With the release of the CD/DVD valu-pak Test Pattern, Chicago's Sonia Dada again leaves us with more questions than answers. The disc's twelve tracks paint a compelling picture of Chi-town's cosmopolitan cityscape, with ambient and ethnic hues on a textured canvas of roots-rock and soul, but it's not a fixed image. Guitarist/founder Dan Pritzker gave us some insight into why the band likes the picture best when it's changing.
The Riverfront Times: The new album is a bit disorienting, but not at all in a bad way. I've listened to it five times or so and I'm still not really certain of what I'm hearing.
Dan Pritzker: We just came back from playing with this band that's fairly well known, and it was basically the same song one after the other. The keys changed and the tempo changed, but the overall hit you got from them -- they're reasonably competent players, but whatever tune they're doing seems to go through their personal cheese grater and get processed out the other side, all Velveeta'd out.
Whereas with Sonia Dada, it seems as if there's no telling where things will go. Your cheese grater is set to "random," I guess. I definitely hear a roots-and-soul core on the record, but you've filtered it through so many different perspectives.
The reason [our music] is what you say is [that] we tend to look at each individual song and approach it as its own thing, sort of remaking the band -- with the same people -- on a song-by-song basis. We're not necessarily married to any particular approach or instrumentation or anything like that. It's the same people playing the stuff, but the diversity of Sonia Dada's musicians allows that sort of thing. I've been doing this for twelve or thirteen years, and if it wasn't that way, I just couldn't do it.
What's been in heavy rotation in Dan Pritzker's stereo?
A lot of Billie Holiday and stuff like that. Old records. I don't really listen to much pop music. It's not that I don't like it, but I don't really know what's out there. The interesting thing I've found as I've started to travel around the country for the last several months and tune in to local stations is the extent to which everything is the same everywhere. It's a real shame. -- John Goddard