Notes From Vivace Interview: Indie Band Letters to Cleo Rocks The Hi Hat

Letters to Cleo - Photo by Notes From Vivace
Letters to Cleo - Photo by Notes From Vivace


Letters to Cleo hit the stage at The Hi Hat on a recent Friday night and played for an adoring, capacity crowd. And judging by the Pixies and Ramones T-shirts in the audience, we had a good idea of the kind of music we could expect.

Letters to Cleo started out in Boston in the 1990s, but three of the five band members live in Los Angeles. 

Their drummer Stacy Jones did double duty for the night. He was also lead vocals for his band American Hi-Fi, which opened the night.

Michael Eisenstein of Letters to Cleo – From Vivace photo

We spoke with guitarist Michael Eisenstein for a Q and A

Q.  I read that the band started out in 1990. I’m sure what inspired you then is different than now. Who or what currently inspires the band?

A. The biggest inspiration now is one another. We’ve all written so many songs and played so many shows with so many different people that everyone brings so much diverse experience to the writing process. Of course, we’re individually inspired by influences old and new but the real challenge is to make something we all like and that lives up to our catalogue.

Kay Hanley – Notes From Vivace photo

Q. I’m sure the band has many great road stories. Is there one you’d be willing to share? 

A. As far as ones that don’t involve the police are concerned, I’d have to say the time we played in Minneapolis and Houston on the same day. Two radio promoters in different regions promised our time on the same day and the only way to work it out with the stations was to play the Minneapolis festival at around 1pm and then get on a private jet to Texas to play the Houston festival at around 7 or 8. It turned out that Toad the Wet Sprocket were also on the Houston show and we hitched a ride on their tour bus back to the hotel, and (Toad bassist) Dean Dinning played us the brand new debut album by Wilco on the ride.  

Letters To Cleo at the Hi Hat – Photo by Notes From Vivace

Q. Is there a specific decision the band has made (good or bad) that it feels other bands/artists can learn from? 

A. I think the best decision in the long term was to stick with the team we had. If you see us in 2018, the show was managed, booked, and mixed by the same people who did the job in 1994. Same goes for our lawyer. Obviously, not everyone is available for every show, but our team is like a family. We were all there for all the ups and downs and everyone still believes in the music and one another 100 percent. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make changes if people are letting you down, but you don’t need to go with every fancy manager or agent that comes along blowing smoke up your ass when you’ve never been in the trenches with them. 

Letters to Cleo – Vocals: Kay Hanley; Guitar: Michael Eisenstein; Drums: Stacy Jones; Guitar: Greg McKenna