On the morning of Feb. 23, Chicago band Carbon Tigers woke up to a devastating revelation: Overnight, a van containing all of their guitars, amps, drums and other equipment -- worth an estimated $30,000 -- had been stolen.
And just like that, everything got much, much harder for the Uptown-based quartet, which had been in the midst of recording The Dover Sessions, a series of mini-albums they aimed to release throughout the coming year, in addition to preparing for a number of upcoming shows.
The band had little to no cash on hand and even fewer solid leads as to where their stolen equipment went, but they by no means wallowed in their misfortune. They turned to IndieGoGo to launch a fundraising campaign aimed at recuperating much of what they lost and have soldiered on, practicing, using borrowed instruments, for their first gig since the theft Thursday at the Underground Lounge.
Offering their supporters perks including their entire digital library, show guest list spots and even such groupie dreams as a private acoustic show or, in exchange for a $1,000 donation, a song to be written and recorded in their honor, the Carbon Tigers have pressed on.
HuffPost Chicago interviewed Nick Cudone, the Tigers' guitarist, about the the band's difficult experience.
Let's start with the obvious: What was the band's immediate reaction to the loss?
Our reaction was composed of disbelief, denial, frustration, anger and disappointment. I was at work when I heard the news and it didn’t sink in right away. I absolutely could not believe that our van and equipment was stolen all at once. My stubbornness prevented me from reconciling with the idea that everything was gone. I told myself it had to be somewhere like maybe on another street or in the city pound. The next day, I went to play my guitar, which I no longer had, and that’s when it set in.
(Scroll down to watch the band's story.)
Have there been any leads or helpful tips in the van and equipment's theft?
Unfortunately, there haven’t been any promising leads. We’ve been checking Craigslist relentlessly and were told to check out Swap-O-Rama, but nothing has turned up. The Chicago Police Department hasn’t been able to help.
Another Chicago-based band, Gypsyblood, also reported their van was stolen last week. What do you think is in the air?
Tough times, people are desperate. I work in some rough parts of Chicago where I see a lot of people struggling to make ends meet. I’m sure stealing a van loaded full of expensive equipment is worth the risk, especially, when you don’t have much to risk at all.
I think a lot of people don't realize how expensive being in a band can be -- can you put the losses from this theft into more of a context, financially? I get the sense that you are all deeply invested, emotionally and financially, in the band.
None of us have big salaries or deep pockets. We all work to pay rent and student loans and not much is left over for us to buy quality equipment. Regardless, we find ways to struggle and save for new equipment so our intangible ideas and creativity translate as best they can to the listener. For example, Chris [Wienke] and Jeff [Simonelli], who were hit the hardest, recently bought new equipment. Chris bought a Nord keyboard, which was valued at $2,500. Being a musician isn’t cheap and the bands that put on great sounding shows invest a lot into good equipment.
On top of all that, we have other expenses. Traveling throughout the Midwest costs a lot of money, especially, when you’re in a 15-passenger van loaded with equipment it’s not easy on the gas tank. Then you have the insurance, vehicle upkeep, a practice space, replenishing merchandise, and saving money for studio time. Everything adds up and breaking even is considered doing well. Actually, I lied: Breaking even is great.
Tell me more about your sound.
Typically, our sound comes from something someone wrote outside of band practice or a jam session, where we all improvise until we feel as if though something good is happening. I think it's the result of our common and individual influences converging. Different bands and musical backgrounds influence us individually, but these aspects overlap. For example, we all like bands such as The Arcade Fire, Minus the Bear, Sigur Ros, and Local Natives. Then there are artists that influence us individually, such as Jose Gonzalez, who particularly influences me.
You're playing a show Thursday -- how much of a challenge is it to go forward and prepare for that with all that has happened?
Financially and physically, it’s a challenge. We’re sharing gear with other bands and probably taking the bus to the show. Mentally, it’s not a challenge at all. Not once has anyone suggested that they were even contemplating throwing in the towel. Our van and gear may be gone, but our willingness to play and remember our songs isn’t.
You've already gotten some nice support on your IndieGoGo, including several $300+ donations. What is it like for you to see that level of support?
I’m floored and incredibly excited. Today, I was on the bus with a huge smile on my face that I couldn’t hide. The feeling of seeing people care cannot possibly be defined by words. We owe everyone big time.
The campaign's fundraising goal is $10,000 but it sounds like you lost about $30,000 -- are you confident you'll recover those losses?
I don’t know if we’ll recover exactly everything all at once, but with the proposed goal we’ll definitely be able to get on our feet again. Although, going beyond our goal of $10,000 would allow us to record and play more shows sooner. We'd like to see that happen.
What else is coming up for the band?
We want to keep writing better music and share the experience with people by playing more shows. We’re planning on going back into the studio in August to record a follow-up EP to "The Burrows," our first release. Shows, more music, more releases… better everything. We're probably going to be much stronger than we’ve ever been.
As of March 1, the band's campaign has raised just over $5,000 of their $10,000 fundraising goal. Click here to learn more about the band's story and how you can help them get back on their feet.
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WATCH Carbon Tigers' IndieGoGo campaign video: