A Sea Change (and New Album) for Mar Caribe
Q&A with Tom McGettrick
Story and interview by Scarlett Stoppa
There wasn't a cloud in the sky the first time I spotted Tom McGettrick, barefoot on a park bench in Andersonville, intently plucking his banjo. Settled into a serendipitously placed antique rocking chair, eyes drifting closed, I let his music dance me up a mountain: picture sun-dappled Smokys, a lazy orange cat snoozing in a triangle of light, sweet birch creaking with the breeze.
Add mandolin, violin, guitar, trombone, saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, ukulele, drums, upright bass, pump organ, or any combination thereof and Mar Caribe will carry you anywhere. Though they do have their favorite spots: dusty tumbleweed ghost towns (50-paces gun duel imminent), the Pacific (or Atlantic) coastal waters of Argentina, fireside in a Rumanian gypsy camp, you get the picture. Literally. Mar Caribe being, by design, a fully instrumental band, the listening experience is a make-your-own adventure.
Among Mar Caribe's favorite places is The Hideout, which is why they are thrilled to both headline and offer their first full-length album (free download with $8 cover) there this Friday. Mark your calendar with the details below, and read on for Q&A with Tom on the seas Mar Caribe has navigated and where the wind is blowing them next.
More Details on Friday, March 26th Show at The Hideout
Cost: $8 (gets you a Chicago-Independent download code for Mar Caribe's new album)
Where: The Hideout (1354 West Wabansia, 60622)
Bands & Show Times: Tre Orsi (plays at 10 p.m.); Andy Wagner (plays at 11 p.m.); Mar Caribe (plays at 12 a.m.)
It took some months to meet that mysterious, sunny-sidewalk banjo player, but when I did it was well worth the wait. As is his habit, and mine, Mr. McGettrick was enjoying Western Elstons' every-other-Wednesday set at Simon's when he approached me with panache: "Want to dance, Suzie Cream Cheese?" We've been friends ever since, despite his strong opinions against some of my favorite things – Bob Dylan, for instance. It's those strong opinions, in fact, that made me eager to interview Tom about Mar Caribe's shifting line-up and new album, which was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Matt DeWine of Pieholden Suite Studios. 2-parts brilliant (and hard-working) musician, 1-part earnest appreciator, and 1-part young curmudgeon, Tom's insights did not disappoint.
C6C: Mar Caribe's contributing musician line-up appears to be fairly fluid,
but last October a founding member, Jason Eckerman, left for music
school in Massachusetts. How has the band, the music, or the creative
process changed since Jason left?
C6C: How'd you end up playing the banjo?
C6C: Any instruments that you're learning or aspire to learn?
C6C: Influences that have been mentioned in relation to Mar Caribe include Spaghetti Western, Gypsy Jazz, Tropical, Surf Rock, Bluegrass, Americana, and Latin Flair. How does the band decide what's next?
Aside from that, I think the best way to grow is to set yourself new technical challenges, like scoring these horn parts. Having to solve that problem and still do songs you like forces you to do new things. Without a goal like that, I'll tend to run in circles.
We might consider adding words, but we'll see. Really, we need the right singer before we even contemplate that.
Tom McGettrick: I can only speak for myself:
Osvaldo Pugliese, "From Argentina to the World"
"Best of Django Reinhardt" on Blue Note
Stones "Exile on Main Street"
The first of the Atlantic singles collection
and "Money Jungle,"
or something like that.
C6C: And the finer details: Who IS on the album? Who are the current members?
Tom McGettrick: The Album Line-Up: Jason Eckerson (clarinet, mandolin, pump organ, keyboards, xylophone) - Bob Frech (trumpet) - Chris Dammann (bass) - Tom Santiago (acoustic guitar, tambourine, pump organ) Lawrence Peters (drums) - Tom McGettrick (banjo, ukulele) - Recorded by Matt DeWine at Pieholden Studios.
And the Current Line-Up:
Noah Lambert of Chicago Civic Orchestra on trumpet - Nick Anaya of 3-5-7 Ensemble on tenor sax - Elanor Leskiw of Mucca Pazza on trombone - Arielle Luckmann of Prozac Mountain Boys - Judson Claiborne on fiddle - Chris Dammann of 3-5-7 Ensemble on bass - Lawrence Peters of The Lawrence Peters Outfit, Velcro Lewis Group, Golden Horse Ranch Band on drums - Tom Santiago on guitar - Tom McGettrick on banjo