Feature: ‘Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat’ Is a Stunning Show of Hope & Humanity from Folk Rock Supergroup Fantastic Cat

Now That's What I Call Fantastic Cat - Fantastic Cat
Now That's What I Call Fantastic Cat - Fantastic Cat
Folk rock supergroup Fantastic Cat take us track-by-track through their soul-stirring sophomore album ‘Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat,’ a heartfelt record of hope and humanity – and a spirited testament to the power of collaboration and human connection.
Stream: “Later On” – Fantastic Cat

Fantastic Cat could be a phenomenal comedy troupe, if they weren’t so damn good at making music!

Every conversation with the folk rock supergroup – comprised of singer/songwriters Brian Dunne, Don DiLego, Anthony D’Amato, and Mike Montali – inevitably devolves into laughter as the longtime friends-turned-band members try to make one another break, playing off each other’s jokes until a chorus of chuckles and chortles fill the air.

“I honestly don’t recall making this record,” DiLego tells me right off the bat. “The band locked me in a windowless room for months with only seltzer water and Bobo bars until I EQ’d all the shakers and tambourines to their satisfaction. It was traumatic.” This prompts bandmate Mike Montali to answer every question as his own lawyer, pleading the fifth to the majority of my questions.

Yet while these four jokesters love a good laugh, they’re even better at making good songs, playing off their respective strengths as songwriters, vocalists, and instrumentalists to embrace the highs and better understand the lows of our shared human experience. Each member of Fantastic Cat has his own solo career (at least two of them have released LPs within the past two years), and between the four of them, they have a collective forty-plus years’ worth of musicianship. Fantastic Cat is a bona fide supergroup, and while they like to keep things light and funny, they’re incredible at what they do – a truth they first proved in 2022’s debut album The Very Best of Fantastic Cat, and one that’s been borne out again on their brand new sophomore album, Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat.

Now That's What I Call Fantastic Cat - Fantastic Cat
Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat – Fantastic Cat
When all your friends they hire lawyers
And you don′t recognize who’s in your bed
And the smokes only get you feeling normal
Maybe, kid, your best days aren′t ahead
Dirty laundry on filthy floors
The skeletons swim out your door
And your family won’t return your call no more
Maybe, kid, your best days aren’t ahead
Sometimes you′re the red light
Sometimes you′re the green
Sometimes you’re the ocean
Sometimes you′re the stream
Sometimes you’re the hammer
Sometimes you′re the nail
Lately, I just keep on getting screwed
– “The Hammer & The Nail,” Fantastic Cat

Released June 7, 2024 via Missing Piece Records, Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat is a spirited testament to the power of collaboration and human connection: A radiant, achingly emotive folk rock record filled with disillusionment and frustration, that still manages to find a light of hope in a dark and often depressing world. Arriving two years and plenty of touring after their debut, the supergroup’s “highly unanticipated” (their words) sophomore album builds upon the strengths of their first LP as, having firmly uncovered who Fantastic Cat is, they dove in headfirst for another swing.

“Our first record is the sound of us discovering what Fantastic Cat is,” Brian Dunne tells Atwood Magazine. “By the time we finished the tour supporting that record, we had an understanding of our sound and what made our band special, so we set out to make a record that spotlighted that.”

“The first album was really the product of each of us bringing finished songs we’d written to the group and figuring out how to record them,” D’Amato adds. “This time around, we wrote together, and everybody had their fingerprints on everything. When I listen now, I don’t hear a Brian song or a Don song or a Mike song, I just hear Fantastic Cat songs.”

Fantastic Cat © Vivian Wang
Fantastic Cat © Vivian Wang

Formed in 2020-2021 while most of the world was still locked down, Fantastic Cat started as the fun side project for a group of New York City-based artists who had nothing better to do with their time. The four started trading song ideas and jammed together when they could, eventually leading to the release of their passionate, purpose-driven debut single, “Fiona,” which Atwood Magazine praised as a beacon of light for those in need of reasons to keep fighting: “It’s an immersive song that instantly sets the mood and moves our souls – one so intensely filled with longing and devotion, vulnerability and intimacy all at once: A true outpouring that can’t help but leave us yearning to hear more from this exciting new band.”

More music came quickly, with a self-titled EP arriving that summer and Fantastic Cat’s first LP released a year later. “Their music is at once fun, freewheeling, achingly intimate, and beautifully honest,” I wrote at the time. “They can joke about themselves and the state of things while tapping into deeply meaningful and relatable emotions, singing about love, grief, a sense of purpose, our hopes and dreams, and the endless pursuit of happiness. The Very Best of Fantastic Cat‘s songs are a reminder that, even in our darkest moments, we can find a little light and love to hold onto.”

All four members of Fantastic Cat are happy, but also pleasantly surprised, that the band is still going strong. Then again, why stop a good thing if you’re having fun?

To that end, all four gave their all to make Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat the real “very best of”-album.

“Every song on this record has each of our fingerprints on it in some way, and the album is stronger for it,” D’Amato says.

DiLego agrees. “The first album we spent very little time on and had a lot of fun,” he explains. “The second album we spend a lot of time on and I was locked in a windowless room. Thankfully, the end result was a level up for us, or I’d be seeking revenge.”

“I think it shows the true power of collaboration,” Dunne adds. “Bands as true democracies are kind of a passe thing, but it’s very powerful when you have a band of equals.”

From end to end, Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat soars as a soul-stirring, uplifting, and hopeful soundtrack to perseverance and our own staying power.

Highlights abound on the journey from album opener “Oh Man!” to the feverish blues rock closer “Head Down, Shots Fired” and the (quite frankly hysterical, but probably necessary) minute-long legal disclaimer at the record’s end. Fantastic Cat released three singles in the lead-up to the release, including the resilient, heart-on-sleeve reverie “Later On” and the sunny, irresistibly catchy “All My Fault,” a spirited singalong that finds the supergroup in high spirits – in the pocket and in their prime.

“We wrote ‘All My Fault’ just before our first show at the Bowery Ballroom, right around the time we realized we didn’t have enough songs for our first show at the Bowery Ballroom,” the band shared upon the track’s release. “This project started as an escape from the self-seriousness inherent in our respective solo careers, and this song in particular takes the piss out of all that ego and delusion.”

I could blame it on the rain
I could blame it on the snow
I could blame it on the shame
Of another night alone
I could blame it on you
For picking up my call
But to tell the truth
Oh it′s all my fault
I could blame it on the moon
I could blame it on the stars
I could blame it on the tune
That was playing at the bar
I could blame it on the proof
Of the alcohol
But to tell the truth
Oh it’s all my fault

Further notable mentions go to the achingly evocative “The Hammer & The Nail,” the roaring, resonant “Little Bit Broken,” the Springsteen-esque anthem “Go All Night,” and the tenderly triumphant “Edinburgh.” Each member has his own musical highlights, too. “My favorite tune is ‘So Glad You Made It,” Dunne smiles. “It’s a strange song with a lot of different sections, but it hangs together in a really charming way.  Gets me every time we play it.”

“‘Oh Man!’ is a ridiculous amount of fun to play live,” D’Amato says. “And it feels like a perfect encapsulation of how this record came together: a Don chorus + Anthony verses + a Brian guitar hook + a Mike Motown rhythm all adds up to something bigger and more exciting than any of us would have put together on our own.”

“Right now I’d say ‘“Sometimes Your Heroes Let You Down,’” DiLego adds. “It came together remarkably quick for a somewhat non-traditional arrangement. Very proud of it. Brian sings the hell out of it. Although, about that ‘I wish I were still a kid’ complex that he seems to have…”

Ultimately, this record is ready to be the sunshine on our rainy days; an intimate and endearing reminder that we can and will see things through, no matter how hard or tough life gets.

And who could possibly ask for anything more?

Fantastic Cat © Vivian Wang
Fantastic Cat © Vivian Wang

As for the band themselves, there’s an undeniable sense of accomplishment in the Fantastic Cat camp these days.

“It was a true experiment in collaboration – every member in control of every aspect,” Brian Dunne says of this record. “And like every band record, you hope it captures the very essence of what we do at a live show or in a room together.”

“These songs reckon a lot with disillusionment, with a world that doesn’t deliver on everything it was promised to be,” D’Amato adds. “But instead of getting bitter or surrendering to the weight of disappointment, they still barrel on headfirst in search of something real. They find joy and humor in all the darkness and absurdity of modern life.”

Don DiLego brings it all home: “Despite the cat masks and gags and light-heartedness we’re always towing along, there’s a real weight to the music we’ve been able to make together,” he smiles. “ And that’s what really keeps steering this bus.”

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Fantastic Cat’s Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat with Atwood Magazine as Anthony D’Amato, Brian Dunne, Don DiLego, and Mike Montali’s lawyer answer our outstanding questions and take us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their band’s sophomore album!

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:: stream/purchase Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat here ::
:: connect with Fantastic Cat here ::
‘Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat’ – Fantastic Cat

:: Inside Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat ::

Now That's What I Call Fantastic Cat - Fantastic Cat

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Atwood Magazine: So, is The Very Best if Fantastic Cat still the “very best” of Fantastic Cat, or does the ‘greatest hits’ debut album now have to share the spotlight with LP2?

Brian: Gotta say, The Very Best has been demoted to the Second Best.

Anthony: The fact that we called that album The Very Best Of Fantastic Cat tells your right off the bat that we didn’t ever really envision a world in which we were making multiple records. It’s a fun surprise that we made another one and that it’s even better.

Don: I’d say due to the incredible balance of the auxiliary percussion on this new album, I’m leaning LP2 as well.

Mike’s Lawyer: At the request of my client, I will be handling all questions on his behalf during this interview. My client would like to clarify he has never used the words “greatest” or “hits” in relation to this band.

Speaking of, why the title “Now That's What I Call Fantastic Cat”?

Brian: It indeed is a joke, but, I think we also thought of it as the mission of the album. The first LP found its feet on the road and we set out to make a record that lived up to the live show.

Anthony: If the first album was the sound of four different songwriters, this album is the sound of one band, so in a lot of ways, even though it’s our second record, it feels like an introduction.

Don: It’s missing an explanation point. I am still quite upset about it.

Mike’s Lawyer: My client wasn’t made aware of the album title until just now in this interview.

Did you all have any favorite Now CDs? Mine was Now 4 - featuring everyone from Marc Anthony and Mandy Moore to Smash Mouth, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and blink-182. What a time to be alive...

Brian: I’m not familiar with that particular series. (Our attorney, Meowin’ Dershowitz, is going to send you a note about this question.)

Anthony: I believe Meowin’ Dershowitz is actually suing us for defamation right now.

Mike’s Lawyer: My client is countersuing for damages.

Don: We’re very litigious.

As four lyrically forward singer/songwriters, do you each have any favorite lyrics in these songs?

Brian: I very much enjoy singing about selling feet pics every night on “Oh Man!”

Anthony: Mike hit a honky-tonk home run when he brought us “Sometimes you’re the hammer / sometimes you’re the nail / but lately I just keep on getting screwed.”

Don: I get uncomfortable every night at the delight Brian takes in singing about feet pics.

Mike’s Lawyer: My client is actually more of a music guy than a words guy.

At this point, are you all still juggling your solo careers in lockstep with the band, or do you find this is becoming the full-time gig?

Brian: I’m going solo at the earliest possible convenience.

Anthony: To be honest, we never envisioned this going as far as it has. We thought we’d record some songs for fun, maybe release them, maybe play a show or two. So we’re seeing where this can go, but we’re definitely all still juggling our solo careers and figuring out how to find that balance.

Don: I’m currently working on promoting a “Don DiLego’s Fantastic Cat” spinoff for a tour in Japan next summer.

Can you describe this record in three words?

Brian: Born To Run

Anthony: Huge Financial Error

Don: Thriller, Part Deux

Mike: Born To Dunne

— —


Now That's What I Call Fantastic Cat - Fantastic Cat

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Don DiLego: I was working on something else entirely and heard a song come on my “Discover Weekly” that got me distracted for a moment. Just felt…fun…I guess for lack of better word. We were mid-album making and I thought it would be great to have something that evoked the same feeling. “Oh man, we’re all doing the best we can” just felt like the right sentiment. Once Mike added that drum beat and Brian that riff, and Anthony revealed his foot fetish…we were off and running.


Anthony D’Amato: I think we’re all a little bit broken in some way or another. Nobody comes out of this life unscathed. Rather than feeling shame or guilt about it, I wanted to find a way to channel those emotions into something cathartic and liberating, an anthem for everyone who falls down and still manages to get back up.


Brian Dunne: “Later On” is an existential love song where the verses work their way through these doubts and concerns, and then the chorus is just a declaration of devotion. It feels cut from the same cloth as a song on our first album called “Fiona,” which occupies a similar emotional space. There’s a lot of sarcasm and humor in our songs, but when we cut through it with something serious and passionate like this, it can make for a powerful moment.


Don DiLego: “So Glad You Made It” might be the best example of how this band operates at its finest. This was a song I wrote with a fairly straightforward arrangement, that in one rehearsal became a lost ’70s Faces b-side, with our most incapable drummer keeping the beat. And in classic FC style, we made a video that is sure to keep our sincerity in check.


Mike Montali: Anthony texted me one day feeling we needed a song that occupied a bit more of a country honk spirit, and he felt that I might be one to do it. I was thinking a lot about some of those old country tunes, about how they put a little twist on a familiar phrase, and I ended up landing on, “Sometimes you’re the hammer / Sometimes you’re the nail / But lately I just keep on getting screwed,” and the rest of the song just flowed from there.


Anthony D’Amato: Sometimes we all make bad choices even when the right ones are staring us in the face. Maybe it’s desire or temptation getting the best of us; maybe it’s morbid curiosity; maybe it’s some inherent self-destructive streak. Somewhere deep down we all just want to see what happens when we poke that hornet’s nest. I don’t know why.


Brian Dunne: “Go All Night” is a bratty declaration of stamina. Fantastic Cat’s not here for a good time; we’re here for a long time.


Don DiLego: I wrote this song for a grieving friend. It’s meant to be an arm around someone who needs you in that moment.


Brian Dunne: This is a song about the dangers and the perils of hero worship. I had the original idea kicking around for a while, but when we worked on it together as a band, it turned into a Mott The Hoople-esque anthem of generational disappointment.


Anthony D’Amato: This song takes all the piss out of the ego and delusion required to get onstage every night and make a life in music. It’s the kind of utterly ridiculous thing I’d feel way too exposed to do in my solo career, but somehow makes perfect sense amidst all the other ridiculousness of Fantastic Cat.


Mike Montali : I wanted to have something a little more rocking to end the record, something where we could really lean into the electric guitars and that could work as a live closer, too. I had the chorus and the chord progression for a while, but I wasn’t able to complete it until I brought it to the band, who helped shape this ominous verse narrative that captured the feeling of a storm up ahead, of something dangerous coming your way that you know you can’t avoid.

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:: stream/purchase Now That’s What I Call Fantastic Cat here ::
:: connect with Fantastic Cat here ::

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