THE STORY SO FAR
In 2011, musician and studio-owner Mike Bridavsky adopted a two-month-old stray kitten with an unusual form of dwarfism, which gives her cartoonishly large eyes and a tongue that always sticks out. He named her Lil Bub and created Bublog, a Tumblr about her for his friends. “I always joked that my cat was going to be famous,” he says. “That really ironic, sarcastic sh*t that people our age do as a joke.”
An hour-long Vice documentary and four years later, she’s an internet phenomenon on the scale of Grumpy Cat. “The virality was sort of inevitable,” says Bridavsky, “because she’s so special.” She’s got 2.4m Facebook likes, a hit YouTube show featuring famous fans Michelle Obama and Whoopi Goldberg, and a range of merchandise whose profits have raised $300,000 for animals in need. She recently mewled on Run The Jewels’ cat remix album, ‘Meow The Jewels’, and on December 4 she’s releasing her debut album, ‘Science & Magic’.
WHY LIL BUB HAS MADE AN ALBUM
Bridavsky is in a four-piece band from Indiana called Memory Map, whose guitarist, Matt Tobey, has written all the music for Lil Bub’s Big Show, a YouTube hit that launched in 2013. Says Bridavsky: “People would constantly comment, ‘We would love an album of these.’” So they made one. It’s easy to mock the concept, but as Bridavsky points out, “The album wouldn’t exist without her. For Matt it was really fun – there’s not a lot of pressure to write this kind of music. It’s almost like Bub is writing it for you.”
WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE
Tobey is a huge videogame fan and the joyous Sonic The Hedgehog-style music he wrote for Bub is influenced by 8-bit, Nintendo 64 soundtracks. “It really fits Bub’s spirit,” Bridavsky says. “I listen to it all the time. I didn’t write the music so it’s not too absurd for me to listen to my own cat’s record.
“Honestly, at 35,” he goes on, “and as someone who’s recorded bands for his entire life and has been in tons of bands – it’s such a relief. It’s so much fun. That’s what Bub provides all of us, everyone who works on this stuff. And in the end the product is genuinely one of my favourite records I’ve produced, and one I’m really proud of.”
HOW THE CAT ACTUALLY HELPED
Bridavsky and his mates decided to write ‘Science & Magic’ as a concept album that offers a playful, bogus backstory to explain Lil Bub’s unusual appearance. “You can believe it in a way, without getting too serious,” he explains. “The story goes that she crashed her spaceship. Maybe she’s part shape-shifter – she found this litter of cats and she made herself look as close as possible to these other creatures to get by.” Check out the tongue-in-cheek album trailer below for a better idea of Bub’s creative process.
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When Bub actually joins them in the studio, Bridavsky says, “she sleeps on the couch. I’m sure she’s listening. She does her best work when she’s in a deep state of meditation. I do truly believe she was working on it there.”
THE TRIPPINESS IS ACTUALLY PRETTY MAGICAL
The album “takes you on Bub’s journey”, says Mike. On the first song, ‘Hello Earth’, Bub’s spaceship lands. On the next, ‘New Gravity’, she has difficulty walking because the gravity is “more intense” here. “A lot of this stuff is tongue-in-cheek,” Mike says, “but she’s so special. I know thousands of people whose lives have been improved by her existence. I truly believe that she’s a very powerful force of energy.”
LIKEWISE, BUB IS ALSO PRETTY MAGICAL
Bub was given the O Music Award for ‘Our Favourite Musical Cat’ in 2013. “This was two years ago,” says Bridavsky. “Bub had not done anything musical yet. But that shows the power of Bub’s clairvoyance – she received an award for her record two years before it came out. I never understood why they gave us this award and now I get it.”
HERE ARE SOME OF HER MANY FAMOUS FANS
She’s met Robert De Niro after Vice’s documentary about her won best film at the Tribeca Film Festival, which De Niro founded. Michelle Obama, grumpy producer Steve Albini, and ‘Party Hard’ man Andrew WK have all made appearances on Lil Bub’s Big Show on YouTube.
Of all of them, Andrew WK is probably her biggest celebrity fan. “He’s awesome,” says Bridavsky. “That guy is the real deal. To me he’s like the human version of Bub, his spirit is true. He genuinely is enamoured by Bub in the same way that I am and truly believes she’s a mystical creature.”
SOME OTHER CRAZY STUFF BUB IS RESPONSIBLE FOR
A Lil Bub-themed videogame is on the way, says Bridavsky, and it’s designed by the man behind her upcoming first music video ‘New Gravity’. That video is going to be “all 8-bit animated, and it’s going to be really trippy.”
The videogame itself is “a platformer style”, he says. “It’s very Mario Bros-influenced but a little more advanced. It’s definitely for Android and iOS. The idea’s for it to be free, and it’s pretty in depth. I’m very excited about it. We’re going all out. And Matt wrote all the music for it too.”
Videogames are all very well, but Bub has also affected Bridavsky’s life immeasurably. He was in $110,000 of debt when Bub suddenly became famous. Now, via her various franchises she’s even raising money for other animals in need.
But unlike Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub has no ‘internet cat agent’ (a profession that, incredibly, does exist in 2015). Bridavsky emphasises, “I’ve stuck to my rule that I only take things as they come, I don’t seek out opportunities. Anything we do I have to have full control over. We don’t do commercials. No matter how big the scale, I have to work with my close group of friends – that way I know Bub is in good hands. That’s how it’s been ever since. As far as I’m concerned it’s her thing and I’m the facilitator.”
‘Science & Magic’ by Lil Bub is out Dec 4 via Joyful Noise Recordings