Dragonette play with pop, gender & sex

Torontonian-turned-Londoner band goes through the flames to find stage feet

Dragonette is the love-child of husband and wife team Dan Kurtz and Martina Sorbara, right.
Dragonette is the love-child of husband and wife team Dan Kurtz and Martina Sorbara, right.

Fresh off the stages of this year’s Hillside, Virgin Fest and Osheaga, Dragonette roar into Kingston on Saturday.

The pop-electronica band is the love-child of musicians and married couple Martina Sorbara and Dan Kurtz, who play alongside friends Joel Stouffer on guitar and Will Stapleton on drums.

The four-piece Dragonette are a potluck of pop and dance with some rock-flavoured flairs, probably a result of the group’s mixed backgrounds. Singer Sorbara at one point was a jazzy folk singer-songwriter and Kurtz, who plays bass and keyboards, was part of the live electronica scene in Toronto with his band New Deal. Their merger began as a fun project called The Fuzz that ballooned into a full-force band.

“We started as a basement side-project in our house in Toronto. We were making songs—some of them jokes,” Sorbara said. “The songs that were less joke-y we decided we really liked … we decided, ‘Let’s make a real band,’ ’cause The Fuzz wasn’t going to make it.”

The Fuzz died in that basement but out of it grew Dragonette. It may be a more serious band but Dragonette held onto that mischievous nature through playing with costume and gender on stage and in videos, following in the unruly path of electro-rocker Peaches. The video Take It Like A Man features the band members re-enacting porn clichés. The locker room, the office, the nurse and police officer are all scenes and characters thrown into the ridiculous bag. The band members’ overacting is obvious and they seem to be having a lot of fun playing with and subverting of these sexual stereotypes.

“Everyone keeps bringing up how racy and sexual our music is,” Sorbara said.

“I think I’m just being playful. I don’t seem to have any more raciness than the average Beyoncé—not that I’m comparing myself to Beyoncé.” In the scenes Sorbara dons a smug and powerful stance and the male band members fall at her mercy.

“I’m playing a different role than women [in most pop videos], maybe that’s why people keep bringing it up.”

Somehow through the music and the playfulness, things started off fast for Dragonette. Their second-ever gig was opening for New Order. But what sounds like a dream for any new band didn’t quite turn out that way.

“The New Order show was the worst show ever. The audience was really not the right audience and we sucked,” Sorbara said.

Fortunately Duran Duran picked the band up to open for them and they got a second stab at playing with a new wave brit-pop band.

“Duran Duran were really fun and that was a great match-up. It was a test for us, being a new band, learning how to play together,” Sorbara said.

“I think we’re having a lot of fun now more than ever. We’ve got our stage feet on.”

Sorbara looks forward to touring with Dragonette now as a break from her love-hate relationship with recording. “Even though [touring] is hard work, it’s a vacation—there’s less pressure. I’m so at the whim of my creative energy when I’m in the studio; it’s more of a challenge if I don’t come up with something good I feel like shit … Recording is so satisfying and when it’s satisfying, it makes you feel amazing. But you have to work so hard to get those moments.”

Working with other people in the studio is different from the solo-work Sorbara used to do, but she still views Dragonette as an organic part of the musical road she’s taking.

“The album that I released solo, most of the songs were written 10 years ago. For me, it’s not a drastic change from where I was. I was listening to music more similar to what I’m making now. It was very natural and organic,” she said.

“I actually enjoy having the exponential creativity that happens where there’s two brains or four brains. It makes you go places you wouldn’t wind up yourself.”

Dragonette’s bouncy beats and straightforward melodies may not challenge the range of Sorbara’s sultry voice but the new direction has brought experiences her way. Basement Jaxx and Sorbara collaborated to write the single “Take Me Back To Your House,” which she also sang on.

“[Basement Jaxx] were so creative and inspiring. They have a lot to teach a band like Dragonette, I think. They go all over the place,” Sorbara said.

After releasing a slew of EPs, Dragonette are touring in support of their new album Galore offering the singles “I Get Around” and “Take It Like a Man” which have been charming fans and creating a buzz on Youtube. The CD signals the beginnings of a band coming from various rock-pop backgrounds under what Sorbara describes vaguely as “basement pop.” “I think that’s what our intention has been: not to follow any specific music genres while maintaining a signature sound, which I think is a challenge.”

Dragonette play with Liam and Me @ the Grad Club tomorrow night. Tickets are $12 and available at The Grad Club or Destinations.

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