Based in Denver, Colorado, DeVotchKa is a four-piece multi-instrumental and vocal ensemble, which takes their name from the Russian word devochka, meaning ‘girl.’ DeVotchKa is set to bring their visual feast and unique performance sound and style to Austin’s ACL Live on Saturday, November 2, 2013. I had the pleasure and privilege of chatting with lead singer Nick Urata to discuss their current tour and what Austin fans can expect to witness on stage.
During the initial part of our conversation, we discussed the visual element of DeVotchKa’s performance and how it has influenced their overall success:
Nick: “We came from this place where in the early days, we were always collaborating with other artists, like dancers and videographers, and how the band was born out of a collaboration with other artists and art forms. It just seemed like a natural progression. …. We wanted to give the audience more than just four guys standing around in their t-shirts jamming. I guess we were doing something right because we got drafted into a traveling burlesque show and it was a turning point which influenced us to continue down that road and just try, or at least attempt, to give the audience a sort of DeVotchKa brand variety show feel.”
What surprises might you have in store for our Austin audience?
Nick: “We’re celebrating the ‘Dia De Los Muertos,’ … a celebration which we have done quite a lot, so yes, we are definitely going to (have surprises). I don’t want to give too much away but there will be a visual feast going at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. We will be bringing some dancers back but since it’s a holiday, we will have some special costumes that we’ve been working on, and we have a lot of video art that we will be adding to the show.”
With respect to your recent album ‘Live with the Colorado Symphony’ released last November, and knowing that you have orchestral and cinematic arts leanings in all of your music, what made this particular recording experience different and how has it affected the way you now perform?
Nick: “It was a collaboration that was a long time in the works. We’ve been long time supporters and fans of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. We have a lot of friends that are in the Symphony who collaborated with us on our albums and soundtracks. We had been working on trying to do series of concerts together so it forced us to write out parts for the Orchestra and it seemed like a perfect night to make a live recording, which is what the album became. We’ve gotten to reprise the show a few times with smaller chamber groups in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle and also with the Colorado Symphony at the Red Rock Amphitheater which was really epic. I think that it seems like we’re going to do it again this summer and make an annual collaboration with CSO. We were able to raise quite a lot of money for the Symphony, which as I’m sure you know, is important since a lot of symphonies are hurting financially these days. We hope to spread that love out to all the symphonies that would like to collaborate with us. It is an amazing experience to play with them.”
Who do you see as your audience and how has that changed over time?
Nick: “…. even in the early days when we were just playing coffee shops, art galleries and parties, we always seem to attract a wide range of people that connected with the music and that has always been very encouraging for us… I think our audience is among most beautiful and intelligent people on the planet!’
You have scored a number of films and received good critical acclaim and broader exposure as a result. How do you contrast your work developing film scores with performing in front of live audience? Which is more compelling, and why?
Nick: “They both have their ups and downs but certainly working behind the scene is very challenging and rewarding, but then it makes you really really appreciate connecting with a live audience in real time. There’s really nothing like that. It really reminds me of why I became a musician the first place.”
How much do you think music influences the evolution of a film?
Nick: “Yes, as a film composer you sort of tinker with the audiences’ subconscious and you want to stay out of the way. Like with a good score sometimes, you don’t even notice. I think it’s very transformative to the way audiences feel about a film, the music is a huge part of the film and taking it in the direction that it should go.”
What are you working on next?
Nick: “We are working on a new DeVotchKa album, hopefully next year that’ll come out. We have a few documentaries in the works that we are scoring as well. Hopefully we will have a new album coming up this next year.”
Nick, is anything else that you’d like to share with the audience here in Austin?
Nick: “We are really excited about coming to Austin and playing for an audience of Austinites.”