DeliCat is a long-distance duo composed of Dan Sprock (based out of his hometown, Brooklyn), and Joe Marxen (based out of Minneapolis, also a member of Minneapolis band Loser Magnet). Though they met at Wagner College in Staten Island almost twenty years ago, they did not begin playing music together until Covid hit. Their first attempt at long distance recording can be found on the collaborative album Building: A Cell Records Collaboration, a collection of songs from a wide array of artists that were recorded entirely on cell phones.
DeliCat releases their music through Cell Records, a small indie label based out of Minneapolis, which was founded by Joe, who runs its operations.
Excited to share their answers to 5 Questions.
I love the video for Cover Me. I am certain portions of it are filmed at the Minnesota State Fair. I recognize Andy’s Grille by the Midway but there are segments that I don’t recognize; maybe from a boardwalk? It feels like it might be partially Minneapolis and partially Brooklyn. Does it feel like each of you brings something of your surroundings and regions to the music?
Joe: Yep! The verses are scenes from Coney Island and the choruses are scenes from the MN state fair. All the fair footage is from the night it was hit by a major torrential downpour. I think there was a funnel spotted in the sky as well. That’s why you see all those folks fleeing and hopping puddles. It was really quite surreal.
And yeah, I feel like our geographical experiences definitely bring different variables to the “sonic composition”. I consider myself a closet cowboy in some ways when it comes to songwriting. I have a tendency to lean into rhythms that have that country swing. It’s very natural for me to sing in country keys as well. That might have something to do with my rural-adjacent upbringing.
I think Dan definitely has more of a “city-dweller” vibe than I do. He’s an alley cat and I’m a barn cat.
Dan: Well, this is the first time I’ve heard the alley cat and barn cat thing, and it’s on point, except we’re not as cool as cats, but that’s fine.
My connection and disconnect from Brooklyn is one of the most consistent ways I explore and create. There’s this pretty intense push and pull relationship with it. I’m born and bred here, and my sense of home are certain corners, certain storefronts, certain bars, certain smells, a certain kind of stranger that becomes a friend, and that instills connection. I also, like so many from here, am immersed in a version of Brooklyn I no longer recognize, don’t understand, and more often than not, don’t particularly want to partake in, and that instills the disconnect.
I think my writing takes on a sort of bright nihilism that is an extension of that relationship with Brooklyn. Joe swings with hopeful melancholy, I loiter with melancholy hope. Barn cat and alley cat, I guess.
Please tell us about Hot Lunch. It is a better version of the song every middle schooler sang to themselves at some point. You capture a nostalgia that pulls at the heartstrings.
Joe: That is one of my favorite DeliCat songs. It came together in like 15 minutes. It was an “Every Breath You Take” moment. It all just fell into place so quickly and naturally. It was one of the first DeliCat songs I wrote. So it kinda became a bit of a cornerstone in our identity. Especially once Dan started adding the sequencer and synth stuff. It was amazing. Even the mistakes sounded great! Like the intro. That big wall of sound at the beginning was a mistake that I just ran with.
It’s what I consider a “peaks and valleys” type song. Sonically it’s both noisy and melodic. Busy at times and minimal at times. And lyrically it’s mostly just a recollection of how I felt at school as a teen. Awkward, ugly, lonely, misunderstood, etc.
You know that feeling you get when you don’t have anyone to sit with at lunch? That stuff sticks with you.
Dan: So generally, our songs kinda start out as principally a Joe song or Dan song, and this was a Joe song all the way.
I remember hearing the first cut of it, and feeling so proud of him for tapping into a kind of isolation that stays with you forever, a specific, deeply inherent young kind of isolation that felt like he was singing to himself from a couple decades ago, and that somehow not feeling tacky. Not even like it was advice or anything, but just kinda…this is what is, kid. But it might turn out okay at some point.
Selfishly, it also helped me get a bit more vulnerable in some of the things I wanted to write about, which is not something that skews so easily for me.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you make your music? I’m asking from the perspective reader looking to be inspired to do the same. Do you have any advice?
Joe: You don’t need a studio. You don’t need pro tools. A good song is a good song no matter how you record it. I think poorly recorded, lofi music is incredibly emotive and also very under appreciated.
Look at all those old blues and country recordings that inspired all that super-produced classic rock. Or all the hardcore punk and DIY stuff that was recorded in bedrooms and basements. Where the drums sound like wet cardboard! That stuff was pivotal in shaping massive bands like Nirvana and Radiohead.
Dan: Yeah and I think another key thing is to embrace whatever your necessity is, to lean into that shit as much as you can. We know we don’t have good equipment, we know that we’re at best amateurs when it comes to basic mixing, and we know we’re 2000 miles away from one another! Inarguably that impacts the quality of the audio, but I think it also helps direct the songwriting itself at times, and I don’t mean like, “Oh I better ease up on or scratch this part because it can’t be recorded correctly in my bedroom,” but rather, “Huh, this piano part I wanna add is just begging for some really balanced EQ…ah just mic the thing and don’t worry about it!”. Over time, the more you invite the recklessness of the reality, the better the songs get.
You have been prolific since you have been playing together. How or why? So many of us started things during the pandemic but then it faded, it seems like you guys tapped into something that was meant to be – unlike the countless sourdough starters languishing in the cupboards.
Joe: I can’t help it. I’m constantly fiddling with something. A melody, a riff, a vibe, whatever. I don’t think that urge is gonna go away anytime soon.
I’m lucky to have Dan too. He understands how I hear and visualize things. So the writing process is rarely difficult. The recording process has a tendency to get tedious. Constantly sending each other revisions and layers, slight tweaks, and sometimes major changes to the arrangements. But I thrive on that. I can get extremely neurotic about the whole process. I’ll forget to eat.
Dan: So we’ve known each other since we’re 18, 19, and we didn’t start playing music together until we were 34, 35, and I think that probably ended up working in our favor. We’ve made the rounds over that time, been in bands, played out (Joe more so than me), I came up in the hard rock Brooklyn scene (fun fact my parents were friends with the lead singer of BioHazard! What?!), and as such, after being exposed to all of that, I think we both understand how to be calming and respectful of each other’s time. No deadlines, no undue pressure, no feelings hurt when suggestions need to be made. I’m not sure if we would have been able to do that when we were younger and angrier and broker. Now we’re pushing 40, and mildly less angry and a teeny bit less broke. It helps and it’s in the sound.
Will you, would you, ever play a live show? And how do we tip the scales to playing in the Twin Cities if there is a chance?
Joe: That’s for sure a possibility. We have intentions to do a proper studio record. Depending on where and when that’s recorded, we could definitely try to put some live performances together. I would absolutely love to play DeliCat songs to live audiences somewhere down the road.
Dan: Yes, and I look forward to doing a final mix of one of our songs on the Greyhound from Penn Station on my way there.