THE NOCTURNAL SPELLS OF SPC ECO
Dean Garcia has been the sound architect behind Curve, played bass with Eurythmics and generally been an icon in the world of bass-heavy music. He’s collaborated with singer/bassist Preston Maddox of noise-gazers Bloody Knives as STFU and Steve Monti, formerly of Curve to make the MAD album and has created wonderful music with daughter Rose Berlin as SPC ECO for ten years now.
SPC ECO’s Calm album is a testament to the core duo’s willingness to continue exploring their inner worlds and conceive songs that alter the listeners’ moods, weaving bass, guitars, noise and drums into a mesmerizing and lush sound with Rose Berlin’s assured vocals topping the dark confections.
The new album sounds like an energetic return to Curve levels with the bouncy drums, soothing melodies and noisy background ambiance. Rose sings better than ever, just chills all over hearing these songs. The music sounds like it might be representative of you and Rose being in a particularly good place in your lives right now.
Thanks, yeah Energetic n Bouncy that’s us. Re good place, Rose and I are always in a good place when it comes to music, it’s everything else outside of the recording space that challenges us, we’re generally OK tho, we all just try to avoid misery news and all/everything/anything to do with agent orange and his uber meh cronies.
Was there anything specific you and Rose set out to accomplish when making Calm, besides continuing to make awesome music?
We wanted to re explore ‘that noise’ and bring back the layered guitar elements. Rising Up being the track of choice re the guitar thing, Waking Up Again, Out Of Sight and All The Voices are the more energised bounce factor. We always go with the flow with any new record as in it goes where the mode takes us but this time we made a conscious effort to kick it all a bit more and not release an album of the first 10 songs we write, this was more let’s go through stages with view to capturing a wider beam of music which is what we did. This takes longer which is always an issue with us as we don’t like to ponder or procrastinate but sometimes you have to exercise Calm when approaching a record and not let what you’ve previously done lead the way.
Were there new or returning contributors to the songs on Calm? What did they bring to the songs?
They bring their good selves into the fray, Jarek (Leskiewicz) and his textural outer space guitarscapes, Perry (Pelonero) and his ‘fuck you’ noise guitars and Justin ‘I don’t give a fuck’ Welch drums trash are all very welcome to the S E party. It’s always cool to have peeps drop in and make a noise for us, they seem to like it too.
Are there songs that start out with a melody from Rose that you work around or vice versa or a little of both? Her vocals are just tremendous, rising and lowering in register on some songs, creating a mesmerizing effect. Like I said: chills.
Once we did that on The Whole World Shine (Dark Matter) but generally we’re just not that organised, Rose sings off the top of her head on an idea (some are more formed than others) we/I then comp the best bits, structure it, live with it for a while and then re-record or re-do when needed, often we keep a lot of the original take as it’s all about the original capture and mood of the time, some things are not re-recordable because they are perfect as is (even if the lyric is obscured) and others need to be redone because they can be done better, knowing each other the way we do is why the voice is the way it is. Rose has a natural and immense vocal talent, the trick is knowing what to keep and what to re-do. In most cases this would kill off any recording writing relationship stone dead in a ‘I never want to speak with you again’ type of way, but with us it’s more of a I don’t want to speak with you for at ten minutes type way so in my mind we’re doing something right. Main thing is we love writing songs together and that’s all that matters really.
The album cover looks like when you look at the code of a page but in this case it’s all in an Asian language. Is this part of her creativity outside of singing for SPC ECO? Does her art inspire you to push yourself further as a musician? It must be humbling and fulfilling to collaborate with your daughter.
The BG text is Rose’s lyrics to all the songs in some kind of Asian language, Japanese we think but it might be Korean we’re not sure, we got confused as to what it was once we transcribed all the lyrics into Japanese but then used a Korean font to process it so we’re none the wiser really, we just thought it looked cool, you can see a few words jump out in English here n there, one of them being ‘Louder’ for some reason. We made the sleeve together but it is always a mind meld of some sort when it comes to all things art n such, we bounce ideas as a family all the time as we like to push the creative aspect of the family as much as possible. Humbling is one word for it but it’s more of a mutual respect and encouragement for each other mind set.
You recently re-released albums by Curve to much appreciation from your fans, and bring new fans to the fold that weren’t aware of you the first time around or even alive at the time. I was reading an article about shoegaze bands and Curve came up, they mentioned that your bass and trip-hop sounds were different from what was going on in the otherwise standard bass, drums, guitar format. Your music has always seemed to mine dark territories while also expressing some quite lovely melodies all while being catchy as hell. Is there something about your personality or temperament that you can link to your signature sound?
Dialling up the dark moods within music is natural for me, I like to float around in the dark, I enjoy the night time more than the day and as I get older the more night the better, night time seems too short to me which is why I always prefer the winter months. I know I sound like a vampire of sorts, which is fine as I dig vamps a lot, not so keen on the blood sucking violence bit at all but I do like to meddle with the dark notes. Why I don’t really know, it may have something to do with living in a cellar for the first 7 years of my life (lol) but then again it could have been the music my carers played. It could be the simple fact that I just like it. Drums and Bass are the glue in all the music I make, I love (and always will) both equally. Melody stems from my love of The Beatles circa 65/69 and Burt Bacharach. Melody is the beauty of it all, combining both is a skill and takes special care and attention to detail as well as working with people who understand such things. Rose understands all too well, she can tune in to all aspects and feels of music, from catchy Bieber pop to GodSpeed it’s all on her radar which is where we connect. We have always had a broad musical spectrum as a family, we’re quick to praise and kill openly, I’m not scared to express my love of Never Had A Dream Come True [The S Club 7 song?] as an emotional experience, it’s all part of the magic to us all.
Who Are You Now stands out as a song where your bass playing and Rose’s vocals really stand out. The strings and dub aspect bring a new feel to the album. Over is thrilling too. Have you thought of creating music for movies? Do you think of a story when crafting your songs? I can see the songs on the second half of Calm working in an urban action movie like John Wick.
Well spotted, that track is all centred around the voice and bass notes, I don’t know where either came from I just know it works, it’s also one of those songs that surprises you while you’re making it, it just all falls together without thinking about it too deeply, for us it’s an instinctive song that is rare and beautiful. A happy yet very sad accident. Re filmic n all, yes they do have those feels or potential about them, we’ve just put a new sync person in place for this record so hopefully some of the songs will get re-upped on some cool films or games.
Is there new gear, new toys you’ve used to make the songs on Calm? How has technology helped in the creation of your music? Are there times you just want to have a pure, analog sound?
Regarding new gear no, I was going to upgrade the system to accommodate some new sound apps but haven’t got round to it yet, I will sort it soon tho but you know how it is everything works as is and it’s such a pain if not somewhat scary due to things I already use not working as they should, but I should just take a leap and sort it sooner rather than later as I know there is some very good shit out there atm. New tech will always enhance, push or inspire you as long as you push it, never go with the generic sounds, always make them your own or import your own things into them and use the filters etc, I embrace all new tech and have a romantic and fond attachment to all things analog, it’s all good to me, use it as you feel but always push it to the max. When I first used a sequencer one of the first things I did was to see how fast it could go, that ethos has stuck with me throughout.
You recently remixed a couple of songs from Ummagma. What is it about their music and members that made you choose to put your own spin on the songs? About those mixes, I wrote: “On the LCD (Dean Garcia SPC ECO Mix) the man behind Curve and SPC ECO builds up tension using ambient textures, crafting a bass-heavy drum beat, adding church bells and a short vocal loop that becomes something menacing and will have you wanting to listen with the lights turned on.”
I was with you until the lights went on, I do understand tho, they’re lose yourself in the moment mixes, which is exactly what I did when making them, it’s always a good sign if you can do that, I chose them because I like them and because I dig the feels of the band, kinda triply weird and anti-establishment, which is always a good thing.
Will there be more M.A.D. or S.T.F.U.? More solo releases? Any live appearances fans can look forward to?
I would say yes to both, Monti and I are never far apart from recording and Preston and I are over halfway through recording a new S T F U record which has tuned itself into ‘that noise’ very well, we’re looking forward to getting it out there, might even do a few combined shows as well…Eyes peeled and foot always ready to stomp on the louder pedal….
Thanks for your time Dean, always find something great in your music and it just keeps getting better every album.
Ta very much, and thanks for the tuned in ears and support…
Time to switch the lights off again…..
Calm is out now via Bandcamp as are the Curve reissues and STFU and MAD albums.