SoundTown Series: DeVotchKa's Nick Urata opens up about his undying love for the Flaming Lips
As Somerset's SoundTown inches closer to its fun-filled weekend (August 19-20), Gimme Noise will be conducting a series of email, phone, and in-person interviews with many of the artists lined up for the festival. One of the first interviews was with lead singer Nick Urata of the wonderfully worldly indie band DeVotchKa. Over the phone, Urata spoke to us about touring, playing festivals, and the way his music manages to do so much.
Photo by Steve Cohen Nick Urata of DeVotchKa performing at First Avenue last April
What's the best part about being on the road?
It's definitely a change of the familiar when you leave the confines of your comfortable hometown. You can really open your heart to new places, strangers... It's great.
You recently played the Gastonbury festival. Can you tell us about that experience?
It was crazy! We were wondering how we could describe it to someone who hasn't been--mud up to your ankles at every step... It becomes its own universe, and it's really cool. The show was amazing, too. The fans there are really cool, it was really one of the most amazing shows we've ever played. The first thing we saw were the secret Radiohead shows, and that was awesome.
Your music is such a mix of sounds. Can you elaborate on the songwriting process?
We want to home in on songs that are engaging and we try not to be self-indulgent. The reason why we use all kinds of different instruments is because it's challenging and interesting to us, and we want to make it interesting for the listener.
What was it like to work with Craig Schumacher again on 100 Lovers? How do you feel he influenced the sound?
We just talked about what's necessary and not necessary as far as instrumentation. It was also great to be back recording in Arizona. It's a great environment in the middle of the Tucson desert and it's a great environment when your song can actually come to life and you can hear it--that's the magic.
100 Lovers came out in early spring and has enjoyed a good amount of press and praise. I found that album majestic--and, like most of your music, a little heartbreaking. Can you tell us about the topics you find yourself writing about? Where do you pull inspiration from?
Inspiration comes from normal, everyday life--why do you love me or why are we here, all of that. If I could break it down into basic themes, it's just sort of like groping around in the dark for basic answers and we can feel it for a second and then it's gone.
All things considered, DeVotchKa's rise to success has been relatively rapid. How is the fame treating you? What's been most surprising--or most delightful--thing about success?
Being in the middle of it... You know, the thing for us is that we've always been really driven. We'd play any show we could get, coffee shops and clubs, whatever. To finally have an audience is really inspiring, to know that people are finally listening.
So, I have a confession. As I was preparing for this interview, I solicited questions from a good friend who loves your music, and his biggest question was this: What's it like to play with world-class musicians ALL THE TIME?
(Laughs) Well, I have to tell you, it's a great thing. When you're staring out at all those people in the audience, it's certainly a great leg to stand on, and as a musician you're sort of feeding off of each other.
Your band is particularly well-known for onstage dramatics and flair. How will you be bringing that to SoundTown?
We've had to work hard to move our work into an open air set up... but we are planning on bringing in lots of Brazilian instruments, and definitely acrobats.
Sounds awesome. Are there any bands at SoundTown that you are particularly looking forward to?
I'm a huge Flaming Lips fan. They are one of the few bands that make me feel like a teenage girl. I've seen them four or five times and they blow me away every time. I can't wait to play the same stage with them.
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