Aquarium Drunkard caught up with DeVotchKa, last week in New Orleans, prior to their performance at this year’s Voodoo festival. Now a decade into their career the Denver based group has grown a steady fanbase fusing elements of old-world gypsy, mariachi, brass, and American folk traditions into a bouillabaisse all their own. Two years after scoring the soundtrack to the breakout film Little Miss Sunshine, the band reflects on their history, unique sound, and the ever-evolving world of music licensing and placement.
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AD: So much of today’s music seems to defy categorization. You deftly combine your influences and sounds to match the songs you write. Is that part of the writing process? Do you envision these structurally on paper, or do your songs really take different shapes in playing and recording?
Devotchka: It is a surprising and rewarding thing in songwriting . You can come up with a great idea on paper but it really becomes a different beast when you involve the human element and the recording process.
AD: In the beginning, you were a burlesque group. That helped you and your music develop a presence. Today, without the beautiful girl dancing as you play-how do you react to each other in performance and how has your band grown now that the spotlight shines completely on you.
Devotchka: Well we still use acrobats and cute girls whenever we can . I like it for the very reason that it does take the focus off us and gives the audience a glimpse of another art form. I feel we work together as one instrument and i hate having to worry about what we look like
AD: You have been touring for quite some time since the release of A Mad and Faithful Telling in March. What are some your highlights on the road, and how do you rise to the occasion of a huge festival like Voodoo?
Devotchka: We have squeezed a lifetime of experiences into this year. We got invited to play exotic faraway places like Moscow and Istanbul , and people actually knew the words to our songs. In the process we have played some very large festivals, these things can be nerve racking for a band because they just sort of shove you on stage in front of all these people with no sound check, with a band like ours, dynamics are a big part of our tunes and on a big outdoor stage those nuances go out the window, so we just go back to our days of play shitholes with one microphone and play as hard as we can. The great thing about these big festivals is the energy of the crowd lifts the players up to new levels
AD: Audiences who are not familiar with you from your exotic name, have been exposed to you in films and commercials. How did your music find its way to these places? How do you feel about using music to sell products and in turn, sometimes even selling music?
Devotchka: These songs were placed by fans of the band who work in this field. I don’t feel great about selling products and lord knows we have turned down a lot. Commercials these days are so ambiguous most of the time you don’t even know what the product is,they are like short films with a sponsor at the end.
I’m not complaining but we have been ignored by the mainstream so this has been a back door for us and many other bands.
AD: Are you already working on another album? Do you catalog ideas on the road or just see what happens spontaneously?
Devotchka: Yeah good ideas are few and far between so i am always trying to capture little sparks of daily life to expand on later, so in that sense we are always working on our next record.
AD: As you prepare to descend upon New Orleans, how will be soaking up some of the flavour and culture there? And what artists are you looking forward to seeing?
Devotchka: This is one of our favorite cities so we are so thankful to get to play a proper gig here.We are all staying in town for as long as possible, There are so many great bands to see, but I always look forward to the hidden gem, the surprise that you accidentally happen upon that changes your life. words/ mik davis
MP3: Devotchka :: You Love Me
MP3: Devotchka :: Blessing In Disguise
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