Shura tells me an anecdote. When her two cats were kittens, they settled upon a curious little box routine. “Flump,” she says, referring to the brother in the pair, “would go and use the litter but he’d never cover the poo up, so whenever he pooped, Winnie [his sister] would run into the litter box and cover up his poo for him.”
This story would amuse anyone who has lived with cats, but at this point you might also be wondering who the heck Shura actually is?
Formally, she’s a singer-songwriter who was raised in the north of England and who specializes in creating vibrant synth-pop music. Her breakthrough moment came when she uploaded the video to the soft and airy song “Touch” to YouTube in 2014. With a video featuring a selection of her friends kissing each other (often across gender lines), the song went viral to more than 25 million views. Her debut album, Nothing’s Real, was released this summer to positive acclaim, with the New York Times describing the record as “something like perfection.”
More importantly, Shura happily admits that she has been besotted with cats since obsessing over their revered role in ancient Egypt as a kid. She then discovered The Lion King and also took a year off after college to go and work in an animal rescue park in Bolivia that involved taking a Puma named Gato for a walk through the rainforest.
“I was amazed by how alike big and little cats are,” she says. “I totally fell in love with him.”
In the pop culture world, it’s safe to say that you can call Shura your new favorite crazy cat lady. (It’s a term she endorses, admitting she’s at a “fully fledged” stage of the sought-after condition.)
Shura adopted Winnie and Flump from a “crazy old pet store” in Shepherd’s Bush Market in London that was “filled with all these screaming birds.” Her infatuation with them was taken to the extreme when it was reported that she thought she was suffering from a heart attack around the time that “Touch” began to go viral. After calling up the local hospital, she was instructed to leave her front door open just in case she entered a state of unconsciousness before any of the medics could arrive.
This obviously raised the possibility that Winnie and Flump could escape the apartment — so Shura instead locked herself outside in the hallway and sat there shivering until the paramedics appeared.
After being checked out, it transpired that Shura was just suffering from a panic attack. But the cats were safe and snug inside (and probably napping through the whole incident).
“Winnie is such a little character,” she reflects. “In the beginning, she was so affectionate and would always join me in bed and lie in my armpit ’cause I guess it’s a cozy area. But she’s grown up to be quite like me and can be very anxious. It’s like she’s always looking out for something that’s on the horizon.”
Shura, who lives with her twin brother in Shepherd’s Bush, says she believes the male and female cats have “absorbed our energies a bit.” During conversation, she’s also quick to call her cats her “family” and equate the way she feels about them to human relationships.
“I used to come home and think, ‘Great, I’m gonna have a meal or watch some television or play some video games,'” she explains. “But now it’s so nice to come home and open the door to the flat and having them come down and the first thing you do is have an interaction with a living creature.”
She describes the experience of this extended greeting.
“You say hello to them and they start purring. You spend a couple of minutes on the stairs basically saying hello to these creatures you love. When you’re on the road [on tour] you get to a hotel, put your bags on the floor and flop onto the bed. You don’t have that … I was going to say human interaction!
“Cats aren’t humans but they become very much part of the family so quickly and they feel like another character.”
So far, these feline characters have yet to make their way into any of Shura’s songs, but she says she’d be open to sampling Winnie and Flump’s purrs and meows for inclusion on a track.
“I produce and make a lot of music at home so the cats have kinda heard it all from the early stages, almost like early critics of mine,” she says. “They don’t seem too fussed about it, really. I think it’s interesting that cats don’t seem to mind music being on. If I was a cat, I’d be like, ‘Come on, turn it off, I’m trying to sleep here!'”
What about music made for cats?
“Although I did once play them cat music, like with the purring noises in the background. Their ears did prick up and they seemed to notice the music in a way they don’t usually do.
“Maybe they just prefer it to my music.”