BRASSY and bombastic, Cat Empire are the ultimate good time party band.

Channelling jazz, funk, rock, ska, and Latin grooves, the Australian collective have one thing on their manifesto: to get people moving.

It’s a sound which shouldn’t make sense, but strangely it works – so much so that, after 12 years together, the band are a worldwide cult act and have just released their sixth album.

“Over the years it has become more and more clear that we are on our own in a lot of respects,” says lead singer and trumpeter Harry James Angus, one of six core members, who, between them, play double bass, bass guitar, drums, percussion instruments, turntables, tambourine, and Cuban-style rhythm sticks known as a clave.

The band expands on tour to include brass and string sections (the Empire Horns and Empirical Strings) and its own troupe of Empire Dancers.

“When we were younger we played all the stuff we were listening to,” he recalls. “There was a pinch of reggae, hip-hop and jazz, and we thought it would be fun to combine genres. Over time that became less appealing so we thought: ‘what now?’ “If you’re a rock and roll band you know how to act and dress and what to play. But there are no guidelines for bands with such a strange collection of instruments. Over the years we’ve been flying blind and doing our own thing.”

I caught up with Harry before leaving home to embark on a tour which will see him playing 60 shows across three continents, including, next Wednesday, Oxford. “I’m just sneaking out of my two year-old son’s bedroom,” he whispers.

“We are coming up your way for five weeks and I’m not going to see him for a while, so I’m making the most of it.”

So has he started his son on the trumpet yet? “I’ve got 20 semi-retired trumpets lying around which get a bit of a battering,” he laughs.

Had it not been for a shortage of brass at Henry’s school, Cat Empire could be a very different animal. “When we were 13 they forced us to play a band instrument,” he recalls. “I wanted to play the saxophone, which I thought was cool. However, they didn’t have enough so I had to learn the trumpet. The band would have turned out very differently if they’d had that sax.”

New album, Steal the Light, sees the band return to their Latin jazz roots, with elements of soul, reggae, gypsy music and trademark funk.

Harry admits it was hard to distill in the studio the frantic energy of their live shows – much of which comes from the audience. “In a way, the greatest challenge for the band is to capture the essence of what we do live in the recording studio,” he says. “So much of what I think is unique is chaotic and spontaneous and rooted in the live experience.

“We get a lot of credit for being a good live act. It’s part of the legend surrounding the band – that the carnival is coming to town.

“The crowd is part of the experience of seeing us. The audience don’t realise how much they contribute. I love what I do, though. This chaotic live atmosphere means every night is different. It spins off in new directions and that’s what keeps it fresh.

“The songs are launch pads. They might go on for five minutes one night and 15 the next. People want to hear the songs they know, but we often slip explosive sections in the middle.

“We come from a jazz background so a fair bit is improvisation. I try to put a lot of thought into it and find new ways of surprising people. That’s the key to live energy. You never know what’s going to happen next. Maybe the whole thing is going to fall apart. Sometimes it does – that’s the risk.

“Finishing a song can be like getting to the end of a tightrope. It’s exhilarating not just for us but for the crowd.

But it all comes down to the core value of getting people to move their feet. The new songs reaffirm that.

“We had got sick of what we were known for and wanted to be something else,” he says. “We grew tired of being a party band because it got to the point where we couldn't see the value of that. We started to nudge our songs in a Leonard Cohen direction and ended up getting lost. But others knew that being a good party band is beautiful and making people happy and dancing is not a lousy ambition.

“We have realised that we are a party band and are available for weddings and bar mitzvahs.”

LIVE Cat Empire play the O2 Academy Oxford on Wednesday October 23. Tickets are £20 from