Back in September, Chicago garage rocker Dan Rico released a phenomenal LP called Endless Love on the French imprint Shit in Can Records. Today he puts out a phenomenal mixtape featuring some of his favorite artists on sparkandfizz.com. Check out our interview below.
Spark & Fizz: Describe your ideal guitar tone and some pieces of equipment that were key to making Endless Love.
Dan Rico: My ideal aesthetic would be described as timeless—that’s true with the music, the artwork, everything. Tones are no exception and I try to do whatever I can to achieve it within a limited means. I like a little rock’n twang in the lead the guitar and warmth in the rhythms.
Typically I use a frankenstein tele with a gretsch pickup and single coil for leads, and often a stratocaster with double humbuckers for the thicker stuff. I switch between a 4×10 bassman combo amp and Carvin 30 Watt combo. The bassman offers a warmer tone without a lot of the really high-frequency presence of the Carvin. Turn it up loud and it breaks up very naturally with a slight––but thick and unifying––distortion. It’s great in the studio because I can switch between running guitar and bass through it seamlessly. The Carvin offers a little more country feel with a sharper tone and more high end.
You played nearly every instrument on Endless Love. Describe the recording process.
Usually I’ll record the guitar first as a scratch. In several cases with Endless Love I had a drummer sit in on a session and that’s what I would record first. But the fundamental reference track would be guitar. I like to record in the following order: guitar, lead vocals, bass, lead guitar, and background vocals. Then I’ll go back and meddle with lyrics and try new things in and out. At this stage I’ll also experiment with keys and auxiliary forms of percussion. Usually the guitar and lead vocals provide the essential harmonic element, which I distill after to arrange lead guitars and vocals. The bass is my favorite thing to record and usually the quickest. My first instrument is bass and I try to lay down bass tracks as instinctually as possible.
Were you making a conscious effort to write love songs or is that your usual M.O.?
I like the idea of writing songs with lyrics that can be interpreted universally—and I’m very interested in pop music as an artistic medium. Love songs are the most typical to fall under that ilk. In concept I’ve felt some reservation regarding cheesiness that I quickly got over, on the one hand because so many of my favorite songs of all time are love songs (say, most 50’s pop music, a golden era) and on the other because love and heartbreak are symbols for harmony and dissolution. To me these dueling opposites are a key representational directive of all art forms and for that reason creatively compelling. With a little more experience and as time passes, I hope to take more risks in the stories I tell and experiment within boundaries that still lend themselves to the ear in new and interesting ways.
Am I right that there’s some overlap between your self-titled cassette and Endless Love? Were these released in different markets?
The self titled tape was released promotionally in Chicago for sale at Pitchfork music festival a couple years back. We (the label Maximum Pelt, and myself) put the tracks online quietly and delayed any sort of press release or promotion to the public until we figured out what we’d actually do with it. At that point Shit In Can Records discovered the record by chance online and steered events into their current course with the vinyl LP.
What Chicago bands are rocking your world right now?
House Sounds is an all time favorite, they have three albums available. Deadbeat, Glyders, Ne-hi, Flesh Panthers, Whitney, Noname, and Platinum Boys (from milwaukee, near by) are some other groups that get serious earplay on my speakers.
Who makes up your band for live performances?
I’ve maintained a rotating lineup for the gigs I’ve played since the album release. For several I’d play guitar and sing with a rhythm player, a keyboardist, a drummer, and bassist. The last few shows I shed a few musical pounds and have been performing as a three piece with a bassist and a drummer. I enjoy the freewheelin-ness of less instruments and the dramatic impact of cutting out and parlaying instruments in this format.
I see you were recording in Georgia recently. Can you say anything about what you have in the works?
Yes. Putting the finishing touches on a 7” to be released on Shit in Can Records and cutting tracks for a future album. I packed a trunk with a modest home studio and drove down from Chicago for a few months. The plan is to continue to buckle down and keep recording until touring through the spring and summer. Atlanta is an artistically stimulating urban environment with a ton of very friendly folks. Unlike Chicago, I can take walks and bike rides all winter which I find enormously liberating. Look out for a US tour in April and a European tour in the fall!