Martina Sorbara and Dan Kurtz of Dragonette
– by Ria Nevada
Audiences in Canada have been clapping their hands and jumping to the electro-pop tracks of Dragonette since 2005. But more recently, the team of singer Martina Sorbara, bassist Dan Kurtz and drummer Joel Stouffer have become a huge hit on international soil. Their infectious dance hits like “Hello” (with Martin Solveig) and “I Get Around” are staples in clubs all over the world, and have received major airplay.
Originally from Toronto, Martina Sorbara and Dan Kurtz gave me a call from their second home in London, England. What followed was one of the most delightful conversations I’d had in a very long while. Only these two intelligent and hilarious musicians could turn detergent, rainy weather and knitting into hot topics.
Of course, we also spoke about their upcoming performances at the Vancouver Out Games at Plaza of Nations (July 30) and Center of Gravity Festival (on July 31) in Kelowna, events that the group are honoured and excited to be a part of.
Ria Nevada: We’re very excited that you’ll be in B.C. shortly for your upcoming shows. You’re in London now, and you split your time between there and Toronto?
Dan Kurtz: Yeah. Well we split our time between here and a bunch of other places. Mostly on an Air Canada airplane taking us somewhere. This is where we come to do our laundry and write our records.
RN: Ah, that’s convenient.
Martina Sorbara: Plus the laundry detergent smells really good here, so it’s really worth the travel.
RN: Ah, the Tide is different over there?
RN: What prompted the move to England?
DK: We got a record deal here a long time ago. They’ve since seen the error of their ways and let us go. But in the meantime, we thought it was a great way to leave home for a while and go do something new and adventurous. We wanted to live somewhere else and…
MS: Notice how Dan still calls Toronto home. I think that’s both of our sentiments.
DK: We’re just here for a good time, not a long time.
MS: Yeah. [Laughs] We’re both very much missing the city in the summer for sure! You guys aren’t getting summer there are you?
RN: Oh God no. It looks like winter here right now.
MS: Oh Jesus. I’m not coming.
RN: Well this is supposed to be the worst for this week. It should be sunny the rest of the time. Well, by sunny I mean 21 degrees.
DK: Wow that sounds like London at it’s best right now. It rained for like ten solid days when we got back here and it was enough to make suicide seem like a really awesome option. Now it’s slightly improved. But uh, anyway, we’re looking forward to coming to the heatwave side of Ontario summer which we’ll also be getting for a few days.
RN: So in England right now, how has their dance and pop music scene affected the direction of your songwriting? Because you guys are releasing a record soon aren’t you?
DK: We’re writing a record that I think probably, we can safely say has not a single iota of influence from anything in British music.
MS: Except for our neighbour because he’s also a musician, and he’s really cute, and he inspires me.
MS: So yeah, I don’t think our music is particularly inspired by the music scene here, but it could be inspired maybe by our friends that we hang out with and yeah, I don’t know.
DK: The radio at the moment is not all that different here than it is anywhere else.
MS: Yeah, it’s kinda worse here actually.
RN: Ah, interesting. So you’ve worked with some of the big guns in the industry, namely Basement Jaxx, Kaskade, Cyndi Lauper, and Tom Jones. With the new record, do you think you’ll be including any more exciting collaborations?
MS: Um, I don’t know.
DK: We gotta try to get those hip people on our records.
MS: You know, Dan and I had talked about that. Remember, Dan? We had a 20-second conversation where we were like, “Hey! We should ask Cyndi Lauper if she’ll sing on one of our songs!”
DK: You’re right. We did talk about that.
MS: It’s a conversation, but it’s definitely not a done deal.
RN: It’s planting the seed.
MS: Well thanks for reminding us of that idea.
RN: Keep that on your to-do list.
MS: Yeah. Call Cyndi.
DK: And I”m gonna put a heart instead of a dot on top of the “I” in the little note to myself.
RN: So your first performance when you get back to Canada is at the Vancouver Out Games Closing Party. Are there any events that you’re hoping to catch?
MS: Um, I think, well…
DK: We’re hoping just to get to the gig. We’re gonna leave London that day and take a very long flight and get there to do a sound check, then play the show. It would be awesome; I just actually looked at the website this morning to see everything that’s going on, um and I’m amazed how giant the whole event is.
RN: Oh, it’s huge.
DK: But generally, it’s always like an exercise in trying to get the gig on time, gotta do sound check..
MS: Gotta try and make myself feel like I didn’t just fly half way around the world.
RN: Well luckily Ace of Base goes on stage just after you guys, so you’ll at least be able to catch them.
DK: Right. Definitely.
MS: Yeah! We did a cover of Franz Ferdinand‘s song two weeks ago in Calgary that…
DK: Sounded exactly…
MS: Totally sounded like Ace of Base and I was like, “Yeah”! Way to bring back the Ace of Base sound. But Ace of Base is bringing back their own sound, so maybe we’ll let that one slide.
DK: Fine, they can do that.
RN: [Laughs] They’ll be impressed, I’m sure. So, I feel like the whole city will be in celebration mode for the entire week, and you’ll be at the centre of it all! Do you feel extra pressure before huge special events like this?
DK: No. I think we just feel the same amount of overwhelming pressure every time we play.
DK: Gotta be better than the last time.
RN: It’s true. Always improve your personal best.
MS: Every time you go on stage, you want to make it as awesome as you can. But a lot of that happens via the audience. Because if the audience, it seems like the audience at the event is going to be pretty lively and feeling like they’re a part of something really big, and that gets reflected in how we perform and the energy that we get from them. So de facto, you know, you step it up.
RN: Yeah, because you feed off of their excitement and their energy.
RN: So you guys played Lollapalooza as well and you’ll be playing at Center of Gravity. You’ve done a few festivals. What has been your most memorable festival experience?
MS: Lollapalooza was pretty amazing.
RN: It was up there?
DK: For all the good reasons. I will never forget Glastonbury for all the mud.
MS: Glastonbury I’ll remember as something I probably don’t ever want to do again. [laughs] Unless I get dropped in by helicopter and then taken back up.
DK: Lollapalooza was a pretty great show for us. It was kind of a milestone in a sense. But it really felt like..
MS: Well in the sense that we didn’t know that anybody would show up at our stage, and it was just full of people…
DK: And all the right people too.
MS: Really good-looking people!
RN: Oh la la. That always helps. Some eye-candy in the crowd.
MS: It was just a big, tight crowd who were singing along, which was something that… I mean we played festivals in Canada a lot and there’s so much support for Canadian bands in Canada that you get kind of used to expecting that there will be people around.
So I think the stakes are more of a question mark. There’s not like Canadian funding making sure that people are listening to us , you know? So when we went on stage and it was full of people, it was like, “Oh yeah, we earned this.”
RN: Yeah for sure! And Martina, I have to say that I used to be a part of the People’s Liberated Knitting Front at my university! And I saw a clip of the amazing knitted cheeseburger you were making while on the road! What’s the most adventurous knitting project you’ve attempted?
MS: Uh, I think that was one of them. I knitted a severed ankle. Like a severed leg with a fishnet stocking and a high heel.
RN: [Laughs] How did you manage that?
MS: I don’t know. I just pictured it. For two years I thought about it and then I was like, fuck it, I better start knitting this thing, and I just did it. I think the secret to those kind of projects if you’re a knitter is just complete willingness to take it apart if it doesn’t look it right and do it right.
I think people think that when you knit something like that you just start from scratch and then you do it, and it’s done. But it’s a lot of like correction and whatever. Anyways, that’s a tangent. But I’m very proud of my severed heel. I’ll send you a picture.
RN: Yes please do!
MS: Oh you know what you should do? You should sign up to ravalry.com.
MS: Do you know about ravalry.com?
RN: I don’t.
MS: It’s like a Facebook for knitters. I’m such a nerd
RN: This is amazing. Is the severed leg in there?
MS: Um, the severed leg is in there. You can look for me. I’m Tina Dragonette.
RN: Yay! Well you are also now an honorary member of the People’s Liberated Knitting Front.
MS: Nice! Thank you.
RN: And Dan, do you have any hobbies that occupy your time on the road?
DK: I’m… I’m just so good at watching TV programs that I borrow from the Internet and put on my computer. There are few people that are better at it than me.
MS: No Dan. You spend your time thinking of technical… Dan is basically the technical producer of our live shows so he doesn’t have time to do be doing things like knitting. He’s the brains of our operation. If I caught him knitting, he would be fired.
RN: He’d lose all street cred.
DK: You! Out!
RN: Well thanks for the fun chat! Have a safe trip, and catch you in Vancouver!
MS: Okay great! Nice talking to you. Go to ravalry.com. Be my friend on Ravalry.
RN: Yes! I will! Bye guys!
MS and DK: Bye!