Since they left home on a “slow tour” in November, the San Diego blues-rock duo—singer-guitarist Tone and drummer C.C.—have traveled to more than a half-dozen cities across the West, spending as long as two weeks at each stop: Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin.
They kept their gear and clothes in an 8-by-10-foot trailer tricked out with vintage wallpaper and an upholstered bed. They stayed with family, friends and friends-of-family, mostly sleeping on couches but occasionally splurging for a cheap hotel room. They booked all the shows themselves and advertised them on craigslist, relying on strangers to help with publicity.
“When we showed up in Seattle, our flyers were already up all over downtown,” Tone says by phone during a stop in Phoenix.
When C.C. and Tone first set out on their tour, they planned to spend the year traveling the country, surviving off of savings and money made at shows. But the tour didn’t work out as they’d expected. Costs accrued for gas, food and housing. Booking shows was difficult because they’re a new band with few connections. Often, they wouldn’t get paid.
So, they’re speeding it up. They’ll focus on the West Coast, play more shows and spend less time in each city.
“To try and take over the whole country as a new band just seemed like a huge obstacle,” C.C. says. “We’re totally equipped for a big tour, and we’re ready to go, but I think what we need at this point is a booking agent, or to jump on a big tour. We’re working towards that. If we could get more shows nationally, then we would be doing nothing but the slow tour. But without any help, it’s a lot. It’s a lot of expenses.”
Still, the past five months weren’t a total flop. They’ve made connections, built up fans and released Homewrecker, a debut full-length they recorded in a variety of locales: high-end studios, rehearsal spaces, bedrooms, even the kitchen at Tone’s parents’ house in Santa Cruz.
Homewrecker is a solid debut of hard-bitten blues-rock with heavy riffs, infectious hooks and dark, often personal lyrics. “Haunted Heart” is a “post-mortem romance,” as Tone calls it, about a dead lover. The folksy “Give ’em Hell” is inspired by C.C.’s little brother, who’s fighting heroin addiction. The title track, an album highlight anchored by a blazing slide guitar, is inspired by C.C.’s run-ins with hipster girls who didn’t like that she worked at True North tavern— the North Park sports bar—and accused her of trying to steal their boyfriends.
“I had a lot of drama in North Park,” she says. “I think there’s some insecure people out there.”
Tone and C.C., close friends who say they’ve seen the best and worst of each other on the road, make a good pair. Tone, an unassuming 29-year-old with scrappy good looks and a raw-throated voice, is a versatile guitarist with an ear for beguiling hooks. C.C., a stunning 27-year-old with a penchant for ravishing dresses, holds down solid beats with heavy kicks and subtle stylistic touches. They always perform with a low-lit lamp sitting on a cabinet amp that looks like a nightstand, making it appear as though they’ve set up a bedroom onstage.
Little Hurricane came together in early 2010 after C.C. posted an ad on craigslist looking for bandmates. She’d been a cook and a bartender for years, but she picked up drums a couple years ago. She heard back from Tone, who’s been in a number of bands and done audio editing and video recording for VH1 and MTV. The duo rose quickly in the San Diego scene, bagging the trophy for Best New Artist at the San Diego Music Awards.
The tour was an incredible experience, they say, but it was also humbling. Booking shows could feel like begging. At South by Southwest, the sprawling festival and conference in Austin, Texas, they spent four days working to make an impression on some of the thousands of industry execs and music fans.
At a brunch hosted by BMI and Billboard, C.C. spent some time hanging out in the bathroom, handing out CDs to women who commented on her fluffy dress. At a spectacular show at a housing co-op, a frenzied crowd of drunken 20-somethings hung from the rafters, danced and sang along with Little Hurricane’s songs.
“We saw so many amazing bands that we played with— bands that we’d never heard of,” C.C. says. “We played a few small venues and there was hardly anyone there, and the bands that we were playing alongside were just so talented and awesome.”
Now, they’re thinking of adding a keyboardist—they want to fill out their sound, but they also want to differentiate themselves from other duos.
“I feel like we just got to get that edge ahead of those thousands and thousands of other bands,” C.C. says. “We just gotta work 10 times harder.”
Little Hurricane will celebrate the release of Homewrecker with Get Back Loretta, River City and Low Volts at The Casbah on Saturday, April 2. myspace.com/littlehurricanemusic