Unravelling the Helix

Getting Personal, and Professional, with Catnapp

Words By Damien Cummings
Photos By Main image by Juan Bermejo

Amparo Battaglia, aka Catnapp, is a performer, producer, songwriter, and DJ able to lean into any genre at will. While her sound is unplaceable, her energy is unforgettable. Despite a string of enviable high-energy performances on the biggest stages — Berghain, Sonar, Melt! and more, her vibe is decidedly punk. All DIY energy and genuine intimacy, her latest album Trust is as uplifting as it is revealing. A raw mood board of influences and emotions, we spoke with Amparo about her inspirations, her music, and above all, balancing her mental health with her desire to perform and create.

Soul Purpose

From hyper-pop to rap, to drum and bass and back again, Amparo Battaglia’s music has been filed under every genre you can name, as well as plenty you can’t. It’s music to wake record shop owners in cold-sweats, scrambling for their label printer as one might grasp for a dream journal. Those lucid half seconds of inspiration decaying exponentially while fumbling at the darkened nightstand. 

Amparo’s music is so very clearly her own. She has an incontrovertible tendency towards honesty. “When I’m making an album, I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s just like a blank page full of uncertainty and all these feelings always overwhelm me.”

“When I first started going to the studio, I tried to keep my mind blank and go with the flow or with what I feel. But, I would think, is this how I feel, is this feeling good enough, is this feeling going to sell?”

As anyone that has ever felt even the slightest splinter of anxiety burrow its way under their skin, it’s precisely that process of codifying thoughts into lock boxes that makes it so addictive. Catnapp, naturally, is given to pause for just a moment before she answers. In truth, though, it takes her scarcely a second to form her thoughts, expelling anxieties the way one would a surprise sneeze, allowing herself a blink or two before continuing with absolute poise.

“I just want to make music — that’s it,” she says, assuredly. This time, her eyes are locked, dead serious, with neither cadence, nor a hint of cockiness, but rather in the mantric fashion of a musician divining with absolute intent to live their life, their way.

Unchained Melodies

Trust is the newest Catnapp LP.  It’s a record of many textures, chops, and cuts. Yet, for all its differences, the album glides frictionless from start to finish in a way that it absolutely should not.  A locked groove hewn from that same maddening grace, Catnapp’s 360 degree vision is akin to that quasi-nauseating ability of ice skaters locked in a ceaseless pirouette. Able to ascend to higher planes at will, tease the bounds of the physical world, and plumb down to within millimetres of icy reality, all in one unfathomable helix. 

“The theme of Trust never revealed itself to me. That realisation only came when it was all already over. On my latest EP [Damage] I really wanted to start with a  concept. I never did it before and I thought it would be very cool. Yet, it was simply impossible. I couldn’t force myself to be something I’m not, which meant for Trust I was able to completely free myself from any concepts and create freely.”

Perhaps then, it’s part of why this feels like such a positive record. For while it can be both raw and brash, it’s an honest statement of emotion and the forks it can rend in the road. Trust benefits from a rare vulnerability that can be magnetic and exciting. It’s a vital quality in the Catnapp’s music,and does more than enough to settle our ever flickering compasses, twinging the needle in favour of whichever feeling you need to feel, right there, right then. It’s  an expression of the manner in which even so-called positive emotions are felt unrestrainable in the instant. Just as one might cry from happiness, or scream with ecstasy, Trust deconstructs the idea that differing ideas must always be antagonistic.

Photo by Kitty Schumacher
Photo by Kitty Schumacher
I make music that I enjoy making, because otherwise, what is the point of any of it?

Rather, this record presents itself as more than simple acceptance of the new and the necessary. It’s also welcoming of differing relations, and while we know that the form of that is yet to be determined, Catnapp allows for a lavish daub of both chaos and optimism on each side of the wax. Perhaps it’s  both in recognition of the full-tilt pace we find our lives being lived, and all too often in absentia, while also serving as a staunch reminder that beauty need not be over analysed to be adored

“Still, that did not make the process easy. I needed time to realise that it really, genuinely doesn’t matter. To think to myself, fuck you if you don’t feel it. I feel it, so for me it’s authentic and it’s genuine, and that’s what’s important. Music is always an inner discussion with myself and the struggle of trying to have compassion for myself and letting those voices go away. I make music that I enjoy making, because otherwise, what is the point of any of it?”   

This Must Be The Place

Now in Berlin, Amparo, is the archetype of the multi-hyphenate performer. What’s clear is that since her move here, her broad influences, and eclectic style, have found space in the city’s sound, style, and the freedom to perform her art, her way.

“In Argentina, the set up is different for concerts. I was always performing with completely different musicians. Reggae bands would play alongside rock and roll bands, and then later a techno DJ would play.” 

Acts, sounds, tempos, and moods. Each genre slouched atop the next until any single loop or strand was so loosely darned as to be ubiquitous. Of course, the idea of tracing one definitive or decisive thread through the labyrinthine underground of a South American megacity is bullish at best. When every young musician is left cutting their teeth to nothing but the same sounds spilling from every stage, any scene swiftly tends towards the Sisyphean — tired and monotonous.

“In Argentina I never fit into any of the main venues, so I sneaked into anywhere an alternative band or DJ was playing, thinking that people wouldn’t be as shocked. Still, that’s how it was, they thought ‘What is this? Why doesn’t she have a guitar?’.”

At that time, both creative life and social life in Buenos Aires were beginning to offer little in the way of genuine traction for the art Catnapp wanted to create, so rather than drift into obscurity, she set her own course. “That’s one of the reasons why I decided to move here to Berlin,” she says.

When I arrived in Berlin, it was an instant connection.

Catnapp’s career has recently taken off due to increased bookings, more parties, and of course, more high-octane music. Having tried London, and being left cold, Berlin felt like the next logical option for her career. Despite the challenges – like many migrants to Berlin,  she struggles with the language – she holds an undoubted love for the city and its many quirks.

“What’s happening here?” she gasps, with mock disbelief. It’s a rare moment. One in which she allows herself to drift into silliness and pantomime. Archfully,  and lathered on thick, she jokes: “I hear people in the street and I don’t know if they are making a joke or looking for a fight.” 

To be a Berliner is to feel the vibe, and buy into it wholesale, and in that, Catnapp is a dyed in the wool Berliner. “I’m a very sensitive person and not very social either, I find being home in Argentina can be quite aggressive. Personally, I think it comes from unresolved insecurity. So, when I arrived in Berlin, it was an instant connection. Artistically, there was a lot of space to be creative and to explore. Before I came here, it was like I was always the weird one trying some weird experiment and really felt alone. It’s not like that in Berlin, everyone’s doing that here.”

Photo by Juan Bermejo
Photo by Juan Bermejo

The Balancing Act

“I think I’m addicted to being stressed and feeling anxiety,” she states. The sentence reeling off the tip of her tongue with that particular brand of matter-of-fact sincerity, served-up from the deep so swiftly as to imply the years of acceptance spent driving the matter home. Yet, when pressed, she struggles to reconcile those feelings with the life she leads.

As Catnapp, she is a successful performer of unquestionable talent and a large, loyal following. Thus, the expectation laid on her is to perform in front of hundreds or even thousands of people on stage, alone, on a weekly basis. “It’s a huge contradiction, and very interesting, because I’m super shy, I’m very insecure and I chose this profession.” 

Yet viewed through the lens of Amparo, that dilemma may well be easier to unravel. It’s said that the brain can construct neural structures in up to eleven dimensions. You could try to process that information if you want, however, it’s within that boggling and purely mathematical realm of Escherian planes and Gordian knots that intrusive thoughts are born. 

“Sometimes I fantasise about another life. ‘Oh, my God, this show, this work is so frustrating.’ I’m so sensitive, so why the fuck am I doing this? Why couldn’t I just work in a café? I actually have dreams about how nice it would be to work like that.”

It’s a perfect symbol of the way that burnout manifests in the mind. Catnapp is a successful performer of undoubted talent. An artist who’s nurtured a loyal fan base and built a career that spans continents, yet is the same person who dreams of scrubbing burned oat milk residue off the coffee machine steam arm.

In Argentina, you are expected to completely drain yourself for even a tiny bit of success.

On paper, it might seem like a farce, and there are many that would scoff at the thought. Nevertheless it’s evidence of the fact that there’s  an unbreakable bond between perception and experience that is dependent entirely on the observer and whether they believe the creation of art, in its inception, production, promotion, and performance, constitutes work. 

“Sometimes, when you’re on stage, being so open about your emotions in front of a crowd, there are some types of people that start to see you as nothing more than an object, as if you’re this thing without feelings, and that really hurts. But, really, I literally have this sense of duty to feel what is happening around me, to get that information, and immediately transform it into music.” 

“In Argentina, you are expected to completely drain yourself for even a tiny bit of success. So I became like this. I’m very passionate about what I do, and at first I was doing it because I had to, but also because I wanted to. So, to make it happen, I began the habit of always working Monday to Sunday and it was making me seriously sick. My only choice was to step back and realise that I was not only my job and I was not only good enough, but I’m also a human. I am not just defined by my music and I am working very hard to get better at understanding that.”

 A compulsive musician driven by absolute and sincere conviction to determine the terms of their life, it’s clear that Amparo and Catnapp have no choice but to exist together. On this record, defined by changes, transitions, beginnings and endings, she appears to be moving toward a healthier balance of the public, the private, and the professional.

Trust is out now on Monkeytown Records. Follow Catnapp on Instagram.