The Family Cat


Amazing band, formed in 1988.
Fred (Vocals/Guitar)
Jelbert (Guitar)
Tim (Guitar)
John (Guitar)
Kev (Guitar)


(Not!) Formed Yeovil, England, 1988; disbanded 1994.
(Not true! - as Don,and previously others, see below, have mailed me to say:
"One thing - The Family Cat were NOT from Yeovil!
Fred was born in Southampton but has lived in London since 1981.
John Graves was born in Bristol and raised in Plymouth.
The rest of the band are all from Cornwall.
It was Polly Harvey who came from Yeovil, which I suppose is how this (common) mistake came about!")

The Family Cat -Paul Frederick (vocals/guitar), Stephen Jelbert (lead guitar), Tim McVay (rhythm guitar), John Graves (bass) and Kevin Downing (drums) - made their London debut in April 1989, and were immediately signed up by John Yates for his new Bad Girl label. Their first release in July of the same year, "Tom Verlaine", was an immediate success. An NME Single of the Week, it featured layered guitars meandering over a hypnotic lead and sturdy bassline, and did not disappoint those who had already witnessed the band's blistering live shows.

The success of "Tom Verlaine" sent the band and its producer, ex-Jam drummer Rick Buckler, into the studio to record a mini-LP, Tell 'Em We're Surfin' (1989), but the results were let down by a lacklustre production. As one review at the time put it, 'The Family Cat are snarling when they should be roaring'. Buckler was relieved of production duties and the band's next release, "Remember What It Is That You Love", was more indicative of their live sound, and showed well in the indie charts. Thanks to the distinctive artwork of Iain Stronach, The Family Cat were also becoming as famous for their record sleeves and highly original T-shirts as they were for their records. On an upward curve, the band felt they had reached a point in their career where Bad Girl was no longer big enough to support them and so, after releasing "A Place With A Name" towards the end of 1990, they left to sign to Dedicated.

After a year of touring and recording, early 1992 heralded the release of "Steamroller", a sustained guitar-led onslaught built on a staccato-style drum base. The music press hailed it as a glorious return to form but its failure to make even the smallest of dents on the chart set the scene for frustration in years ahead. The band enlisted the help of Polly Harvey on backing vocals for their next two singles, "Colour Me Grey" and "River Of Diamonds", but rave reviews were accompanied by a confusing lack of sales.

(Edmund's note: Not sure about PJ Harvey being on River Of Diamonds single version, I'm pretty sure it was just on the LP....., plus how come Color Me Grey was on Bad Girl, then Steamroller on Dedicated???? Order may be a bit out there..)

The band's second album, Furthest From The Sun (1992), suffered the same fate, disappearing after just one week in the lower reaches of the charts. "Airplane Gardens", released in August 1993, scraped the very foot of the charts, then The Family Cat embarked on eight months of further recording and gigging, before the release of their third album, Magic Happens (1994). Again, favourable reviews weren't matched by commercial recognition. The single "Wonderful Excuse" almost hit the Top 40, as did "Goldenbook", which was backed by the admirably titled "Bring Me The Head Of Michael Portillo". However, years of being unable to convert media adulation into commercial success finally took its toll and, frustrated and disillusioned, The Family Cat went their separate ways at the end of 1994.

Fred formed Pure Grain and now, Jack Adaptor.

John Graves is now a wine expert resident on the South Coast of England

Tim McVay and Kevin Downing are working at a youth project in Cornwall called Zebs. The project is heavily musically based and amongst other duties they both teach instruments, and help develop young bands.

Furthest From The Sun (1992; Dedicated/Big Cat). The band's first full-length LP, and a solid progression from their previous work. Thumping soundscapes and cascading guitar-driven melodies work magnificently on tracks such as "Colour Me Grey" and "With A War", while the title track finds the band in a more poignant, soulful mood.

Magic Happens (1994; Dedicated/Big Cat). Another progression, this captures the band in a more thoughtful state of mind, perhaps brought on by their consistent inability to achieve mainstream recognition. Tracks such as "Amazing Hangover" and "Rockbreaking" show real depth, whilst "Gone, So Long" is perhaps the most evocative track the band ever recorded.

Andy Lowe

Taken from :

This is the biography from the Peel sessions site:

Originally from Yeovil, Somerset, the Family Cat were formed in 1988 and comprise Paul "Fred' Frederick (lead vocals, guitar), Stephen Jelbert (guitar), Tim McVey (guitar), John (bass) and Kevin (drums). Based in south London, the group drew their influences from a variety of styles, in particular Sonic Youth and the Pixies, and found critical praise for their frenetic live appearances. A mini-album, Tell 'Em We're Surfin', followed on from the unexpected success of their debut single, 1989"s "Tom Verlaine", on the Bad Girl label. Despite the accolades from the British music press the group found it difficult to break out of the "independent" mould.

The Family Cat's persistence eventually paid off with well-received singles in "Remember What It Is That You Love" and "A Place With No Name" (both 1990), and "Colour Me Grey' (1991, with backing vocals from the then future indie star PJ Harvey).

A new album in 1992 on the Dedicated label, Furthest From The Sun, surprised many with a effective display of power and confidence, generating some of their best reviews to date.
However, by the advent of 1994"s Magic Happens the band had seemingly been forgotten by the majority of the British music press, and disbanded at the end of that year.

Taken from the Rough Guide to Rock. © Rough Guides Ltd. First edition published Aug 96 / Nov 96 (USA)

Formed in Yeovil, England in 1988, the noisy Family Cat comprised vocalist Paul Frederick, guitarists Stephen Jelbert and Tim McVay, bassist John Graves and drummer Kevin Downing.

(Edmund notes: Thanks to Gwyn James who says: "Has anyone ever pointed out to you that none of the family cat ever lived in Yeovil? Kev and Jelb's background lies in West Cornwall, and Tim, though originally from Liverpool, went to school in Cornwall.
These three met John (Bristol area though I can never remember if he's a Rovers or City Fan) and Fred in London.
The only reason I can see for the confusion is the Polly Harvey connection (and possibly the Becketts)..."

After making their London debut the following April, the group was promptly signed to the fledgling Bad Girl label, soon issuing their debut single "Tom Verlaine" to widespread acclaim. With ex-Jam member Rick Buckler handling production chores, the Family Cat recorded their first mini-LP, Tell 'Em We're Surfin', in 1989; the follow-up, "Remember What It Is That You Love," was also a major hit on the indie charts.

After releasing "A Place With a Name" at the end of 1990, the Family Cat jumped to the Dedicated label, and spent the whole of 1991 on tour and in the studio. Finally, in 1992 the "Steamroller" single appeared to favorable reviews, but little chart interest; a similar fate met the subsequent "Colour Me Grey" and "River of Diamonds," both of which featured backing vocals from Polly Jean Harvey. After 1992's Furthest From the Sun LP, the Family Cat fell silent for close to a year, resurfacing in August 1993 with "Airplane Gardens." Another lengthy tour followed before the release of 1994's Magic Happens; although both "Wonderful Excuse" and "Goldenbook" narrowly missed the U.K. Top 40, the band, having grown frustrated by its lack of success, separated soon after the record's release. -- Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide

Despite the fact that Furthest from the Sun contains two tracks from the Family Cat's Steamroller EP, it fails to deliver on the entertainment that record offered -- the LP certainly isn't bad, but it lacks the appealing pop dedication that made the EP interesting. -- Nitsuh Abebe, All Music Guide

Of all the people I quote above, it is (once again), Nitsuh I disagree with the most, (he's done opinions for other band's and for an 'expert' he certainly doesn't seem to be). For example 'Furthest From The Sun' contains the epic 'Fire Music', the PJ Harvey fronted (though admittedly not in the album guise), 'Color Me Grey' etc etc etc.
The Steamroller EP came out after it (in the UK), whether he means the US one or not we don't know! etc etc etc...
Sorry to nit pick but I spent a long time getting all this stuff and it bugs me!
- Ed

The five tracks on the Steamroller EP have a fuzzy pop dedication and a vaguely post-punk/new-wave tone that would make them completely at home on the soundtrack of a John Hughes film -- the band draws from Britpop influences like A House and the Psychedelic Furs ("Tom Verlaine" steals a guitar riff from "All That Money Wants"), and winds up with a highly melodic sound that has some truly appealing moments. Two tracks, "Steamroller" and "Color Me Gray" wound up on 1993's Furthest from the Sun LP -- a record which, strangely enough, isn't nearly as entertaining as Steamroller. -- Nitsuh Abebe, All Music Guide

Paul Frederick or Fred was in Pure Grain:
They had a website at, which, according to Paul (who ran the site) was for Fred as he played in "Spartak Red Machine, the Sunday footie team.. Fred played a few games for us in 1997-98 season.".
The links now broken as the site's been downed.
After that there was a website at:, again it's down.
and the website at:
was up until
around 2004. I'm trying to cache it at the moment.

Thanks, Paul!

Thanks to Todd Oberly who asked:
"P.S. Have any of the ex-bandmembers ever contacted you about your site? Do they know it exists?"

Yes, Todd, Paul Frederick e-mailed me:
"Hi Edmund
came upon your site and was amazed at the detailed discography
you had for The Family Cat there! I can fill in a few gaps
for you ...

First of all, my name is Fred, I was the singer in the band.
Since the split I started a new band - Pure Grain, as you know.
We recorded an LP "Nobody Loses All The Time" last year - yet to get it released but still hopeful of someone
being excited enough to put it out. We have our own label called Supple Pipe. Released the "Here Come The Millionaires" single on it in 1996 (or was it 97?).

The band is really just me and Chris Clark, though we work with people like Audrey Riley, Tim Bradshaw, Gareth Batson when we need musicians. We are recording a second LP right at the moment - mixing next week. We have a web-site at - not much going on there at the moment though!

(Edmund's note, this website is currently down....)

As far as I know River Of Diamonds was never released on CD single - just 7 and 12 inch vinyl. I remember it because we wanted to use a still picture of Lee Van Cleef from the Good The Bad and the Ugly but MGM Films wouldnt let us - so we used a picture of Eli Wallach's boot (from the same film!!) instead.

(Edmunds note - River Of Diamonds was released on CDS! Thanks to Pete for pointing that out)

And Colour Me Grey is the same version on the 12 inch and the LP - we recorded it before we signed to
Dedicated (actually we 'd recorded the whole Furthest From The Sun LP before the record deal - the whole band lived on about 3 quid a week in those days!)

Polly came in to do the vocals for Colour and River on one day. We put Colour on the LP because we loved the song and the single only sold about 10 copies. When we came to re-record River for the single, Polly wasn't available so I did the backing vocals falsetto, doing an impression of Polly! and that single sold about 10 copies too.

Anyway, thought you might like a little fresh information.
Congratulations on the site, thanks for your kind words, anything else you want to know or get hold of - if I've got
spares I can send them to you - let me know
Yours appreciatively

(Paul Frederick)"

I've also had a mail from Barry, who drummed at their first rehearsal!
"There is one thing that I must mention as it appears to have passed into legend that the band formed in Yoevil. Well I was actually drumming for the group at their first rehearsal (under the moniker 123 God) and I'm sure that Tim and I got off the tube at Arsenal ! Some 150 miles from Somerset ! (I still have a dodgy tape of that day somewhere, it includes covers of Subway Sect's Don'tsplitit as well as the Rentals New York, Re titled New Cross, alongside several originals which time has erased from my memory banks, I'll have to find the tape and check it out!)"

Cool, eh! - Edmund

Oh and this is what they're doing now, again, thanks to Barry!
" Anyway Kev now works at a young persons drop in centre in Cornwall, Tim is currently unemployed but planning world domination with his vegetarian fast food wagon, and Jelbert is writing a music column for the Independant"

Finally, here's a list of the covers he saw them perform!
" ?and the Mysterions-96 Tears, Dee-lite's-Groove is in the Heart, EMF's-Unbelievable and Carter USM's-Lean On Me I Won't Fall Over for starters !"

The last two of which, I have!

Deke, mailed me to say "Paul Fredericks is appearing as a backup singer on a few albums,one by Christopher Franke (ex Tangerine Dream)"

Oh and in August 2002, I got this mail from Kev!

"Its Kev from TFC here.....
My friend Barry told me he had seen the site and then another, Frazer (ex-guitar tech, check out his Blogjam site) forwarded the link which led me back to you.
Re-the fred and Barry letters.
Fred is wrong about River it was released on CD.
As Barry mentioned I work for a young people project in cornwall, cafe and drop in. We run music workshops free to YP and have got funding to build a recording studio/rehearsal room, well almost all the funding, waiting on an objective one bid.
The young people that use the project have mostly never had access to musical equipment and some are now forming bands and starting to play gigs. We run three sessions a week, employing various musicians to come in and "teach".
Tim ex-TFC is also now involved, originally teaching guitar, now working on a more regular basis. There is nothing really like us in Cornwall and if we get the funding sorted it should be really exciting.
Jelb writes for the Independent and Times, and is writing a book, something to do with music and journalism.

Thats about it I think, if you ever hear from a bloke called Russell from Hasligton, pass on my email address. He won a competition for us to play in his front room. Actually we played in the local village hall, but it would be good to hear from him


Obviously, if Russell ever gets in touch, I will!

Well, that's all I've had so far! Enjoy the site!

Ps WWW.THEFAMILYCAT.COM, Matt's site, has Mp3's and more stuff on the band!

Here's that Pure Grain Peoplesound link again!

AND! In October of 2003, Oliver emailed me to say:
"Just thought I let you know that Fred the lead singer from the Family Cat is now in a new band on Schnitzel Records called Jack Adaptor.  The new album will come out Spring 2004...please check for updates if you are interested"

Cheers, Oliver