Sonia Dada is a band with humble beginnings that belie the futuristic complexity of its eclectic sound.
Formed in 1990, when Dan Pritzker, the groups guitarist and frontman, befriended a trio of street musicians singing in a Chicago subway station, Sonia Dada has since grown into a formidable musical collective boasting nine members and featuring an inimitable stage presence. With the release of Test Pattern, the bands sixth studio album, the group finds itself mixing ambient, psychedelic sounds and textures with the soulful, gospel-flavored vocal harmonies that have defined their sound for almost 15 years.
Sonia Dada will visit Colorado for several performances this week, and Pritzker spoke with the Independent about the bands creative evolution.
Indy: Some critics have referred to your band as the quintessential Chicago sound. Does such a sound exist, and why is Sonia Dada always singled out?
Pritzker: Ive certainly heard that said, but I dont know what it means. Those classifications are holdouts from another era. When I think of the Chicago sound, I think of blues guys like Muddy Waters whose families came up from the South in the 1930s.
Indy: But dont you think that theres something very vibrant and urban about your music, especially in the way that so many stylistic influences are amalgamated?
Pritzker: Yeah, I can see where theyre coming from, but I think the reason for our eclecticism is based on where we come from as individuals. Sure, our backgrounds influence our individual styles, but there are really eclectic bands like this all over the country.
Indy: Test Pattern is a very layered, sonically dense album. How does the band handle the difficulties of performing these songs in a live setting?
Pritzker: First of all, weve decided not to give in to the temptation to go out there with lots of loops and computers. We simply did some rehearsing and realized that between the nine of us, wed be able to re-create most of the key parts.
Indy: Do you consciously leave room for improvisation?
Pritzker: Some songs are definitely built to expand and contract, and certain parts are always evolving. Our intent has never been to give a carbon copy of the album, and with Test Pattern in particular, weve allowed ourselves more room to experiment. Basically, you have to yield to the song and go where it takes you.
Indy: The vocal arrangements and harmonies on this album sound very choral. Is the song-writing process intentionally centered on creating distinctive vocal parts, or do the harmonies arise more organically?
Pritzker: We are very much a vocal-centric band. We spend as much time working on the vocals as we do on everything else combined.
Indy: Was the vocal emphasis there in the beginning, or has it sort of asserted itself through the years?
Pritzker: Well, the way I see it, you have to paint with the palette youve got, and weve certainly got some great vocalists in our band. Vocals are really first and foremost for us.
Indy: Whats a more difficult prospect: satisfying all your fans or keeping all nine members of the band happy and content?
Pritzker: Basically, were playing music to satisfy ourselves. There are so many people in our band that if we like it, collectively, theres a great chance that somebody else out there is going to like it too.
-- Joe Kuzma
Sonia Dada in concert
LoDo Music Festival, 20th and Blake next to Coors Field, Denver
Friday, July 9, on the Main Stage at 10:15 p.m.
For complete festival information and tickets, visit www.lodomusicfestival.com
E-Town, Boulder Theater, corner 14th and Pearl streets, Denver
Sunday, July 11, 7 p.m.
For more, visit www.etown.org