Catalina Shortwave is a band that thumbs its nose at genres. They are proudly lo-fi and have intuited that the beauty and magic of music can happen when the strength of the songs and the passion of the performances overcomes the usual limitations of a DIY project. The players – Brent, Marty and Dave – are three hardscrabble New York/New England music veterans who weave their hearts and lives into the music – the lost loves, the backbreaking lust, and the struggles with life’s poisons. With >>Repeater>>, they left their blood on the strings. We spoke to frontman, Dave Rizzo about the forming of the band and what they have in store for the rest of 2014.
Entertwine: How did you all meet and begin writing and playing music together?
Catalina Shortwave: We knew each other from the neighborhood. Most musicians are always aware of the other musicians within a five mile radius! We were all band-less or looking for something new, and when we got together all sorts of synapses started firing. Songs came together quickly. It was a rush of ideas.
ET: You’ve described your sound as Lo-Fi and DIY. What does that mean to you as a band?
CS: We’ve recorded in studios in the past, we’ve worked with mixing and mastering houses, and that’s a lot of fun. But it can get expensive, especially if you’re looking to record 15 songs. So we had to do a lot ourselves. Burt when you have limited resources it brings out a lot of creativity, and you embrace those limitations in order to move beyond them, if that makes any sense. So that aesthetic is part of our sound.
ET: What kind of experience do each of you bring to the table with so many years invested in the New York/New England music scenes?
CS: This area is culturally strange. New York City is relatively close by, some of us have lived and work there, but there are horse and produce farms not far from where we live. We’re sort of on a fault line between the Yankees and the Red Sox, urban and country, rock and soul. And all of those styles of music influence each of us to different degrees, and that is reflected in the songs, for certain.
ET: What is the story behind the name Catalina Shortwave?
CS: Kind of my idea, but I think the guys embraced it. It’s not a thing, a Catalina Shortwave, but it’s meant to evoke a certain set of images and feelings. A radio tower in the desert pumping out music to the lost, the lustful, and the strange. The Catalina Mountains. The radio can be a person’s lifeline, they can hear pieces of their lives in the music. The insert to the physical CD has some lines that expand on these images. They’re also on our Facebook page.
ET: Who are some of your influences and why do these artists inspire you?
CS: How much space do you have? We like all sorts of rock, some of the more old school metal. Punk and glam. I like all that and 70s singer-songwriter stuff, and soul and R&B. Right now I’m getting back into Gladys Knight, how she’d put so much feeling into her singing, she clipped the mic on some recordings, but in a good way. Good things can happen when emotion pushes up against the limitations of the equipment.
ET: Seeing that you don’t stick to a singular genre, how would you describe your sound to a new listener?
CS: I think the thing that unites the songs is more thematic, the images they evoke, and the feeling we put into them. We don’t hold anything back. But it’s rock with country and R&B and punk influences, some subtle some not. A lot of our favorite records are as diverse as Repeater.
ET: What life experiences or events led to the recording of your album Repeater? What was the recording process like for this album?
CS: There’s a lot of stuff on there that comes way up from the deep. It’s all about love and lust and living and longing and struggle and redemption, but we kind of end it in a way to show we have a sense of humor, and not to take it all too seriously. As for recording, song by song, we tried to walk that line between “first idea, best idea” and doing take after take until you’re just sapped and all you wanna do is go out for a smoke. I’d like to think we got the best take of the first idea.
ET: What is the over arching message or theme that you wish to convey with your music?
CS: Not so much a message but an exposition — an exploration of the light and shady sides of life and love, struggle and redemption, pleasure and pain. A lot of lyrics I write are about these dualities. I guess if there was a message it would be “enjoy the ride.”
ET: Can you tell us about a few of your most exciting live performances? What’s next for you all in 2014? Any writing or planning for new material, shows, etc?
CS: Well, we released Repeater on June 3rd, so now we’re gearing up to support it however we can, with shows, digital radio and all the other stuff that unsigned bands do to grab a piece of the beach. I will say that we are really really excited to play live. The feeling you hear in those songs will come out strong. We are definitely not a stand-there-and-play-it kind of band. That reserved approach works well for some artists, but not for us. I think we’re shooting to continue recording later this year, maybe an EP. We have a lot to say.