeds to make such beautiful sounds on it that he was immediately in. We then found out that we shared an enormous regard for Stephane Grapelli and Django Reinhardt, the core members of the Hot Club of France (one of the best jazz bands ever), and that between the two of us, we knew a fair amount of the repertoire already. That is probably when Le Chat Lunatique was born, really. It was right about then that we lost Gabe to Arizona for a while, and in searching for a bassist I happened upon Jared playing for Bernadette Seacrest, and he picked up that bass (he’d been playing guitar) and slid up to a note, and his tone was perfect. So right after the show I asked him to come rehearse with us. It turns out that he’d already been recommended to Johnny, and that they’d been playing phone tag, but I just happened to see him. Weird. We were clearly meant to find one another (cheesy, but true).
Jared Putnam: Since Fall '05. Manifest Destiny.
John Sandlin: We have been paying for a little over two years. I met Muni, we jammed, he knew Fernando, and we were referred to Jared.
Why haven't you put something out before now?
Kulasinghe: We’ve “put out” plenty, and don’t call us sluts, it hurts out feelings.
Putnam: We have! We have released two different homemade LIVE bootleg CDs called Puss in Bootleg and Puss in Bootleg 2.
Sandlin: We have a couple of bootleg recordings, and we have spent the last year working on the new album. It's been a major process, plus with how many gigs we play, it’s hard to find the time to hit the studio.
Is there a profession in which anyone in the band would rather engage?
Kulasinghe: Fernando harbors the wish to be King of Pants. I’ve always wanted to be a glory hole operator. And I’m pretty sure Jared goes out at night. (Or should I say “comes out” at night?) Johnny runs a used car lot on the Westside but maintains that he “teaches” “guitar” at “Grandma’s.” And, of course, we all know what “Grandma’s” really means, don’t we? That slut.
Putnam: What I really like is hauling around heavy equipment. Playing music is a drag, but it gives me the chance to carry some heavy shit around.
“And, of course, we all know what “Grandma’s” really means, don’t we? That slut.”
Have you ever considered changing your name to "El Gato Loco"?
Kulasinghe: Yes. But the copious violent diarrhea that ensued every time I said the name dissuaded me.
Putnam: Yes, for the Norwegian tour.
Sandlin: No, unless you see us playing mariachi, which might be a good idea. Hmm ...
If I were to reach into a sack filled with Le Chat Lunatique members, I would have a 50/50 chance of pulling out a nice mustache. Can you help us understand why?
Kulasinghe: Two of us are women. But you’d never guess who.
Putnam: Five out of four people have trouble with fractions.
Sandlin: On any given day, we have from 50 to 75 percent moustaches, but on our CD release we will be 100 percent stachioed. It was Jared who started it. Early on he just started growing a handlebar, which influenced Muni and I to grow our own. Although I did not start the stache, I have been the most consistent wearer in the band. (Muni and Jared have both shaved and re-grown several times, mine has been with me for two years straight!) And Fernando's comes equipped with a beard.
Most stylish people would agree that you four are a bunch of well-dressed men. How did you come by such excellent taste in fashion?
Kulasinghe: Personally, my mom. Laugh all you want. It’s true.
Putnam: We are all card-carrying narcissists. Except Fernando. He's normal.
Sandlin: It was my idea. It was just fitting for our style. It just doesn't look right for a classy gypsy swing/western swing/classic jazz band to bear T-shirts, Crocs and board shorts. And it has opened a lot of doors for us—people take notice, we stand apart, not only in our music but in our appearance.
Do you have any thoughts on corn?
Kulasinghe: Yes. If we are what we eat, then putting an American human in a giant microwave oven would produce enough popcorn for everyone in Bhutan on their “Day of Movies.”
Putnam: No, but then again, I do not own a corn pillow.
Sandlin: It's not the corn we have to worry about—it’s the maize.
If Le Chat Lunatique could have a super power, what would it be?
Kulasinghe: Definitely X-ray vision. And the ability to make people spontaneously orgasm.
Sandlin: Spontaneous impregnation.
I like Steve Stucker. Do you all have any local heroes?
Kulasinghe: Steve Hirsch. Tom Guralnick. I could actually fill a page with names, and that would be boring.
Putnam: The PNM guy who checks the meters. He's got a tough job.
Sandlin: Ron Bell.
Have you ever considered moving away?
Putnam: To France, maybe!
Sandlin: I was three steps away from moving to Austin and then Le Chat happened. So I stayed. We kinda discussed relocation as a band, and I personally believe that too many bands abandon ship. Burque needs people to stay onboard, to improve the scene, make it better and make it a place where bands want to move to. That was my whole idea with the Django Fest--bring cool stuff here, make life good for Querqueños.
Do you have any insight on a potential connection between the slowdown of the U.S. economy and the growth of foreign markets?
Kulasinghe: We are jackasses, and foreign markets are pulling their money out of our economy, and/or buying up prime corporate real estate as it becomes dramatically undervalued. The growth of foreign markets is probably due to the fact that as the dollar loses value, our goods are 1) easier to move, 2) a weaker dollar means a weaker America, and thus trade is shifting away from our markets, and 3) this is a weird prediction, but unless we have better governance, we are going to start seeing tariffs and embargoes against our exports. People are scared of America these days.
Putnam: Ask Muni, I'm sure he really knows the answer to that.
Sandlin: Yes, I agree and that is why Le Chat Lunatique if for CHANGE. And we get paid in Yen or Euros.
What is the band's stance on polyamory?
Putnam: I just had to look that word up. Chacon à son goût, I suppose.
Sandlin: Spontaneous impregnation.
On that note, will Le Chat Lunatique marry me? And if so, will you play at our wedding?
Sandlin: Yes, I’m sure we can arrange something. Let me check with the guys and our schedule. I'll get back to you to confirm. Our fee is 1000 Yen or Euros.
Finally, to mark this joyous occasion, is there any one thing you'd like your fans (or foes) to know?
Kulasinghe: Yes. We’ve always wanted women (and men, if they must) to throw panties at us.
Putnam: None of us watch TV!
Sandlin: We love you all as if we spontaneously impregnated you.
In the comment box beneath this article, describe (in 100 words or less) the first time you saw Le Chat Lunatique play. The winner (selected by Jessica Cassyle Car) gets a copy of the new CD.
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