Interview by Michael McCarthy
Earlier this week, we brought you an exclusive interview with Dean Garcia of SPC ECO. As a former member of the renowned electro-duo Curve, we knew Dean would have a wealth of information to share and we were dying to learn more about his new project, SPC ECO. To that end, we were equally curious to learn more about Rose Berlin, Dean’s daughter and SPC ECO’s vocalist. We are quite happy that she indulged us in the following interview, which was conducted via E-mail just days ago.
Was your father already in Curve when you were born?
I had to ask dad about this, and he thinks I was about two!
What was it like growing up with a professional musician as a father? Was he off on tour a lot? Did he ever take you with him?
It all seemed very normal to me as I didn’t know any different. I remember trying to get in his suitcase once when he was in between tours. Harry my brother and I never went with dad, we were always more interested in the presents when he got home! We went to a lot of rehearsals, and I was in the Missing link video. I’m the little girl jumping on a sofa in the rain holding on to a rope. I remember asking for them to not have the music on while they were filming me as it was too loud and scary.
I’m assuming that you were exposed to music at a very young age. Do you think you would be singing if that wasn’t the case?
Obviously it’s difficult to answer that, as music has always been a massive part of my life. I love singing and always have.
How old were you when you started singing?
Mum and dad said I was singing before I could talk! I think he first song I sang was the theme tune to “ Postman Pat ”.
Did you take vocal lessons when you were growing up or at any other point?
When I was little I never had any lessons, which I think is why I sing the way that I do. When I was in my teens I was in the school choirs so had a bit of guidance there, but I’m a strong believer that musical tuition doesn’t necessarily make you a better musician. I think its all about using your ears and going for it and making mistakes because after all it’s the mistakes we’re interested in.
How did you and your father come to create SPC ECO. Did you ask him if you could make music with him or did he ask you to do so?
Dad has always asked me to sing on things, and SPC ECO was just another one of those things. Dad always has something new on the go, so whenever I heard something new I would pop my head round the door or he would shout out to me and set up a mic and go. We made our first album together when I was about 6 or 7. We have it on tape somewhere I think it was called “journey to mars” or something! I sang on a couple of tracks for the Headcase MushiMushi album too.
At the time you started SPC ECO, was it intended to be a long-term project, or was it just going to be a one off album at the time?
There was no agenda for it really, we both just love working together. We’d previously recorded an album’s worth of alternative teenie pop songs when I wanted to be the English Avril Lavigne! Without you (the 1st single) was featured on the film “Cowboys and Angels” and dad and I were asked to do a song for a compilation album for Neil Gaiman which we wrote “Coraline”. SPC ECO was so far removed from that, and it enabled me to hear my voice in a different context. It completely changed the way I perceived my voice and changed the way I approach melody and lyrics for that matter.
Listening to 3-D, I can’t help but wish that your vocals were significantly louder in the mix. Especially during some of the songs at the beginning of the album, I really can’t understand a lot of what you’re singing. I don’t think that’s got anything to do with your singing ability – clearly, you’re very talented – but it sounds like the music wasn’t produced and/or mixed with the idea of your vocals being up front. Did your father decide that SPC ECO should sound that way or was that a decision made by the two of you?
It was a combination of me being shy and tentative but we also wanted the vocals to act as another instrument. The vibe of shoegaze is that nothing is more important than anything else. It’s just part of the overall ambience. As for the lyrics most of the vocal parts were recorded in one take and were left as is, with nonsensical words most of the time. For me it was about the melody and the tone of the notes, I would make up words on the spot because I liked the way they sounded.
Was there less pressure on you as a singer with your vocals not being super prominent?
No, there was never any pressure on me at all. It just made gigs harder as breathy vocals with loud guitars are difficult to get right on small stage, sound engineers are not fond of me!
On the Push EP and Delusional Waste, your vocals are obviously front and center. I haven’t heard a lot of the music from in between 3-D and those releases yet, so I’m wondering if your vocals were gradually brought to the forefront or was there a point where you and/or your father decided it was time to change the dynamic like that?
Everyone kept saying they were too quiet so we turned them up a bit. As the years went on I got more confident and more involved with all aspects of recording so the vocals gradually got louder. Push and Delusional Waste are more “Pop” so the vocals lend themselves to be louder.
You’re the face of SPC ECO today, being that you’re the only one pictured in the promo photos and such. Were there always photos of you ever since SPC ECO started or did you prefer not to be seen initially? If you deliberately weren’t pictured early on, at what point did you decide to change that and what prompted the change?
I’m in the photos because dad didn’t want to be in them. Dad is old and fat now so probably best he stays in the shadows..lol!
Some frontwomen love being in front of the camera and others hate it. How do you feel about it?
I don’t mind being in front of camera. Obviously it’s a bit awkward sometimes but again as I’ve got older I’ve got more confident. I really enjoy making videos. For Delusional Waste it was very much a family day out. My Brother Harry filmed most of it along with my dad, Then Harry edited it all. Mum was on hand to give direction and it was just a lot of fun to do!
Does SPC ECO perform live or do you simply exist in the studio? If you do perform live, have you done so since the beginning or did that come later? If you haven’t performed live, is it something you aspire to do?
Yeah we play live, but like twice a year. If we get asked we generally do it! I do enjoy playing live but as I said before I find it quite difficult. My voice is breathy and to get the right effect I cant really sing the song “out’ (they take on a whole new vibe…) so being heard over all the guitars can be impossible. Especially when dad decides to turn everything up to 11. But we have a laugh, both dad and I are very nervous before we go on though.
Have you written all of the lyrics for SPC ECO from the beginning?
Yes and no really. Dad presses record on the track and I sing a few passes of the vocal. Then dad and listen back and pick out melodies that we like and have a bit of a laugh at the shit bits! Then to get the lyrics we sit there trying to work out what the fuck I’m saying (if anything at all). I really enjoy listening back to the passes as everything was done on the spot and therefore anything that I say is completely random. But saying that once you start to “ decode” the vocal, the songs take shape and words start to make sense and the meaning of the song emerges. I like that the songs can be interpreted in different ways and I like to play with the meanings of words, but that seems to come by accident. I’m dyslexic so I find writing very difficult. I don’t think I’d be able to write lyrics in any other way. It’s a really interesting way of writing, but you have to really let go and not be put off by dud notes etc.
What is the writing process like – does your father record an entire song with no vocals and then leave it to you to come up with something or is it more of a collaborative process? As the singer and lyricist, do you also come up with the melodies or is that dictated by your father when he records the music?
I think I’ve answered this question above. Dad generally has the track pretty much there when I sing on it but I think my vocals do enable dad to finalise the structure and things like that. Though more recently I’ve been more involved in the writing and building the tracks themselves. Sometimes we record vocals and dad plays guitar or a bass or whatever at the same time. It can end up being a pile of shit but sometimes we get some fantastic little accidents, “Spotlight” was written like that. Dad is always there when I record the vocals and I feed off him, if I do something good then he’ll give me a look and I’ll go off in that direction for a bit. I used to find it really difficult to be free and just go for it because I was worried about what dad thought, but it’s always better when I just get into a zone and just get lost in it.
Who are your influences as a singer?
I love Liz Frazer and Beth Gibbons and when I was little would try so hard to sing Teardrop perfectly! I love the way Thom Yorke plays with notes and goes to beautiful place that are completely unpredictable. You think it’s going to go one way, then it swings to something completely different and you’re like WHAT?! But somehow it’s as if no other note would do. Bjork is a genius obviously I love the iceyness of it all.
Who are your influences as a songwriter?
I couldn’t really say because of the way I write is really random. I have epic respect for songwriters. People like Hal David when he worked with Burt Bacharach and wrote “I’ll never fall in love again.”
I have to ask – is “Delusional Waste” about somebody in particular? I wouldn’t ask you who – I’m just curious if there’s someone out there who that was directed at since it’s very, shall we say, biting? Were you trying to tell someone to F off there?
Yes, Yes it was.
Wiki indicates that SPC ECO is British-American. What country were you born in? Where do you reside today?
I was Born and Raised in London. Dad’s half Hawaiian so that might be why, we also collaborate with people all over the globe.
You recently graduated from university. Am I correct in understanding that your field of study was sculpture? At what point did you realize that was something you wanted to do? Were you a child who always liked to make things out of clay?
Art and music go hand in hand for me. I didn’t feel like I needed to study music at uni so decided to do art. My Brother and I were always encouraged to be creative. I did a lot of painting and sculpture.
What sort of sculptures do you do? Do you specialize in sculptures of people or do you do more abstract things, for example?
I see sculpture as anything that is Three-dimensional. I make sound and light installations. For my final Degree piece, I set up a stage with a selection of speakers, which played a 20min composition on loop, which Dad helped me edit and put together. I also made a 16min film (which also looped) that I projected through a sheet of plastic over the speakers; it filed the whole room because the film was reflected off the plastic. The film and the sound track over lapped at different points, as they were started at different times so it was never the same experience twice. It’s very hard to explain but I’ll attach a few images.
I see my art and my music as part of the same thing, my artwork aims to highlight the grey area where music becomes sound art and visa versa. My art is obviously influenced by the music I do with my dad but I also use it as a way of putting my voice in another context. I use my voice like you would use a paint brush, its just my chosen medium.
Are you gifted at any other arts, like painting, for example?
I do paint sometimes, but I love drawing. But since finishing my degree I’ve set up a music/art studio with a few friends and can’t wait to get really stuck in. I want to collaborate with dad on an art project as we both really enjoy the process.
Do you intend to pursue a career doing sculptures or are you hoping to have a career as a musician at this point?
As I said before I see them as part of the same thing, and because of the nature of my art practice I think I’ll do both! They really compliment each other.
I understand you and your father are working on a new SPC ECO album right now. How many songs have you finished so far? Is there a deadline by which you’re hoping to have the album completed? Any idea when it will be released?
They’re All done! It should be out later this year. The next single is called “Fallen Stars” and we’re shooting the video on Thursday!
How big would you like to see SPC ECO become? Do you want to be very popular or would you rather exist on the fringe, be more of an underground duo?
I just love the idea that people are listening to it, the more the merrier…But obviously I’d love it to go massive!
I’m calling SPC ECO a duo because you and your father are the only two permanent members, so far as I’m aware of. Do you consider yourselves a duo? Or do you call yourselves a group or…?
I’d say that we’re a duo, but we like to work with lots of different people!
Do you ever worry that Curve will get back together and your father will want to put SPC ECO on pause?
Do you ever sing karaoke and, if so, are there certain songs that you often do?
I sing Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” I know all the words…
Do you make music outside of SPC ECO? I noticed that you’re father is in a ton of bands, according to his Wiki page. If not, do you ever think about doing anything else, solo material perhaps?
Yeah, but it always sounds like shit and I hate it.
Finally, put your iPod or iTunes (or whatever you listen to music on) on random and tell us the first five songs that come up.
Penacillin – Decible Science (He’s a mate called Fred Lomas, he sent me the track to try and sing on and I failed)
Calling – SPC ECO
Spinning – Zero 7
All To Stay – Barry Maguire (He’s a very dear friend of the family and passed away too young. This song is from an album dad and him did together before he died.)
O Superman – Laurie Anderson
Inverse – Black Star Liner
And one for luck because this is really fun!
Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio
I’m very please with that!!!
Thank you for taking the time to do this. It’s very much appreciated. I can’t wait to hear your new album. 🙂
Thank you!!! Xxxx