Anthony “Tone” Catalano and Celeste “C.C.” Spina have an unusual approach to making records. The two members of the indie-blues-rock duo Little Hurricane record everything, including their improvisational jams and band practices. That way, when inspiration strikes, or something magical happens, they can include the moment on their next record.
For some musicians, doing double-duty as artist and engineer is too much—they’d rather just focus on the music, so they have someone else engineer their recordings. But Catalano—who plays guitar, handles vocals, and does the engineering—loves it.
“That’s my favorite part,” he says, explaining that doing the recording himself minimizes the distance between a song’s conception and how it appears on a record.
“There are a lot of links in the chain as far as getting a song out of the musician’s head and into the heads of people who listen to the music,” he says. “It can be shortened by the musician actually recording their own music.”
Catalano lived in Scotts Valley, went to high school at Monte Vista in Watsonville, and attended Cabrillo College before relocating to San Diego with a previous band in 2004. That band didn’t last long, but Catalano stayed and started doing studio work with sound engineers and other artists. After several years, he decided to “follow the music” and get back into a band. He went on Craigslist looking for a drummer and found Celeste “C.C.” Spina. A tight and creative drummer, Spina has what Catalano describes as a “fresh energy about music.”.
“She has this really cool perspective on rhythm that’s hard to describe,” he says. “She hits the drums very hard, but there’s definitely a feminine feel to it. There are subtleties in her drumming that I really like.”
Catalano will bring Spina a song idea, and the two work together to finish it. The duo, whose sound is driving, edgy, catchy and simple, draws comparisons to Dead Weather and the Black Keys.
Their new album Same Sun Same Moon sees Catalano and Spina building on their blues-rock roots to create a broader sound, while maintaining the gritty, musical minimalism that has made Little Hurricane a standout in Southern California.
Catalano and Spina hit it off immediately musically, in large part because they both grew up playing in jazz bands—Spina in her native Chicago, and Catalano in Santa Cruz area bands, including the Kuumbwa Jazz Band with other musicians from local high schools. Initially, the two would just jam together on blues riffs, building on their early training.
“I remember having a lot of fun in jazz band,” Catalano says, “and being able to improvise the moods and emotions that jazz and blues have that you can’t get with power chords or straight rock music or pop music.”
Those jam session evolved into the Little Hurricane sound, which continues to move forward as the two push themselves and each other to become better musicians and more efficient storytellers.
“We don’t want to get too complex, where we need a bunch of backing musicians,” says Catalano. “We still want the songs to stand with just guitar and drums and vocals. It’s a constant challenge to outdo ourselves. Our sound is the same, but we’re progressing, if that makes sense.”
As Catalano and Spina continue to carve a musical path of their own, Catalano notes that it was that decision, made years ago, to follow where the music would lead, that brought the duo to where they are now.
“You can plan your life only so much, because it takes over at some point,” he says, explaining that just days ago they were in Paris eating croissants.
“I was thinking, ‘I would never be here,’” recalls Catalano, “‘if I didn’t take a leap of faith and decide I should find a drummer.’”
Little Hurricane will perform at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 31 at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $13/adv, $15/door. 423-1338.