Dragonette :: ’Daylight and smiles and stuff’ on new CD & tour
After teaming-up with DJ/ producer Martin Solveig for the catchy pop confection "Hello" (used famously in a Trident gum commercial and appearing on a number of TV shows), Dragonette’s popularity finally skyrocketed. After ten years of moderate success, the band, consisting of lead singer/songwriter Martina Sorbara, her husband bassist and producer Dan Kurtz, and drummer Joel Stouffer, was finally getting the audience they deserved.
With three full length albums - "Galore," "Fixin to Thrill," and their latest "Bodyparts" - the electro-pop group with the infectious vibe and cleverly intuitive lyrics was moving on up. A Canadian group that is sometimes based in London, the trio is currently on a worldwide tour that begins March 26th in London and continues into the U.S. through the end of June. EDGE caught up with lead singer Martina Sobrara who was at home in Canada preparing for the start of the tour. A pragmatic and vibrant personality, Sobrara is refreshingly void of any pretention and her wish to bring happiness and sunshine to the world comes through loud and clear.
EDGE: Since I first heard the ’Fixin’ to Thrill’ album, I’ve been a little obsessed with the song ’Okay Dolore.’ What or who is Dolore???
Martina Sobrara: I’m Italian. Or half-Italian. It’s kind of a play on words. Because ’okay dolore’ means ’what a fucking pain’ or ’what a pain.’ So, it’s actually a song about ’ugh, that’s so annoying.’ If you listen to it and just think every time I’m saying ’okay dolore’ I’m saying ’what a pain in the butt,’ it has a different meaning.
EDGE: Your sound is so peppy and fun, but the lyrics are pretty intense. How do you create the rhythms and melodies from the lyrics you write?
Martina Sobrara: On ’Body Parts’ I consciously wanted to have lightness and sunshine, not emptiness and meaninglessness, but daylight and smiles and stuff. Even so, there still is some darkness. I never think my lyrics are overly dismal or dark. But it’s kind of a trend in my life. As a solo artist I remember people saying to me "your songs are really gloomy or whatever" and I’d be "really?" I never thought of it that way. I guess it’s my style. I guess that’s the outcome of always trying to write from the heart and write truth. When I write for other people I’m always a little bit dissatisfied, because I take my own heart and experience out of it and I try to write more generally and something is ultimately missing.
Start with a melody...
EDGE: What’s the song-writing process for you? Do you think of a theme you want to explore?
Martina Sobrara: No, it’s almost like I let my grains decide what the theme is. If there is an empty track, I start with melody and nonsense syllables. I feel like I let the back of my brain talk. I’m always recording and I just want to get a melody I like and a phrasing I like, and when I listen back it’s like ’oh, I like that word.’
And then it kind of gives the initial picture. It’s the germ that gets my mind thinking in a certain way. With ’Okay Dolore,’ though, that’s not how it worked. I was walking down the street and I said ’okay dolore’ and I was like, ’I like that.’
EDGE: Who has influenced or inspired you in music?
Martina Sobrara: I think mostly women. Strong alternative ladies: Cyndi Lauper. Sinead O’Connor. Kate Bush. It’s always about the voices, as well. The voice has to be inspiring to me as well as the personality and the image and lyrics. For instance, this is so horrible and I’ve never said this out loud before, but I don’t listen to Bob Dylan. There’s something uncool about it I know, but like I need to be kept with a voice that’s blowing my mind.
And obviously everything else about him is enough for most of the world. He is an icon and he is amazing and he is everything. But for me I can’t just put on Bob Dylan and listen to him and have his amazing lyrics and messages be enough.
EDGE: I actually agree with that. By the way, I was listening to ’Living in the City’ and I heard Joan Jett in there.
Martina Sobrara: Yeah, totally. She fits the picture one hundred percent. She was completely in the backdrop of that song.
EDGE: How is it being on the road with your spouse? Do you find the constant ’together time’ a gift or a necessary curse?
Martina Sobrara: It’s a gift. Obviously it has its downsides, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Most people spend their life in this kind of work apologizing for their job and being away and feeling threatened and we can totally bypass that. The only problem is maybe the difficulty in turning off "the job" and just being two people.
EDGE: What do you look forward most when performing live?
Martina Sobrara: When I have the audience’s attention enough that I can just sing a ballad and think ’oh fuck, I’m gonna lose them.’ We spend a lot of time playing for an audience that is not "our" audience so we kind of have to forget about getting intimate and showing the full spectrum of what we’re into. Which is everything from jumping around and rocking out to just being really more intimate. And that intimate part - the slow songs - are put aside. And I feel like that’s actually such a huge part of me and a huge part of my influences and who I really am.
EDGE: How do you deal with that? I’ve been in clubs where there are people carrying on conversations through all the songs and I wonder why they bothered coming?
Martina Sobrara: You just know that it’s not everybody’s bag. I often see friends of ours that come to show - really dear friends - and I just know that they are actually just not music lovers. They are casual music people. Very third-hand music. That’s not even an insult or anything, but what they are into. Sometimes people have a different relationship to music so I can’t expect everyone to always go for it.
EDGE: What artists and cds are each of you listening to right now?
Martina Sobrara: I’m slow. It’s like one new artist or one album every six months. I’m not a shuffle girl. I just want to listen to one person. It’s not brand new, but ’Niki and the Dove.’ Kind of the last album that I listened to up and down and back and forth. They are like a synthy-Fleetwood Mac. I recently saw K.D. Lang live. And I’ve never seen her live. And I hadn’t listened to her in a long time. I think she’s the best singer in the world. And I’m not exaggerating. I saw her sing and I was like, ’are you kidding me?’ I felt sick about it. She sang a song on a radio show in Canada. They did that song in a theatre and we played before her and then she came up and just fucking stabbed everyone on the set. [laughs]
EDGE: I read that you are a role model for young woman and how they see themselves because they tend to look at the outside world for how they are supposed to be. I wonder if this is why you’ve become embraced by the gay community.
Martina Sobrara: I have thought about ’what is it’ or ’why" are we embraced by the gay community. So I thought about what are the kind of acts that fall into that category of having that great support. I guess it is being "other." Even if we are not the same kind of outsider, it’s just having that connection and recognizing a different kind of style or sexuality or social behavior. Recognizing that it’s ’different than what is largely put across.’
For example, there are probably a lot of gay men that look at ’One Direction’ [or bands such as that] and think they are really cute, but as far as connecting with them as artists or people, it’s really right up the middle. I don’t relate to that. You probably don’t relate to that. The same with a lot of female acts. It’s a very narrow sexuality or version of what sexiness is which I can’t relate to. So I feel ’other.’ And I’m sure that’s what that gay community picks up on and that’s where we connect.
Dragonette continues its tour with dates in Boston (5/7), New York City (5/8), Montreal (5/9), Toronto (5/10), Indianapolis (5/12), Columbus, OH (5/13), Madison, WI (5/14), Minneapolis (5/15), Lawrence, KS (5/17), Denver (5/18), Salt Lake City (5/19), Tempe, AZ (5/20), Los Angeles (5/21 & 5/23), San Francisco (5/24), El Paso, TX (5/25), Austin (6/10), Dallas (6/11), Miami (6/14), Orlando (6/15), Jacksonville (6/17), Pensacola, FL (6/18), Atlanta (6/19), Chapel Hill, NC (6/20), Dover, DE (6/21). For further information, visit the Dragonette website.