The wikipedia page for Dragonette states that they are a “Canadian electronic music band from Toronto, Ontario, formed in 2005.” One could infer a lot from that statement:
- they play electro
- they are likely based out of Canada’s largest city and
- that there is a strong likelihood that they are polite.
You would be correct on all those things, but also wrong. Like anything, there’s always more to the story, and when I chatted recently with member Dan Kurtz before their Vancouver concert, I got the sense that this hard-working band was going somewhere. Exactly where, they may not know, but dammit they were in it and packed with snacks for the ride.
Best known for their dance hits Hello and Let it Go, it may be surprising for some to learn that their past includes girly folk pop and rock. Before vocalist Martina Sorbara was in Dragonette, she was a solo artist singing folk pop tunes and even appearing on a Women and Songs compilation! The group has obviously progressed since then, merging in Sorbara’s pop-tinged soprano with bassist/producer Kurtz and drummer Joel Stouffer’s heavy electronic beats. Now with the release of their 3rd album, Bodyparts, the band has completed what Kurtz describes as the “best album we’ve made so far.”
Although the beats on the album are heavy, Kurtz insists that this album was the funnest to make. Calling the songwriting process “excruciating” at times, he explained that the band mixed things up by writing on piano and just “making the process less stressful and exhausting by writing entertaining songs.” Seems simple enough, right? Not so, as it has been 3 long years since Dragonette’s last release, Fixin to Thrill.
Riding on the success of their past dance-pop tunes, the new album is very fast and hard-hitting, but in a happy way. Perhaps it could be all those “hey girl” moments spent listening to the Drive soundtrack during the album’s beginnings? Kurtz is a huge fan of the soundtrack, but was reluctant to admit any direct influence on the album. He would only allude to the song Run Run Run as “pushing the same buttons” with its melody, production and female vocals. “The last thing we do is listen to music,” says Kurtz.. Kind of an odd statement coming from a musician, but from what I’ve learned about how Dragonette operates, this is typical.
Unlike other artists that soak up their surroundings and expel it into their music, Dragonette seems focused on being just the opposite. Frequently in interviews, the band claims having no direct influences and that even when writing songs in their London home, the local scene rarely penetrated their consciousness. To me, this concept seems a little impossible to do, but this inward focus and the constant touring has served Dragonette well. As Kurtz puts it, the past 3 years and albums have made them “a way better band,” and to “develop more confidence in what we do.”
Good things come to those who wait and Dragonette is one example. They’ve gone from new kids on the scene, to dealing with international fame, figuring out their band identity and are just now hitting their stride. Taking that time to find their identity couldn’t have been easy to do in today’s instant gratification society. What with all the Youtube stars out there, it would seem like if you haven’t made it by age 15, you’re a has-been. Dragonette though is evidence of just how wrong that is, with Kurtz emphasizing that young musicians need to “be a band – not a Twitter account.”
Usually in a trilogy, the 3rd album marks the end, but for Dragonette it is bringing in a new sense of confidence and purpose. Although they may play with modern instruments, their attitudes and evolution reflect more that of bands of old. New music and old sensibilities? Sounds like a combination that will help these humble Canadians stand out long-term.