How to Succeed as a Tribute Band: The ThundHerStruck Interview with Carin Toti
Over the past nine years, ThundHerStruck has risen through the ranks of L.A. tribute acts to become one of the premier AC/DC tribute bands. The all-girl lineup belting out all the classics with the same raw intensity we saw from AC/DC in their prime is a true testament to what musicians can do when they put in the time and the work required putting on a show of that caliber. They have played gigs for our troops overseas and pleased festival crowds all over the US. In the following interview with Carin Toti (rhythm guitarist for ThundHerStruck) we discuss what it takes to become an A-list tribute band. After all, it is a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.
Guitar.com: Why do you think Tribute bands have become so prominent in the past ten years or so?
Carin Toti: Well first of all as you know, a lot of the bands from the 70’s 80’s and 90’s are no longer together and if they are, it’s usually only one member or something like that – to the point where they are tribute bands themselves really. Another thing is that since the mid-nineties there really hasn’t been a lot of good music so bands like us have become way more popular because of that. People aren’t going out to see new bands as much as they used to but they can go see a tribute band and they sound good and they often look like the original bands. There’s a lot of competition out there due to the influx of tribute bands out there and so that pushes bands to get better and push their act further.
Guitar.com: It must make sense for the clubs that book these types of bands as well. I’m sure it costs less to hire a tribute band than the original.
Toti: Yeah, it does. And again you might as well get a tribute band rather than one or two original member who are still touring under the original band’s banner. It certainly makes sense financially. I can’t think of too many “original” bands from the 70s who are still touring with all the same members.
Guitar.com: ThundHerStruck has been together for quite a long time with the same lineup.
Toti: We’ve been together almost 9 years with the same members. Damage Inc. has been together for 11 years, Just Like Priest just had their 10th anniversary show. Its pretty cool to think we’ve been together that long. It’s nice here in southern California there’s a lot of tribute bands who play together. We just played a show with Damage Inc. and it’s really fun to get to play shows with your friends and their bands.
Guitar.com: What do you contribute to the longevity of ThundHerStruck? Does it help to think of it as a hobby?
Toti: Hell no. It’s a total job. It’s fun at times but it’s still a job. Back before I moved to Orange County, I would go to our drummer Steph’s house and spend the night for like three days. We would put packages together and do PR and send our stuff out. It was like a little machine shop where we had stacks of the CDs, stacks of the bios, stacks of photos – putting all that stuff together, sending it out and then following up and trying to generate interest. Then there was the whole booking process that she and I also did together over the years. That’s a lot of time and business that goes into going to the show and having fun. I also book shows for Damage Inc. and that’s like a part time job for me. Its fun and I like it and I know what I’m doing but it’s a lot of work. We’ve tried to have managers over the years but we end up doing most of the work anyway. We have a road manager now and that’s about it. We put in a lot of time to get to the point we’re at now and we’re very lucky to be able to do what we do. It took three or four years to get to the point where we could do the tours of Germany and Afghanistan and festivals like Moondance Jam (Minnesota) and Rockin’ The Rivers (Montana) and that was a result of all the work and following up we did.
A lot of bands don’t understand that if you don’t follow up on stuff and keep in touch with people, then they’re not going to remember you. That’s a big part of it. For example, we go to the NAMM Convention and you meet all these people and you get all these business cards of people who might be interested in your band and most people I know don’t follow up on stuff like that. Steph and I would split it up and call everybody and keep in contact with those people.
Guitar.com: Ok, say a tribute band just started and they want to get some gigs. You mentioned putting together PR kits, what would you include in the kits and who would you end them to?
Toti: They would have to do their research and find out where they want to play at. It starts with a better press kit. I know this because bands send me stuff all the time and want me to manage them or book for them but between ThundHerStruck, Motley’s Crew, and Damage Inc. I don’t have time to take on other bands. But for your press kit you NEED to have a 3 minute high energy, good sound quality video clip of your band. Nobody really cares about anything else. They don’t care about your myspace page; they need to see a video clip of your band along with a bio, photo, and an mp3 if you have one. If you don’t have a video clip, you’re not going to get any interest. Back when Steph and I started out we were putting physical packages together and mailing them. Now everything is done online and you can
On top of that, you have to do your research. Just Like Priest, for example, does a lot of bike run type shows because Judas Priest is a good biker type of band. We do casinos and festivals – ACDC Tributes can pretty much play anywhere. Then you can start getting email addresses and sending your kits out. Back when Steph and I started out we were putting physical packages together and mailing them. Now everything is done online and you can find email addresses and blast your info out to 100 people at a time, and if you get two bits out of 100 emails, it might be worth it. Bands today are often too lazy to do that but those who take the time to do the research and do the work will be more likely to be operating at a more successful level.
Guitar.com: Where do cover bands fit into all of this? It seems like cover bands would have a harder time finding that niche audience than a band that tributes only one specific style of music.
Toti: It all depends on what kind of covers they’re doing. There’s always a place for cover bands at weddings, corporate gigs, bars, but you’ve got to be really good. People do tend to be more interested in Tribute bands these days but it really depends on the gig. For us and the bigger places and festivals we play, they generally don’t book cover bands. We fly out to these kinds of shows and nobody is going to fly a cover band across the country to play an hour long set if they’re not really good. But any band can be a successful as they want to be if they practice and put in the work and have the proper PR.
Guitar.com: Let’s talk about the music for a moment. When you’re in a tribute band, obviously your music will be picked apart and compared to the original. So how did ThundHerStruck sculpt your sound and your stage performances?
Toti: We learned mostly all of the music by ear. Andrea, Tina, and I would get together and go over and over the parts and what Angus was playing and what Malcolm was playing. We studied the music all the way down to the down – up picking differences and we got all of that dialed in before we even played our first show. All the girls are really very talented. Tina is awesome and Andrea is a great bass player so we had that foundation for a great rhythm section. There were a lot of AC/DC Tribute bands when we started. There were three all girl tributes to AC/DC in California alone. We just rose about the rest because of all the work we put in on the business end as well as the musical end. We used to rehearse all the time and now we don’t live in the same city anymore but we’ll practice before a show. Damage Inc. all live in Orange County and they practice every week and they’re really tight. If you want to be an A-level Tribute band and get the higher paying gigs, you need to study the music and get it right.