“You’ll never know what works until you try it.”
San Diego two-piece Little Hurricane was back at SXSW this year for the third time, giving us a small taste of their upcoming studio album. The duo, which consists of Anthony ‘Tone’ Catalano on guitar and vocals and Celeste ‘CC’ Spina on drums, has been refining their gritty, jazz-based style of blues for close to six years, creating a familiar yet contemporary sound. Tone’s steady drawl and CC’s pure, unrestricted volume complement each other in chilling fashion, and the musical chemistry flickering between the two makes for a monumental presence both on stage and on tape.
:: LITTLE HURRICANE INTERVIEW ::
Q 1 || How have you guys been able to promote yourselves so successfully thus far? What do you think is the most effective method for up and coming artists to get themselves out there and stay relevant?
We’ve tried so many different way to promote Little Hurricane. Very early on we would post advertisements on the musicians section of Craigslist for shows, since we that’s where we found each other. It ended up being quite effective and we have retained those fans we made early on.
At our very first SXSW we printed and handed out flyers with info on our shows and band, even though we knew it would be hard to get new comers out to a show. One of those flyers made it’s way back to New York and ended up in the right hands and landed us our first label showcase.
As a new (or established) artist, you have to think outside of the box to promote yourself. Obviously the internet is the cheapest and quickest way to promote, but that being said you have to get noticed above all the noise. The best way we have found is to try new things, and never stop creating content. Not everything is going to stick, but you’ll never know what works until you try it.
Q 2 || Your first tour ever was organized largely on your own- what advice could you give to other artists about the DIY approach when it comes to touring and recording?
We do as much as possible on our own. Tone’s motto is “No one else is going to do it for us,” and it’s the truth. Unless you are incredibly lucky or riding a wave of former success, no one is going to book your first tour. No one will come plan your first show or music video, and no one is going to go out and promote it for you.
It has been our experience that if you are seeking out industry help, (label, manager, agent) no one is going to step up. But if you build enough on your own, those people will start seeking you out, and then negotiations are much more likely to be in your favor.
Q 3 || Do you set goals as a band, both musically and in terms of where you are in your career? If so, what are your main ambitions for 2016?
We’ve set and reached many goals over the past few years. Goal setting can be very powerful, but also discouraging if you don’t reach specific achievements within a given timeline.
Our goals have become less about a specific achievement, and more about developing into the kind of people that can achieve it. There’s no value in accomplishing something before you have earned it, so its easier to focus on working hard in the present moment. As long as we are progressing we feel we are reaching goals.
Q 4 || As Little Hurricane gained steam, how did you arrange your lives around being in the band, and what were the major changes/obstacles you faced?
Within a year of forming Little Hurricane we both had quit our jobs, moved out of our apartments, and sold the majority of our belongings. We literally lived on the road for weeks or months at a time. I sold my car to fund our first big tour, and was forced to become much more outgoing. I was a homebody before all this, so it took a lot of work to get out of my comfort zone and be able to tour. I’ve missed weddings, funerals, birthdays and other special occasions because of being on tour.
All that aside, I don’t consider us having to face major hardships or obstacles. We have cycled through some outside team members over the years, but each change has brought us closer to where we want to be. No career is perfect, but I don’t think there is one that is more fulfilling than this.
Q 5 || The raw element within your music is something you take pride in, both performance and sound-wise. Seeing as your popularity is steadily increasing, have you ever had to compromise some of that rawness for whatever reason?
It’s a constant battle. Our sound is something we have put a lot of time and work into. There are times when you get to a festival or gig, and they don’t care if you use your own equipment or if you get a sound check. Our instruments are what we use to create our sounds and recordings, so they are equally important live.
We have had many opportunities for exposure by streaming live sets of performances, but we have turned them down due to poor audio recording quality. With Tone’s background in live recording, the audio recording is something we take very seriously. Very often we have the opportunity to have our music be seen and heard by thousands streaming, but knowing it will sound like crap makes it a hard choice.
Q 6 || What does your songwriting process look like? What are the major differences and similarities between you two and how do they affect the collaboration?
It varies song to song, but all songs are built on emotion. Sometimes its an experience one of us has had or is having, and we build a song on whatever that emotion feels like. Other times Tone has a riff or an older idea and we build around that.
We are quite different in many ways. Tone is patient and doesn’t mind taking time to get things just so. I’m a multi-tasker and get anxious easily. I think his background of music recording and my background of cooking make us two very different kinds of musicians, but our sums are greater than our parts. Little Hurricane will always be unique in the fact that two very different people with different backgrounds are coming together to make something more special than they could alone.
Q 7 || How’d you guys feel about performing at SXSW this year? Any highlights you could share?
This was our best SXSW to date!! (This means a lot coming from me, because I usually hate everything about SXSW). This year was much better for us. We had a crew to help us, which is a luxury we usually go without. We had 7 sets in 3 days, and we were happy with all of them. The big difference we noticed this year is that even though we still played so many sets, we had great crowds turn out at each one. There is nothing sadder than seeing your favorite artist at SXSW playing for an empty room (or taco shop).
Q 8 || How would you describe the atmosphere at SXSW and similar festivals, from the perspective of a performing artist?
My first time there I described the experience to my father as “being the smallest fish in the biggest sea in the world.” Imagine thousands and thousands of bands not only playing, but just being present all around you. It was intimidating to say the least!!
The past few years I have adapted “prepare for battle” type attitude. There will be no parking, you’ll have to load in your gear from down the street though masses of drunk people who are annoyed by you, and you will be inundated with corporate branding so thick that you will forget you are in Austin. It’s highly unlikely you will get a sound check, guest list or even compensated at all. Basically you are going to get treated so badly you will question if it is even worth it.
But my answer is unequivocally YES!!! There is no other festival that has impacted our careers the way that SXSW has in such a measurable way. That’s what keeps us coming back.