If You Go
⇒ The Music Hall’s Website (about 50 minutes from downtown Manchester)
Location: 131 Congress Street, Portsmouth (about 50 minutes from downtown Manchester)
PORTSMOUTH, NH – Within the music realm, supergroups can come together in a few different ways. The members can each be a savant when it comes to playing their chosen instrument, it can be a combination of two prior bands or it can be a collective of multi-instrumentalists. Fantastic Cat leans toward the latter with Brian Dunne, Anthony D’Amato, Mike Montali and Don Dilego each being respected musicians in their own right. This makes for an interesting live music experience, and that’s exactly what’s going to be taking place at The Music Hall in Portsmouth on November 16. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and anyone who attends is guaranteed to become immersed in a one-of-a-kind way to spend a Thursday night.
I had a talk with the band ahead of the show about how they got together to start the band, how the trajectory for Fantastic Cat changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and looking forward to the upcoming gig at The Music Hall.
Rob Duguay: Fantastic Cat started back in 2019 when you guys were brought together for a chance meeting. How did this happen? Did one of you post an ad online looking for musicians to start a band? Where did you all initially get together?
Brian Dunne: We all knew each other from years of touring and running in similar circles in New York. After a while, we’d all either been on the road or shared stages together at various points and were fans of each other’s music, so when the idea to get together in the studio for a collaborative project came up, it was easy to say yes. Our first recording session was out at Don’s studio in the Pocono Mountains. We each brought a few song ideas and tried out writing together, which went really well, so we got together again back in New York and kept adding more songs until we had a full album on our hands.
RD: What was it like starting a band right before COVID-19 disrupted everything in March of 2020? That must have been a pretty strange time for you guys.
Anthony D’Amato: At the time, we really didn’t have much in the way of plans for Fantastic Cat, so it was far more disruptive to our solo careers. We’d always figured this would be a one-off kind of recording project and maybe we’d play a show or two to go with whatever we released, but that would be about it. If anything, the forced break from touring gave us a chance to really finish the project and wrap our heads around what it was and what it could become.
RD: What would you say are the musicians and bands you all bonded on when you first started hashing out ideas for songs together?
Mike Montali: One of the fun things about this project is that you’ve got four different songwriters with four different tastes. There’s an overlap in the Venn diagram where we all come together, which includes The Band, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen & Neil Young, but everybody’s influences are getting filtered through everybody else’s influences when we start collaborating on a song. The end result is something that’s a lot more sonically diverse and interesting than it would have been if we’d just recorded it ourselves.
RD: What are your thoughts on coming up to New Hampshire to play The Music Hall? Do either of you have any roots in the area?
Don Dilego: We’ve all played New Hampshire before on our own, but this will be our first performance there as Fantastic Cat, which is really exciting. It can be challenging to explain this band to people since we’re four different songwriters, four different lead singers and we all swap instruments on every song, but as soon as people see it, they get it, and we’re looking forward to sharing it with everybody at The Music Hall.
RD: What are Fantastic Cat’s plans going into 2024? Are there any plans for a new album?
MM: We’re hard at work on our second record right now, and once that’s out, we’ll be back on the road playing shows all over the United States and Europe.