Indie-up to the top

Some start the fire, others add to the flame. Dragonette, a cornerstone of the pit, was fueling the blaze even before it began. Active for more than 10 years now the Canadian three-piece band has been incarnating pop while remaining delightfully indie. Through the trials, tribulations and success, the band composed of Martina Sorbara, Dan Kurtz and Joel Stouffer has never ceased to keep it real transmitting their spirited hymns with vigour and energy without ever fizzling out.

‘’Always’’, replies unequivocal Martina, retracing her ambitions of becoming a musician. Through our interview, she is as earnest and cautious than her stage persona is outspoken and cheerful. Frontwoman, Sobara takes on the songwriting of all Dragonette’s music as well. “I generally have to reflect on something that’s current on my personal life and soul”, she confides. “You can write about pretty generic, mundane stuff in a way that feels fresh and interesting. I like to find new ways of saying old feelings”, she continues. As it goes, this music has always been more than upbeat tunes and exhilarating melodies, a megaphone for deeper observations.

Dragonette was fortuitously formed out of love. ‘’Dan and I were performing at the same music festival. I was the only girl’’, recalls Martina. ‘’I knew about his band, and I had a crush on all of them’’, she laughs. ‘’When we met, it was right on the bat’’. The relationship flourished and both kept making music separately. As she moved in, they later decided to join forces. “We wrote songs as a joke’’, tells the singer. ‘’I was very uncomfortable with the idea of collaborating at all. That whole world opened in the past 10 years’’.

We are now catching the band in a transitional time, as they just finished recording their fourth studio album, Royal blues. ‘’I’m really proud of that album’’, Martina declares. In the midst of the four years the record has been in in the making, a lot has changed. encompassing a separation between the two founding members.‘’Every album is hard’’, bravely admits Martina, comparing the work to a birth process.‘’I have to do a lot of suffering’’, she states. ‘’Dan and I split up. It was a big challenge. As a result, the songs have a really intense meaning. It’s another volume of a relationship, to work it out’’. As we can imagine, songs can have this post-traumatic syndrome effect. ‘’I took longer than other records. There is more of a consistent sound than ever, and there is the sound of the pain we were going through”.

“You can write about pretty generic, mundane stuff in a way that feels fresh and interesting. I like to find new ways of saying old feelings”

Then, what is the secret of doing this for so long and still strong ? “I don’t know” says Martina candidly. She reflects on the journey undertaken by the band and the milestones. “At the beginning of our career, we were signed to a major record label. It didn’t work, we were not like a big international pop success. And so, I think that moment where we could just have been ‘oh, we failed’ “. Instead, the band took the occasion to re-adjusted their views. ‘’We’re pretty underground, we’re not on the radio really, and I think for longevity, it’s actually recognizing that there is so many versions of having a sustainable career and if you’re not like Kanye west, or Taylor Swift, there is still a lot out there”, declares Marina. “After we got dropped from our label in the UK, we went to make a follow-up record not knowing what we were doing. We made the album that helped us understand what we actually are. The right people payed attention”, she continues. Looking back, there are still things the artist would tell to her younger self. ‘’I would say: you know who you are, and your label does not !’’, exclaims Martina, laughing. ‘’I mean, I was so excited that big fancy record label thinking we could be big and fancy pop band. We gave them so much, we thought they know what they are doing, they are smart, they have done this before. We gave them too much. We got along, and I loved that they payed attention; they had opinions about what they thought I should do. Do I like performing in heels ? No, I need to dance, I need to run around. It didn’t lead me to listen to what they were saying over paying attention to myself and meditating on what I am’’.

Being an indie-band in our days means a totally different thing than it was in 2016. ‘’I was talking with a friend who’s in the film industry ’’, say Martina, “we were talking about how across the board culturally and artistically, it seems like the middle has been taken out of everything. There is not this huge midrange trying to follow music trends, just indie people and a lot of creative stuff that bubbles up and gets noticed. The top acts obviously operate as usual, but at the bottom there is so much more freedom. Obviously it’s not ideal, but it generates an interesting output, because in some ways there is so much more freedom”. Being indie also allows for much more liberty in other mediums. Other than the music, Dragonette are also able to express their creativity through other mediums. ‘’It’s the avenue to be able to be off the cuff more than just the format of making songs and interviews. It’s fun to do and it’s something that is more candid and low impact’’, says Martina about the band’s online presence. Ending the conversation on a style note, we shift to her exquisitely eclectic style. She declares: I’m not into fashion, I’m into aesthetic. I like to play with visuals, including clothing’’, explains the musician. ‘’The way you dress is just another version of extension of how you absorbed the world and how you put yourself out.’’ We can forevermore count on her to break the pop music dressing conventions. ‘’I have a very definite idea of what I like and what I think is sexy. I think maybe it is different than what people think is beautiful and sexy and that makes it seem like it’s unique’’. Only then, she should take the credit she deserves for always looking fantastic, original and at ease.

By Christelle Saint-Julien