Rick Mitarotonda is the guitarist and vocalist of the CT-based jam band Goose. Mitarotonda is much of the creative force behind the band’s music and started the project after his previous band, Vasudo, dissolved, with the help of bass player Trevor Weekz and “Coach” Jon Lombardi. Mitarotonda has a unique playing style and approach to jamming and works with the unit that is Goose to bring the audience fresh music and ideas at every show. His writing is sure to get you moving and tug at your heart strings all in the same song, and his voice is one of the best among the scene today. He’s seemingly popularized the use of vocal effects within the jam scene, specifically with the TC Helicon Play that a handful of other musicians have added to their arsenal. We last spoke to Rick over 2 years ago amidst the band’s run with Spafford, and caught up with him a couple weeks ago to go over the changes to his pedalboard and see how the band’s doing. Header taken by Abby Fox photography.
Guitar // 2011 Paul Reed Smith Hollowbody II
Amp // Mesa/Boogie 5:25 Express Combo Amp
Pedalboard // Signal Chain: TC Electronics Polytune 2 > Digitech Whammy 5 > Source Audio Stingray Envelope Filter > Strymon OB-1 Optical Compressor > Effects Loop (LovePedal Eternity Fuse Overdrive > JHS Bonsai 9-Way Tube Screamer [Set to XR mode]) > Strymon Timeline > Strymon Blue Sky Reverb
Vocal Effects // TC-Helicon Play Electric Vocal Effects Processor w/ TC-Helicon Switch-3 (Patches: On the the TC Helicon itself, the toggle switch activates a harmony octave up, and the three switches on the external Switch-3 toggle vocal hardtune, vocal delay, and vocal reverb.)
Behind The Gear
Jared Lindquist: You’ve made a lot of changes since the last time we talked about your board; you just had the Flashback, the Whammy, the little effects loop, and I think that’s it? Not much on there. Now you’ve added all the Strymon stuff, the OB-1, the Blue Sky, the Timeline, the Stingray, and the JHS Bonsai, and it’s widened the range of sounds you can get. How are you enjoying those changes and what have you noticed since adding them?
Rick Mitarotonda: Definitely enjoying them a lot, adding in a second overdrive was a game changer. I never knew what I was missing out on with that, so that’s been really cool. The Timeline is definitely a beast, I’d probably benefit from investing more time and dialing in some more sounds, cause that thing can do literally anything. I’ve kind of just been working with the first 15 presets it’s got on it and calling it a day. We’ll get there with that though, that thing’s really nice. Although we’ve talked about getting the Carbon Copy back in the mix, I definitely want to do that still and work with both of them. Didn’t have the Stingray back in those Spafford tour days, that’s been cool. Kind of been a pain in the ass finding an envelope filter that held to what I wanted it to do. Kinda the same story, I haven’t put enough time… I’d like to put some time in getting a little deeper into the envelope filter sound I dig, but that one, of all the ones I’ve tried so far, holds up the best.
The OB-1, that was a big change too. I mean, in a very subtle way, but I’d never played with a compressor in a long time and I think I ended up playing a lot more clean. A lot of sections I used to throw on the Lovepedal for, and I ended up starting to play them more clean. Or even in jams and stuff where I’d just have the Lovepedal cruising, I think I ended up playing clean in jams a lot more after I got that, cause it just kinda cuts and has a better presence than before. So that thing’s really tight, the boost function of it has come in handy as well. Just an extra little gain stage to amp things up in different ways and affect things in different ways. I’d never heard of an optical compressor before, and everything I saw about it talked about how it’s got a bit of a more natural feel to it as opposed to other compressors that are analyzing the soundwaves in other ways. It basically has the soundwaves activate a little light inside the pedal, and another receiver of some kind responds to that light and compresses accordingly. It’s definitely a much more subtle compressor than a normal deal but that’s what I was looking for.
JL: Do you always have that on? Like if you’re using an overdrive, do you combine it with the compressor?
RM: Yeah the compressor’s cruising, always on, all the time.
JL: You since have replaced the Carbon Copy in the effects loop with the JHS Bonsai, I was curious if the effects loop pedal is still used to turn both on at the same time or do you just have it so you can take both of them out and be selective with which pedals you want to use?
RM: Yeah the two drives are routed through that loop, and I’ll probably add in the Carbon Copy to the same loop when I throw it back on the board. That’s just to like… if I want to come in real hot, I have that option, I can have both drives ready to go. Or just any other combination of the whole deal, kinda like having that functionality.
JL: With the Bonsai, it has a lot of options, like 9 different Screamers in there. Do you ever experiment with it or did you just find the one you liked and go with that?
RM: There was definitely a few that I dug, but yeah I just found one spot that I thought worked and have just been doing that. I’d have to look at it to see which setting it is, but it’s the one that’s at 5 o’clock. (Since the interview I’ve found that he’s talking about the “XR” mode, which replicates the Exar OD-1, a Polish TS-9 clone that has a slightly different character and midrange than normal Tube Screamers.)
JL: Just in conversations you and I have had, I’ve tried to get you to upgrade to the Carbon Copy Deluxe, and you’ve asked me if it had the same vibe as the actual Carbon Copy. I was curious if that is just specific to that pedal, or if you view every pedal as having a specific mojo to it and you want to find the right ones?
RM: Yeah, I think like every pedal’s got some kind of vibe to it. It’s just finding the ones that speak to you, that you resonate with. The Carbon Copy does something tonally that I really dig, and y’know haven’t had it in a while, but definitely am down and intend on grabbing the Deluxe.
JL: I really wanted to talk about the Thermae, because it’s been very mysterious and in the shadows with you guys. I was wondering what specifically drew you to that and what led you to use it on that intro of the studio Wysteria?
RM: I think I got like a NAMM email at one point, kind of a spotlight, and that was one of the more interesting things that hit the tables that year. I watched the dude’s trailer for it in which he went to Europe and went to these super old bathhouses and shot the little promo video. I had never heard of Chase Bliss before that, and I just dug the vibe immediately. Then I watched some other videos and he’s got that stutter, and he’s from WIsconsin, which I dug because [Justin] Vernon is from there (laughs). I actually just got the Mood as well and I haven’t even started messing with it yet, but I’m excited to do that. There’s probably gonna be a decent amount of sounds from that thing on the new record.
JL: You guys have boosted in popularity quite a bit in the last two years. It seems like the last 6-8 months have been huge for you guys. What’s your view on the success?
RM: It’s a little overwhelming at times, it’s definitely weird, but I think it’s just an adjustment period. Getting used to things being different after being used to them being a certain way for a long time, y’know with little alterations, and then all of a sudden things got really different, really quickly. So it’s just getting used to that, which I think I’m still doing. Everyone adapts to that kind of thing in their own way. As time goes on, I think it’s gonna be cool; it’s good to resituate with all of it and once I get more comfortable with it all, it’s gonna be a cool thing. Definitely super grateful for that being a thing.
JL: It’s also been two years and some change since Peter joined the band, and I think a lot of aspects of it have tightened up in terms of social media, musically, …just your general presence. How do you feel about Peter being in the band now compared to when he first joined?
RM: It’s different but it’s also not. I feel like there’s sort of a base chemistry, and this kind of goes for lots of things, music is just a very in your face manifestation of it. Working with someone, having a relationship with someone, I feel like there’s a base chemistry there, which isn’t altered at all. Then there’s kind of the outer layer of that, which is altered by what kind of states we’re in as time goes on, changes that are made, things like that. Basically that outer layer has evolved and changed in different ways, but the base chemistry is the same if that makes sense. If something works, it works. All you’ve gotta do is just not get in the way, not let the outer layers get in the way at all. Not a lot of people get to find in terms of making a band, and now that we’ve found it, the task is to keep it nurtured.
JL: Top 5 artists that have influenced your music world?
RM: John Scofield, Dave Matthews (unfortunately, for better or worse), Phish, Fleet Foxes, and Justin Vernon.
JL: Mentioning Scofield, and Dave, and Trey, you have a very unique voice on the guitar, which is not something that I think everyone can say, because people can try to create their own voices but let other influences in and not sound like themselves sometimes at times. But I feel like you are very distinctly you, like people can hear your guitar playing and realize that that’s Rick and not mistake it for anything else. I think it has a lot to do with your phrasing and how you approach soloing. How do you go about trying to create your own identity and coming off like yourself and not trying to be someone else?
RM: I think in general it’s a tricky thing, and it sort of resembles my philosophy on writing also. Your best bet is to go for what’s really honest for yourself. What you want to hear, what you want to see, and make the music that you want to listen to, in a way. If you’re lucky enough for that to resonate with people, then that’s awesome. And if you’re lucky enough for that to be unique in some way, that’s awesome. Regardless, even if it’s not unique, it’s still the best bet. As far as my personal guitar playing goes, I do think phrasing has a lot to do with it, I think that’s a very underrated thing in music today, especially in the jam world. I think there’s generally a lack of emphasis on it sometimes, it’s easy to overlook, easy to kinda get lost in notes and stuff like that, especially on guitar, cause you can just wave your hands around for hours and hours and never take a break. I do think that all the power of music lies in phrasing.
JL: I’m not trying to disparage other guitarists, because I think the ones that have gotten popular find their niche and go with it, and the phrasing fits within whatever they’re doing. But I think people are so enamored with you, and you guys specifically because you’ve managed to blend your own personal phrasing and the peaks and valleys of the tension and release style of jamming that you guys do so effortlessly. Part of it helps that you guys are so connected as a unit, but that aspect of you being able to control everything while still being extremely tasteful and not just playing notes to play notes really helps the sound.
RM: I appreciate that a lot. That’s definitely a high compliment and I agree about the unit being the unit.
JL: That wasn’t a question, sorry (chuckles).
RM: All good (chuckles).
JL: You mentioned your writing philosophy, in the past you’ve talked about needing to be still and have the proper time and space to write something. Now that you guys have been thrown into this endless hiatus, are you getting some proper time to sit down and write?
RM: To be totally honest, no, cause of making a record. We were kind of way behind the ball in a lot of ways, so for right now I’ve just been hacking at playing catch up. To the note, yeah, this is the kind of scenario that is conducive to sitting down and writing. Hopefully there will be enough time to get to that. But for right now, there’s a lot of work to be done.
JL: The singles that you guys released last year, are those going to be included or are they just in the world as singles?
RM: As of now, those are just in the world as singles.
JL: You guys have been doing a lot of streams and have been featured pretty heavily on the Live From Out There online festival that Ben and Dave at 11E1evenGroup recently put together, how have you been enjoying that?
RM: I am enjoying it. It’s definitely different, there’s pros and cons to it, y’know not being in the same room as a bunch of people, it’s definitely a different dynamic as far as energy is concerned. There’s a pro to that in itself, like without a bunch of people super stoked and hollering, it’s more natural for us to get quieter and explore more quiet spaces which is cool. It’s easier to not feel the need to pump the energy and just let things float a little bit. Both things have really cool things about them. It’s also really cool to have a bunch of shouting people and you’re responding to that energy, that’s obviously a lot of fun too. It’s also nice just being home for a while, y’know, we can drive down the road and record a set and then drive back home and sleep in the same bed, that’s pretty tight.
JL: Someone wanted to know the ms (milliseconds) you use on the Timeline.
RM: Tap tempo all day.
JL: You like keeping stuff close to the vest until it’s out in the world officially. Like when Wysteria came out and you guys published the lyrics, people were relieved to finally know a few of the lines. I was curious why that is, like why do you not want to release, say the Elmeg lyrics for Kel or like Hot Tea?
RM: A couple of reasons. For one, before something’s released for real- it’s a different level of commitment when you release something officially. So some of those songs you mentioned, I might change the lyrics before we do that. There’s always that. Besides that, I think it’s cool. As a fan I’ve enjoyed when other people have done that and kept things close to the vest and I haven’t known what songs are about or what they’re actually saying, but it sounds like a few different things. That whole process has made it more enjoyable for me as a fan, so I’m kind of going in that vein as well. It makes the whole thing fun. I’m a big fan of mystery. Part of it’s for me too, when I feel mystery in our songs it’s exciting for me too.
JL: Thanks for doing this!
RM: Yeah, thank you!
Check out Goose’s music on their Bandcamp page or over on nugs.net!