Some bands strive for perfection: This part must sound exactly so, this drum kit must be tuned with minute precision, this gear needs replacing as soon as it shows signs of wear. Not San Diego-based lady/lad duo Little Hurricane. In fact, when guitarist/singer Anthony “Tone” Catalano and drummer/singer Celeste “CC” Spina blast their gritty blues-rock onstage, they welcome moments where their equipment starts to break down and take on a mind of its own. After all, they made a lot of it themselves.
It’s common to look at the stage at a Little Hurricane show and see a miniature living room, complete with glowing lamps and secondhand furniture. You’ll also see a lot of old suitcases that Catalano and Spina have repurposed as speakers, which—along with their secondhand gear—is part of what makes the band’s music so charmingly raggedy, patched-up and immediate, as heard on their 2011 self-released debut LP, Homewrecker.
“A sort of dirty sound can come out of those speaker cabinets; they rattle a lot,” Spina says. “The main one we use has a lot of rattle and buzz to it. The drums I play are from the ’60s, they’re vintage drums, they’re big and loud, and I think they’ve got a lot of heart and soul, even if we don’t know exactly where it’s all coming from.”
So, it’s fitting that Catalano, who makes his own bottleneck slides out of old whiskey and wine bottles, describes Little Hurricane’s sound as “handmade.” And just as all handmade things reflect the imperfect humans who created them, chaos likes to weasel its way into the mix. That same unpredictable element is also part of being in a band where you only have yourself and one other musician to rely on.
Yes, Catalano and Spina have some seriously good looks between the two of them. But they’re not going steady, or “going” at all. In fact, their paths crossed through Craigslist, when former chef Spina put out an ad for a musician to jam with and found Catalano, a songwriter and audiophile. Since then, their relationship has had its ups and downs. “I think there’s pros and cons to being in a band with one other person,” Spina says. “We’ve become really good friends, and we have to be really patient with each other because it’s just one other [person].”
In concert, not having the security blanket of a large band to fall back on when things go awry keeps Spina and Catalano on their toes. “I think the times [being a duo] would be the most challenging would be if one of us were to make a mistake onstage, there’s really nobody else to help out [and] cover it up,” Spina says. “So, if we’re not totally tight or on our game, it’s obvious.”
But it’s the capricious nature of Little Hurricane’s live shows—dancing a razor-thin line between success and disaster—as well as the fact that the band’s made up of two people that “keeps the songs a little truer,” Catalano says. The possibility it all might derail and explode at any second is utterly captivating. “We live by danger,” he jokes.
On the soulful 13-track Homewrecker, Little Hurricane lives up to their name, which Catalone says describes how they’re “powerful but small.” In songs like “Crocodile Tears” and “Give ’Em Hell,” he and Spina’s call & response vocals—his raspy and with nicked edges, hers sweet and velvety—reveal their effortless songwriting chemistry. There is a hint of a narrative on the emotional “Shortbread,” as well as “Haunted Heart”—check out the mysterious music video. And the incendiary “Homewrecker” is as grimy as a whiff of gasoline on a sweltering summer day. With its skinned knees and bared fangs, Homewrecker is the product of (have to say it) a force of nature.
“We make a lot of noise,” Catalano says.
The Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 East
Monday, July 1, 9 p.m.