Interview by Adrian Hextall
Little Hurricane is an American rock and blues band, based out of San Diego, California, United States. Formed in 2010, the band consists of front man Anthony “Tone” Catalano and drummer Celeste “C.C.” Spina. They are a male/female duo with minimalist blues approach to a rocking, indie sound.
Following a recent sold out show in London at the recently refubished Borderline, Tone took time out to speak to Adrian Hextall.
MGM : You’ve got some summer dates coming up now as well haven’t you?
TONE : I think we’re back in August to do some other gigs.
MGM : No rest for you then I see you are going straight back to the US and you have dates in the U.S as well leading up of course to the summer period.
TONE : Yeah we start our West Coast tour in California, Oregon and Washington, Texas obviously so yeah we will be busy all summer.
MGM : No definitely and with the new album, Same Sun Same Moon, looking at the various options for it on your online stores as well. It’s been out a few weeks now?
TONE : Yeah it came out April 14th.
MGM : The lead single, isn’t it great, that’s the one you are pushing as promo at the moment. Very impressed in terms of the sound. Is that where the band is heading, the sound that you’re looking for nowadays?
TONE : Yeah you know we are always trying to push what we can do as two people so I think to bend the genre boundary just as much as we can and who knows where it will take us but that’s where it has taken us this far.
MGM : What you can do with two people as well you create a very big sound for two people don’t you?
TONE : We try yeah I mean with two people, you definitely have to turn it up a little bit.
MGM : Absolutely and what are you doing to create that because I would imagine you know to get the sound that you are doing out of the guitar for example, it is going through a mix of different amps and things like that. How is it so you’re able to get different tones and sounds?
TONE : Yes so my previous job, I was an audio engineer so I kind of use that knowledge to find which frequencies I need to create the full sound and accomplish that with a couple of amps and a DR for the guitar and then also my playing style has changed to incorporate other stuff so all around yeah we just keep that conscious effort to make it sound big and full and compliment the song I guess.
MGM : Absolutely if you were to read about the band without having heard them, I mean, you describe yourselves as a minimalist Blues approach and yet that doesn’t really provide that feedback in terms of actually this is some sound we can create even though it is under the two of us. You almost expect a folk duo when you read something like that so do you catch people unawares with that I mean that must be quite a surprise for people in terms of the way it is presented.
TONE : Well we call it dirty Blues and I don’t know what people will think about, but more like a distorted Blues kind of like rock blues with the energy of Rock but maybe the backbone of Blues so the minimalists thing, I don’t know where that came from but there are just two of us so I guess the minimum you can have unless it’s a one-man band..
MGM : [laughing] That is very true unless you strap the drum kit to your back probably yes [laughing]
TONE : Yeah equally we are a one-man band.
MGM : [Laughing] That is very true I like that I will make a note of that one in the article, looking at the influences you guys have mentioned, you have identified things like Van Morrison, Dead Weather you also see Gorillaz in there as well which really stands out. It is a bit of a tangent to what you would expect to see from the sort of Blues influenced people.
TONE : Oh yes absolutely I love Gorillaz, there’s so many different artists that we’ve looked into and influenced by and the blues genre is something, you know when you start a band you have to figure out what is our starting point, our launching up of, and we were both in a jazz band in school TC was in Chicago and I was in the San Francisco area, and we were both in jazz bands and that is where our back ground came from musically and so we started with that and then incorporated the live energy punk rock into the shows so what we listen to and what our song writing is based on is not necessarily the genre we go for but I think if you listen to our music you can enjoy. You know we’ve played at hip hop festivals, we played rock festivals we played blues festivals they are all kind of massive these days and if the song is good, it’s across genres.
MGM : You know I can understand that I mean as you say you’ve got a sound that does fit across multiple genres and you would anticipate that you’ve got quite a mixed crowd at your concerts as well. You’re not going to get just the Rockers or the Indie crowd for example or even just the Blues fans, nowadays it’s going to be a real mix so do you get to see that from where you are on stage?
TONE : Yeah it’s funny to see you can tell there’s grandparents in the crowd and there are young kids who can’t even drink yet. There is like a mix of people like who are all in black maybe into more like rock music and so we try to identify. You know you can’t judge a book by its cover but we try to tell what their reason to be at the show is and where they’ve heard of us etc.
MGM : Talking about the way the band did come together, is it right that you were actually were living almost on the same street as each other but didn’t know each other at the time?
TONE :Oh yes totally correct we lived on the same street around 3 blocks down from each other and we met online on Craigslist and I was looking for a drummer and TC had an ad on there and then that being fate you know, we met each other and started playing shows around San Diego and now we are travelling the world.
MGM : That is very cool and obviously coming off the back of that, your debut album coming out in 2011 has a certain feel to it, it’s kind of reminiscent with that sort of dirty blues sound that you described in terms of both the approach and also the song tracks as well but of interest for me was then when you did your collection of cover songs and I love the title a reference to San Diego and Anchorman I presume is it?
TONE : Yes absolutely [laughing]
MGM : Perfect, did make me smile when I was reading that. But you have got some interesting choices for covers on the album because again it is a real mix from some real sort of Soul classic artists all the way through to what you would expect to be playing soul of the fuzzy Blues like Blue Jean Blues from ZZ Top but the interesting one for me was the Moby/Vera Hall track Natural Blues which again just shows you approach things slightly differently.
TONE : Yeah I mean all our songs are intended to be. Because we love them for one reason or another and that song is such great rendition of the whole song that we decided to copy the cover of the cover. So it was fun to do and really I think important going on there because I like taking all songs keeping them alive longer, introducing them to new people, maybe somebody who hasn’t heard that old song and really extend life to the song or breathe it new life in a way.
MGM : And as you say, it is nice that you can get people into the songs that can otherwise just disappear in to sort of the annals of time because there is so much music out there and less bands to pick some of these covers up and reintroduce them to the world, you only ever get to hear the kids and the young bands and the pop music where some of these just warrant hearing again don’t they?
TONE : Yes I think it is important for musicians to pay tribute to the songs that influence them and songs that influence from the past.
MGM : Coming back to the new album is well with isn’t it great, there was a bit of a feel of Hozier in there as well, I mean potentially accidental, maybe something I am just hearing but I could almost hear a bit of Take me to the Church, that bigger feel to it again. Am I missing something or is that in there?
TONE : Hozier yeah that’s funny we are at a restaurant now and he was just playing on the radio here. No, he has a great voice but I don’t know if we are directly influenced by him but that song… you know we were in a plane crash in the jungle, survived obviously but the idea of the song was more of just like… we all have a limited time here on Earth so why not just enjoy and it is much more a direct message when you are falling out of a plane in the sky, you know the end is near [laughing]
What can you do but enjoy the night sky you know but I think that is more of a zoomed in approach of it but it really was the plane situation so the point of the song is the positive outlook on life. I guess it’s a dark message.
MGM : Got you, and just coming back to that obviously a rather horrific incident, I mean were you able to walk away from that or was that hospital all the time as well or…
TONE : Yeah it was just a small airplane crash where One Wing got bent upright and ended up skidding to a landing and yet we walked away just fine and it was scary but it was over in a second.
MGM : You have to be thankful haven’t you that you can walk away from those sort of things and as you say, it gave you a new perspective on life as well because when you walk away from something like that, you start to take in a lot more around you and as you say, just start enjoying life for what it gives you.
TONE : Yes I mean I was young I was like 12 years old when it happened but I do remember it quite clearly, it was a scary moment then I think maybe we should just take the car next time[Laughing]
MGM : I don’t blame you at all there. In terms of the cover for the album as well, the two of you just wearing your underwear, I think again that lends itself to that kind of carefree approach to life as well, just enjoying what comes along again – is it it linked?
TONE : Yes I mean that picture we took is actually in the daytime, where we were supposed to be jumping in a lake but with the album titled Same Sun Same Moon we changed the lake back ground for the night sky for the star moon background which fits more with the album theme and title so yes it is really that theme of jumping into life and let it take you where it’s going to take you irrespective of what’s going on around you all. We are are just our bodies and you know, we had to keep the skivies on so it could be placed in stores I guess..
MGM: You were playing in London recently so how did that go down?
TONE : It was awesome, it was great,Tuesday night there was about three hundred people there. It was a great experience with London the first time. Everyone is very polite and this crowd had much more energy, more lively than we expected.
MGM : Yeah we reserve opinion I think is the appropriate phrase for the first time visitors but then if you come back, we appreciate it a lot more but it’s not intentional[Laughing].
TONE : Is that it? Yeah.
MGM : Definitely of course, the venue that you were playing at, it’s been recently refurbished so you’ve got a higher stage, you’ve got better sound in there now and then the lighting has been improved as well. It is a good atmosphere down in the Borderline these days isn’t it?
TONE : It was cool I wish I had seen it previously before it was remodelled but it is cool the place was very intense from the hallway.
MGM : Looking at other things that you have been doing, You mention the sound engineer piece as well but are you still doing things like guitar slides as well? Are you still doing these custom guitar slide in your spare time? Do you have the time to do it still?
TONE : That was more of a necessity for myself because I was breaking them. I get crazy on stage and then they fall and they shatter and I got tired of buying them so I just started making them out of wine bottles and now I have a good ones that I take on the road with me and I don’t break as much so I haven’t made them in a while but if my stock starts to get low, yeah I’ll find some wine and find out how to empty the bottles and then I’ll make some new ones.
MGM : Is it something that we will ever see as a sort of tailor-made line available online to buy or is it just something for you to use and play yourself?
TONE : No I just do them for myself although we did have that pre-sale bundle out of our new album sale where they included a drum head and then a slides in the bundle so yeah we did one of those packs through special Bundle sale.
MGM : Got you, so they are pretty rare in actual fact then so the fan that picks something like that up got a little piece of history there almost?
TONE : I guess so, I guess a little piece of glass that I used to make noise with.
MGM : Very nice now with the music that you have been creating over the years, you’ve had quite a successful run with the guys at Taco Bell as well I believe they’ve used you what is it four times now.
TONE : Correct yes, four national TV ads with U.S.
MGM : How did that come about because typically you would only hear maybe one track used in an advertising campaign and then they go off to do something else so to have been picked up 4 times with different songs that you’ve produced that must be quite a good relationship that you have with them now.
TONE : When they did talk to me yeah it was very surprising to have two the first one they did, they didn’t test Market, they tried it in one City, I guess it worked well and then they sent it out to the whole United States. I don’t know if they’re in Canada too but anyways, it worked pretty well and then they did another one, they have two different ad agencies so we got to work with both of the ad agencies between the four commercials and it was really cool and the fact that they were using our music and then the 4th one, they asked us to do a cover of Afternoon Delight from the Anchorman soundtrack and we said yes to that because we love that movie and the song was a fun version to try our spin on it and yes that worked out pretty well and I think this day and age, people find their music that way more so than other methods everyone has TV’s in their house and everyone has it on and everyone come to our shows being “I never would have guessed this but I found you two in a Taco Bell commercial and now I am here at your shows, buying your music” and that it is a cool thing to hear.
MGM : Absolutely and the sort of coverage that they have got in the US at least you kind of get into a lot of homes as a result of that and it can only be a good thing for you presumably.
TONE : Yes and the fact that they would support smaller younger bands like us through the whole thing ,the company and the grant they helped to fund the album and keep it going I think that’s really cool.
MGM :Now, one of the purchases that fans can make and one of the things that you have got for the gig is your Calm before the Storm VIP experience, really neat idea that also seems to be priced so that any fan can afford it as opposed to the usual two and a half thousand dollars to meet some of those inflated stadium egos…. You guys are keeping it realistic and it’s the opportunity for a fan to actually get up close and personal and say hello.
TONE : Yeah you know sound check for us is kind of a routine thing but we realised when our manager told us that it was a special experience for some people to be there and hear if the mic is not working or just to check everything to get to chat with us and talk before the show and yeah we decided to make that happen for this album release tour and meet some people face-to-face and it has been going good, everyone has been really cool and it seems expensive to us but I guess if people are ok….
MGM : But it is nice though because I mean it puts it at a price that maybe it just doubles the normal ticket price or something like that when you are out in the states or similar and what the fan gets from it is a good moment, would you say the soundtrack in the room is nearly empty as you guys are doing that so it’s almost feels like a personal concert as opposed to getting stuck where it’s… You Can Be Head and Shoulders below the people in front of you and not see so much but this is a great opportunity to get as much as possible.
TONE : Oh yes and we will chat with them as much in between the time and then if there’s any song that they want to hear that is not on that list for the night we will play that for them however it may be that we haven’t rehearsed it.
As we finish our discussion, Tone and the rest of the team head into the Channel tunnel on the way to Calais for the next batch of shows. Catch them on tour in the US and at Festivals this summer.