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MILK.XYZ International: Dragonette Reigns as Canada's Source of Dance Pop

Chances are you’ve swayed your hips and bopped your head to a euphoric track by Dragonette, the purveyors of sensational sound by way of unearthly beats, impressive instrumentals, and vibrant vocals. The band, hailing from Toronto, has held a place in top charts across the world and is composed of lead singer Martina Sorbera, bassist Dan Kurtz, and drummer Joel Stouffer. The group released their fourth studio album, Royal Blues, in November, which has proved as an evolution for the band’s identity and sound. According to the group, “Royal Blues is a different record than our previous ones, dealing with the harder and darker sides of love and relationships.”

Going even further to develop their sound, Dragonette has composed a gorgeous acoustic rendition of their jam “Body2Body”. The expertly reinterpreted soft, yet powerful track will have you reconsidering the band’s commitment to dance pop, and we have the pleasure of premiering it here. We also sat down with the band to chat about their newfound feelings for acoustic sound and their dynamics as a group. Check out the acoustic version of “Body2Body” below, then keep reading for our full interview with the trio.

Let’s start with a little bit about the acoustic version of “Body2Body”. Can you guys talk a little bit about that? 

So that’s a new thing for us and it’s really, actually kind of cool. It’s an in-house reinterpretation of one of our own songs and to hear it acoustically was like hearing the song in a completely different light and we love that.

Had you guys considered acoustic at all before? 

No, never!

I was just watching the video for “Body2Body”, and I have to say it’s an amazing composition visually and audio-wise. How do you forge the conversation between music and video? Can you talk about certain themes?

“Body2Body” is a song about having multiple conflicting feelings all at the same time. Sammy Rawal, who directed the video, proposed this idea that we really felt represented that conflict of “being” all these different feelings at once, which involved morphing, or mixing, Martina’s body with other bodies, or versions of herself. We knew he could technically pull it off, because of the work we’d done with him before on our last video for “Lonely Heart”.

And the album in itself, Royal Blues, came out in November, correct? How has reception for that been?

It’s always great to get so much positive feedback from our fans when we put out a record. Royal Blues is a different record than our previous ones, dealing with the harder and darker sides of love and relationships, and we’ve heard from a lot of people that many of the songs have touched them really profoundly. This always feels like a great honor to us.

What was it like for you guys putting the record together? As a group of three with distinct roles, can you discuss that dynamic?

This record was made in a different way than our previous records. For the first three, we [Martina and Dan] were living together and the creative process was much more fluid and intimate. We’d take turns, kind of like tag team wrestlers, adding our individual bits to the songs while we were just going about our regular lives at home.

With this record, Martina went out with a curiosity about writing with other people, which had always felt intimidating to her, and wrote some great songs that otherwise would never have happened between the two of us.  Some of those songs came back to us and were further developed here at Dragonette HQ, and some were done entirely with those other writers. Some other songs we made more or less in the “old” Dragonette way, except we were more emailing the evolving versions of the songs back and forth to each other.

You guys have been together for some time, how would you say you guys have evolved?

We started Dragonette almost as a joke… a vehicle to write songs that were a kind of deliciously forbidden style of pop, at a time when our sound was really far off from what we were hearing on the radio here in Toronto. We had no template and were just as nervous as we were excited about putting our feet forward with these songs.

Ten years later, we’ve got this body of work that shows the evolution from that almost naive style of songwriting and producing, to a more thoughtful place. Both ends of that spectrum are just as equally “Dragonette” though… you can hear in our earlier songs the beginning of what we’re doing now, and in our latest stuff, echoes of that place from where we started.

Comparing your first show to your last, how would you describe that evolution? Regarding your audience?

We, and our crowd, definitely wear less neon than we did back then. And our last show was in a dance club in Barcelona where we were playing our biggest, loudest dance remixes, whereas we were a seven-piece band with a rock ‘n roll instrumentation when we played our first show!

After some years, I’m sure you guys have gotten a more concrete idea of who your listener is. Can you describe that person?

I don’t know if we can really say. There are songs of ours that some people listen to without knowing much about the rest of our stuff, and those people might just be fans of the song “Hello”, for example, and that covers such a broad spectrum of people that there’s nothing common about them. On the other hand, the hardcore Dragonette fans come from all sorts of backgrounds, musical interests… we have a big LGBT fan base, we have 80s dance/pop fans, moms, kids, the whole deal.

As you guys have mentioned, how your art, music and audience have developed, I’m assuming some things must stay constant? Can you identify any of those static elements?

Well, at least for us what stays constant is us. We really feel like a family, and Dragonette is the sum of all of our experiences together, particularly on the road. Beyond our love for each other, is our love for music… making it, playing it.

So what’s coming up for you guys? I know you have a few performances in August? 

Yeah, we’ve got August and some stuff coming up in September. Our live touring career has always kind of been like we’re an emergency response team. Somebody calls and is like, “We need Dragonette stat! Come to the Philippines in six days!” And we’ve literally done that one. They’re always taking us to crazy places. But so, we’re very good at getting visas in impossible time frames. It’s just like call us and we’ll be there, but yeah it’s been pretty cool. This year for example, we went to Italy for a show and came back, India for two and came back, we just wrapped a show in Barcelona. So it’s hard to say what’s coming because nobody has told us, yet.

Stay tuned to Milk for more on musical citizens of the world. 

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