Little Hurricane Interview

The San Diego-based Little Hurricane, a self-described “dirty blues” duo eager to explore beyond the genre that intrigued them when they first came together in 2010, celebrated the release of their third studio album Same Sun Same Moon last Friday, April 14. Recorded in multiple locations throughout California by bandmates Anthony “Tone” Catalano and Celeste “C.C.” Spina, Same Sun Same Moon depicts a new era for the two-piece, with Tone and C.C. recording every instrument themselves and diving into deeper lyrical themes than those on previous albums. Days before the album’s release, Blues Rock Review called Tone to discuss the band’s near-annual success at the San Diego Music Awards, the amusing anecdote behind early fan favorite “Bad Business” and how best to approach the new material.

Congratulations on the new album. What was the recording process like for Same Sun Same Moon?

It took about three years. We started it down in Alpine, just outside of San Diego, and we finished it up in Lake Tahoe, in Northern California. I record everything myself. We have our own studio recording equipment, so we can set up wherever. We try to find cool, unique places to capture the vibe. We actually record every iteration of the song. If we’re writing a song we’ll make a demo, but we record it all the same so that if something happens that was unexpected, like if we were just jamming and something cool pops up, we have it down on tape, so to speak. When inspiration’s there, we can actually get that take onto the final version. A lot of parts of this album are actually the first time we played it. Not all of them, but it’s good to have that option.

There seems to have been a shift in the band on this album, where the lyrics feel deeper than before. Did you notice a change while writing and recording this album, compared to your processes creating Homewrecker in 2011 or Gold Fever in 2014?

Yeah, when we started off, we call ourselves a “dirty blues band.” It’s hard to put yourself in a genre, but if we were going to pick one, we’d call it that. Blues, as far as lyrical themes go, is more negative. I was asking myself, “What do I want to accomplish as a musician? Besides trying to make awesome songs, do I want to try to bring inspiration or positive themes?” With this album, we definitely have more intention with creating a positive vibe than a bluesy vibe, for lack of a better word. But also, for the past few years we’ve seen the direction of the world. We thought, if we could do any small part as musicians, our part would be to bring unity and help bring people together, not apart.

Music is the ultimate language of our world. Not everyone can talk to each other. We’ve experienced this on tours, like in Spain, countries where English isn’t prominent, we can’t really carry on a conversation with people, but the music is what brings us all together. That’s the underlying theme of this album, Same Sun Same Moon – we’re all under the same sun and the same moon, on the same planet, so let’s act that way.

In an interview you did recently with Ghetto Blaster Magazine, you mentioned learning to play the trumpet for this album. Do you typically record all the instrumentation yourselves?

No, not always. It’s a new thing for this album. I had this idea for a trumpet part, and I asked a trumpet player friend of ours who was living in London. She sent me a part, and I thought, “This is taking a long time to figure out the timing, the right tone, the mic placement.” So I just decided to pick up a used trumpet on eBay. I got one, played around with it and was able to squeak out enough notes for that song. It inspired me to add it on to some other songs, so I played trumpet on four tracks on this album. I’m not a trumpet player, by any means, but I was able to accomplish that goal, at least, which was huge for me – and fun, which is really what it’s all about.

Are there other instruments you hope to bring in on future albums?

I don’t know. It’s really whatever comes about. I’m sure there’re other instruments that I’d like to pick up at some point, but the album will decide the vibe, and which vibe we’re going to tour. This album was more trumpet, while the last album, Gold Fever, we had more of a string section in parts and keyboard parts. I don’t know; it’s hard to say, but yes is the answer.

Since your last album, you and C.C. have also gotten married. Did that life change influence the tone of the album?

Yeah, I think we’re able to be a little more honest, more open. We met as musicians and we fell in love throughout this process, the last seven years. We tried to avoid it for a while, because we always wanted the music to be first, and we didn’t want to do anything to compromise what we could accomplish with music. People would always ask if we were together, and we’d always reply, in the earlier stages of our relationship, that we’re musicians and we’re in a band. Which is the truth, but we wanted to keep that focus the forefront of how people saw our band. We don’t want to be a “couple band.” With this album, we’ve started being at least open about it, which is the better route now that we’re married. We still want it to be about our music; our personal lives are definitely our personal lives, but at the same time, our music is personal. It’s about us, it’s about what’s happening. It all has to be on the table for the songs to be meaningful.

Photo by Cory Piehowicz

Where does inspiration come from for you?

All over. It depends on the song. It could be a cool riff that we build to create a song based off the emotion that the music is giving us, or it could be a topic that we try to explain or express with music. We try to approach it from all angles. When something’s in your head and just kind of stuck in there, whether it’s a lyric or a melody, you have to pursue it and figure it out, hone it the best you can. Every song is different. I can’t say that there’s one way we go about it. It’s a constant process.

Do you write collaboratively?

Yea. When I met C.C., I was looking for a drummer because I don’t play the drums. I’ve tried, and it’s just something I can’t wrap my head around. I’m not as mathematical as that. We approach music in different ways. So we’ll come together, and she’ll put the rhythms to what I have, or if she has a cool beat, then I’ll find something that complements it in some way. Lyrically, we work together to make sure we’re both contributing to express what we want to express.

I’m curious about the stories behind some of the songs on this album: “Mt. Señorita,” for example. How did that song come about?

It’s more of a fictional song. That song had a cool riff, kind of rhythmic and mysterious. I tried to add this ghost story to it in a Southern California way. That one was really about the story of a ghost, or a haunted house, but approached in a different way.

“Bad Business” is a strong track, largely because of the memorable riff. Did that song originate with its riff, as well?

I can’t remember the order of things, but I think the riff…I always have riffs that I’m waiting for the right opportunity to use. For that song, we were in Michigan at a festival and we were in a shuttle bus where they shuttle musicians from a parking lot to the stage. There was this guy, a drummer, who was in the back seat on his cell phone. He was really upset or angry; he couldn’t get in, or was delayed with getting his pass or credentials or something. Whoever he was talking to, he was just saying over and over: “It’s just bad business, it’s bad business! I’m strung up like a hotdog here.” We just looked at each other and were laughing, like, “That’s a song.” I felt for the guy; he was obviously stressed. We then applied that term to our lyrics and whatnot. That riff sounded like it fit it: a little angry, a little like bad business itself, and we merged that riff with those lyrics.

“March of the Living” is a fun and fast track. Was it fun for you to just jam on that without worrying about incorporating lyrics?

Oh yeah. That’s a super fun one. Our intent was to add lyrics at some point, but we realized the song wasn’t asking for it. It kind of acts as an intermission to bring the album into the B-sides. That’s definitely a fun one to play live.

Little Hurricane had early success, winning in the Best New Artist category at the 2010 San Diego Music Awards shortly after the band formed. Why do you think audiences connected with your music so quickly?

I don’t know. We’re both from San Diego – not originally, but we were living there for six, seven years before we met and started the band. We had a lot of friends there, and we started playing a lot of local shows around San Diego. Not so much anymore, which I miss. But I think it was probably the sheer number of shows we were playing around town, all the friends; who knows. Maybe we were doing something a little different from other bands. It seems like there’s a lot of eclectic music styles in San Diego, so it’s cool that we were honored and accepted at such an early stage.

You have such a full sound for a duo; it feels like there are more than two musicians involved.

That was always a goal: to be a two-piece, but to not…I don’t want people to think there’s anything missing. When I met C.C., I thought we would find other band members, but she was like, “No, let’s keep it two.” I was like, “Okay, let’s try with two; if it doesn’t work, we can add people.” It ended up working. I get to turn up the bass on the guitar. It actually creates some fun environments, musically, because there’s two of us. We can play off the rhythms and tempos of each other. Instead of trying to synch up four or five members of the band, it’s just us, so we can drift and speed up, slow down. It kind of has a life of its own.

Photo by Cory Piehowicz

Does that structure affect the way you compose?

It does. More for the technical aspects, like I have to make sure we can perform it live, that I can play the root notes as well as throw in some lead steps. Without a bass player, I have to make sure I’m hitting root notes with the kick drum, for effect and impact. That’ll definitely change riffs and how I play the guitar.

“For Life” describes what might be described as a listener’s perfect day. When you return to San Diego and get those rare days off, what does your perfect day look like?

Oh man – San Diego. Hm. Probably start with an early morning surf session, a breakfast burrito at Kona’s. There are so many things you could do: mountain bike, hike…there would probably have to be something with music, so probably playing at the Belly Up or Casbah, and probably a nap before so I could stay up late. I don’t know; that sounds like a perfect San Diego day to me. Maybe a Rubio’s fish taco earlier, or something.

Is there a memory relating to music that sticks out in your mind as being influential or particularly memorable?

When I first started playing guitar, it was more of a hobby, an elective option in middle school. I was learning Nirvana songs from back then. I didn’t really take it seriously, it was just a fun thing. I learned all the chords, I learned a few songs for a set, and I thought that was it: I figured out guitar, I could move on. There are only six strings; how many chords could there be? Then I heard my friend’s older brother playing “Johnny B. Goode,” that solo Chuck Berry song. I remember being blown away, thinking, “Wow, he can create all these sounds and make the guitar speak like I’ve never heard it before.” I told myself then and there to never limit what you can do with sounds, what you can get out of those six strings and 24 frets on a guitar. I always set this bar in my head: whenever I’m feeling uninspired or can’t find another riff or nothing sounds new or unique, I always know there’s something else out there that hasn’t been done, that I can create something new in a different way. That was a big moment for me. Don’t limit the guitar; you can do anything with it.

Looking ahead, are there any milestones you’d like to reach, or any dream venues you’d like to play that you haven’t already?

I’ve wanted to get to South Africa for a while, but it’s so far away. That would be cool. We hit some cool places last year. We went to Norway, up in the Arctic Circle, played up there. I’d like to go back at a time when I can see the Northern Lights. It doesn’t have anything to do with music, but I’d like to see that at some point. Music has taken me some pretty awesome places. It’s an awesome ride.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about the album or about yourselves?

Yeah. Take it all as a whole, don’t take just one song. “OTL,” for example. We’ve been hearing from people, “this isn’t blues,” or, “this isn’t like your sound.” For us, it fit the overall theme of the album. There’s no guitar on that song. I think the fact that a lot of bands don’t release albums anymore, or people just release one song at a time, the whole art of the album is taking things as a whole or as a journey. I think that goes hand-in-hand with the vinyl resurgence of listening to the album straight through. My advice would be to listen to the album through, because the order of the songs, the way they’re put together, even the songs that we picked for the album: we did it with a purpose.

Interview by Meghan Roos

 

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