Vocalist/guitarist Casey Ward talks bionic cats, politics and doing anything he wants

Project Acoustic Kitty was not only a cruel experiment on animals; it was a complete failure. In the 1960s, the CIA had grand plans to spy on Soviet leaders using cats wired to record sound. But the first Acoustic Kitty was struck and killed by a car, and the $20 million initiative was ultimately scrapped.

That story inspired the song “Acousta Kitty” on Mystery Box, the forthcoming album from Electro Cult Circus, which will play a release show at Rumba Cafe on Friday, Aug. 9.

“Some of our favorite things are conspiracy theories and the Apocalypse,” vocalist/guitarist Casey Ward said in a late-July interview. “It's just fun to make people feel weird sometimes. I don't know why we're all into that. It's like a punk rock ethos, but none of us are super punk rock.”

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The nearly 20-year-old band, which also includes Ward’s wife, Jessica (vocals), Mike Folker (guitar/vocals), Salvatore Porchia (bass), Mike Ortiz (drums) and Shaunna Moore (flute), is certainly unique. Live shows almost always incorporate burlesque and belly dancers.

And its sound is refreshingly eclectic. Songs often start in one genre and finish in another. For example, a driving rock song like “Croatoan Tree” slows into a coda interspersed with sound effects — and a funny appearance by the Wards’ 7-year-old son.

“We don't want the album to be too serious,” Ward said. “Since we don't have the ability to be super over-produced, we go for indie credibility, I guess. … Some of it is just completely because we're drunk while we're making it.”

But the songwriting, which was more collaborative than on past projects driven by Ward, also includes some political commentary. “Golden Ghost” opens with an ominous tale of a “rigged vote” but ends with a harmonious, hope-inducing line inspired by the 2016 presidential election: “It’s all right.” 

“We don't have much time to fix things,” he said. “So that's very disturbing, having a kid and thinking about that. What kind of world is he going to grow up in?”

While Electro Cult Circus’ imaginative lyrics, soundscapes and visuals can provide the perfect escape for its audience, Ward hopes they’re encouraging people to think. “Maybe we're like the sugar that the medicine goes down with,” he said.

But the band’s shows are also about building community, which can help in these depression- and anxiety-inducing times, Ward added.

“People usually just sit and suffer alone through it,” he said. “So, to me, a concert’s an ideal way to get to come together and have fun.”

It can also be a way to get motivated. While the song “Anything You Want” has roots in western esotericism, it can be taken simply as encouragement to live a full life, which doubles as a philosophy for Electro Cult Circus.

“We are kind of a band that does whatever we want,” Ward said.