Album Reviews

The rebound record

Break-up sparks new sound

Photo by Gabe Ayala

Photo by Gabe Ayala

They say work relationships are a bad idea, so what’s the best cure for a broken heart? For Dragonette’s Martina Sorbara and Dan Kurtz, it was getting back to work on a new album—together.

The electro-pop band’s new album, Royal Blues, was three years in the making after Sorbara and Kurtz’s separation and their last full-length record, Body Parts, was released over four years ago.

“We had a lot of releases in between. We’d done collaborations of our own, but not a full-length,” said Sorbara, the group’s singer.

“This was made over three years, and made in essentially different cities because we were still running around trying to figure out how to make a record. The process had changed. We could no longer make the record together in our home studio, so there were a lot of unknowns as to how it could be done, or if it could be done.”

This slowed down the process a bit, as many of the songs had to be written and recorded by Sorbara in either Toronto or London, and then passed off to someone else to complete the next step.

“It would be interesting to draw a map of where the songs went via e-mail. But it was basically like, ‘Oh, let’s e-mail this session over to this dude over here,’ so it was kind of all over the place. But I would say London and Toronto were the anchors on that map.”

Sorbara said that, despite their separation, she and Kurtz had no intention to stop making music together as Dragonette.

“We definitely wanted to hold onto it, but we both felt at that point that we’d hit a wall and we didn’t know how.” 

Sorbara admitted that the separation was one of the reasons the new album has a much more laid back, chill-out, lounge sound than the dance party vibe of their previous efforts, but that wasn’t the only reason for the transition in sound.

“Given what we were going through, it certainly became a lot more introspective,” said Sorbara.

“When we started this band, we were both coming from different backgrounds and were kind of co-opted into playing in this electro form and into the EDM world by association. I think it was really, really fun for us to explore and to write like that, and be adventurous in that way. But, at a certain point, something else becomes attractive because you’ve done a lot of one thing.”

Sorbara also said it’s not uncommon to see a “yo-yo effect” and backlash in popular music.

“Out of big, shiny, huge EDM, 130 [beats per minute] songs, people are now backing off into really sparse, minimal tempo songs. 

“It’s not like we’re doing that because we got the memo,” laughs Sorbara. “It’s just the reaction, it’s become more earnest.”

The JUNO Award-winning group broke out into the mainstream dance music scene with “Hello,” their collaboration with DJ Martin Solveig.

The sound on Royal Blues is a lot more mature than the pop-heavy, feel-good vibe of “Hello,” with tracks like “Lonely Heart” and “Save My Neck” offering up a distinct reggae influence.

Sorbara said she took inspiration from a lot of world music, but it was not always intentional.

“It’s impossible to draw a line because I always listen to random shit, so I can never really see the line from where it got from that to this, or how it ended up there. It’s just what happens.”

She doesn’t think this change in style or tempo will affect Dragonette’s typically high-energy shows.

“We still try to keep it dramatic, there will just be a few more down-tempo songs. It’s not like they’re ballads, you know? There’s just less bopping, jumping hype-iness.

“I still have a light-heartedness when it comes to songs, I can never keep it too earnest.”

Dragonette will be playing at The Gateway on Saturday, Nov. 19. For more information or tickets, please visit: http://www.gatewaycalgary.ca/event/dragonette-with-lowell/

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