Dragonette in the spotlight

Ahead of their pre-gig ritual of eating Vietnamese food, the indie-pop band sat down with the Journal

Singer-songwriter Martina Sorbara of Dragonette performs at Ale House on Wednesday night.
Singer-songwriter Martina Sorbara of Dragonette performs at Ale House on Wednesday night.

We all laughed.

Mid-sentence at Ale Canteen on Wednesday night, Dragonette’s Dan Kurtz was interrupted by his band’s hit single “Hello” on the radio.

“And there it is again,” he joked during our interview.

“I paid them 20 bucks to do that,” Kurtz’s wife and the band’s singer-songwriter Martina Sorbara quipped in.

Released in 2010, “Hello” is a collaboration with DJ Martin Solveig that brought Dragonette out from the underground-pop scene and set them onto the mainstream current of Canadian music. Since then, fans have been greeting the Canadian-pop trio — Kurtz, Sorbara and drummer Joel Stouffer — from all over the world.

“My 70-year-old aunt in Brazil knows that song,” Kurtz said. “Months later [she] put it together that it had something to do with us.”

Whether on YouTube or attached to a product, “Hello” has played millions of times worldwide. But Kurtz admits Dragonette remains somewhat below the radar.

“Martina isn’t in the video and so, it’s like Martina walks through life hearing her song come out of every second store and it’s like the best kept secret ever,” he said. “Maybe that’s all going to change with the Junos.”

On April 1, Dragonette will get just under a minute of fame, according to Kurtz. The band will make their first on-stage appearance at the Canadian Juno Awards, performing with other nominees Alyssa Reid, Anjulie, JRDN and Mia Martina, as part of a “mixed tape” performance of the year’s top dance hits.

“What it is, is that we all are getting to play the Junos,” Kurtz said, laughing. “We’re just playing it for a very, very little amount of time … I think I heard that we’re playing for 52 seconds.”

Their song “Hello” is nominated for Dance Recording of the Year. This year’s ceremonies will mark Dragonette’s third nomination, their second in the Dance Recording category.

“Of course you want a Juno,” Kurtz said.

“No! ‘Cause I’m too scared,” Sorbara countered. “I’m so scared of going up on stage and speaking … I’ve realized that I will sing in front of anybody but speaking and addressing people in a microphone and talking, I turn into a blubbering idiot. I think a little bit like right now.”

Last year, the trio lost the Juno to Deadmau5’s Sofi Needs a Ladder. They’ll be up against the house music artist again this year.

“But he’s already got one,” Kurtz joked. “It’s very Canadian, they like to share around.”

“They’re just sympathetic to the fact that we’ve gone three times,” Sorbara adds. “That’s what I think.”

The couple have a naturally comic back-and-forth.

“Three strikes and, we’re … what happens then?” Kurtz said. “Then we retire.”

But the band is nowhere near retiring. With the fast approaching release of their third full-length album and several notable bookings in 2012, the year is packed for Dragonette.

The band is expecting to release the new album in the fall. The still-unnamed record features already-released single “The Right Woman” and upcoming track “Let it Go,” which will preview online this month.

“The Right Woman” was introduced earlier this month on Diane von Furstenberg’s International Women’s Day compilation Proud to be Woman Vol. 3.

“It fit the cause,” Sorbara said. “It was just something we submitted because it fit the bill of proud to be a woman for women’s sake.”

The song was recorded in collaboration with producer Felix Bloxsom, who’s worked with everyone from Empire Of The Sun to Jennifer Lopez.

Despite fitting “the cause,” Sorbara said she doesn’t write Dragonette’s lyrics with a political agenda.

“I think musically I’m almost offensively a-political,” she said, stopping to debate whether that was justifiably true. “No, I believe in everything that I sing and it’s often like a personal point that I’m making. I always have a bit of awe for people who, what’s the word I’m looking for, who effectively include politics into their music in a believable way and a convincing way.

“But it’s not really where I come from. Although, like one of my biggest influences when I was 13 years old was Ani Difranco, one of the most political musicians ever to live.”

Dragonette is coming hot off a performance at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas last week, where the band played Perez Hilton’s One Night in Austin Party for the second time.

“We played his first Perez One Night in Austin five years ago and it was 400 people there and we went on four hours late because the show was so disorganized,” Kurtz said. “But this is five years later and there was 4,000 people there and we were probably that much more of a better band.”

It was only the band’s third time performing their new material, and, according to Sorbara, it felt like they ended it “rocking the house.” Next on the bill for Dragonette is Coachella, where the band will make their debut alongside veterans like Feist, Bon Iver, Avicii and Dr. Dre, to name a few.

“I want to meet [U.S. singer] Santigold,” Sorbara started.

“I want to meet Santa,” Stouffer piped in. “Is he coming to Coachella?” Kurtz asked.

It’s clear the three are a family, bantering and jesting throughout the pre-show interview. After seven years together, through the easy ups — the band toured with Duran Duran within their first few months as a band — and downs, or what Kurtz calls a “trough” they hit early on, it’s looking like 2012 is the year for the charts to say “Hello” to Dragonette.

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