Colorado’s DeVotchKa draw their eclectic sound from several genres including indie-rock, cabaret, Spaghetti Westerns, norteño and Eastern European folk-dance music, and perform their big hearted songs with soul-stirring cinematic scope.
The quartet of Nick Urata (vocals, guitar, trumpet), Tom Hagerman (violin, accordion), Jeanie Schroder (sousaphone, bass) and Shawn King (percussion) started out performing at burlesques shows which was a unique way to explore different styles and hone their performance skills.
"It was a great opportunity for us," said Urata over the phone. "We were in front of these large crowds and it was a very eclectic night so it sort of enabled us. We were already hopping from genre to genre and it seemed perfect for the show. We often had to kill time while they were changing sets or outfits, so that helped us build up our improvising and writing skills — it was a great laboratory for what became our band."
DeVotchKa use instruments like bouzouki, trumpet, theremin, and accordion to add world music flavors that seems to appeal to almost every audience.
"I grew up with a lot of accordion music and it was one area that always spoke to me and stirred my soul," explained Urata. "When we started out we often went into hostile environments, sometimes opening for metal bands or in biker bars. Nobody knew who we were, but we always found that that...we weren’t trying to do anything traditional or adhere to any rules, but we found that it broke down barriers and spoke to other people, as well. I think maybe we all have a little of that in our bloodline and that’s what speaks to us."
Their experience in the burlesque scene led to their first album, 2000’s "Supermelodrama" and tours with Calexico, 16 Horsepower, and Archer Prewitt. For their second album, "Una Volta" (2003), DeVotchKa toured with burlesque star Dita Von Teese. Their biggest break, however, came when directors Valerie Faris and Jonathon Dayton heard one of their songs on the radio and hired them to record the Grammy award nominated soundtrack for the popular indie film "Little Miss Sunshine."
Their success in film soundtracks led to further work in movies like "I Love You Phillip Morris."
"We were definitely always into film scores," said Urata. "Once we got into it we got in through the back door and never left."
As DeVotchKa’s music grew more cinematic, they recorded a live album with the Colorado Symphony in 2012 which allowed the band to present their songs on a scale befitting their wide screen sound.
"It was an awesome experience and we got to play live with them on many occasions after that," said Urata. "On each album we branched out a little more on the arrangements and this was taking it to its final destination, I guess."
After their 2011 album "100 Lovers" DeVotchKa took a hiatus while Urata continued scoring films like "Paddington," "Crazy Stupid Love," and Netflix’s "A Series of Unfortunate Events." In the meantime, Urata continued working on DeVotchKa’s latest album, "This Night Falls Forever" which is their most grandiose statement, yet.
"I was working on the album the whole time and I often used some of the film orchestras I was using for recording and slipped some of my tracks in at the end," said Urata with a laugh. "You can hear them on the record."
When DeVotchKa hit the Stopover stage they will be performing as a quartet, but that won’t diminish their big screen sound. By switching around between an arsenal of instruments, the band can still deliver on their music.
"In years past we tried to induct other friends of ours to flesh out some of the parts, but lately in this past year we’ve gone back to our roots and doing it with the four of us," said Urata. "We find that it’s more of the quality of the playing than the quantity of the players. If it’s a good song, the four of us can pull it off and get a big sound."
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