Nick Urata of DeVotchKa on the Visual Element of Music
In 1997, Nick Urata and his band DeVotchKa began playing background music for local burlesque dancers in Denver. Soon the band's unique combination of Eastern European folk music and indie rock began gathering the attention of critics and fans alike. With the release of How it Ends in 2004, DeVotchKa started touring to wider acclaim.
Photo by Brandon Marshall for Denver's Westword. Slideshow.
From his home in Denver and in anticipation of playing Dada as part of Index Fest on Friday, Urata spoke with DC9 about hating the term gypsy punk and getting a big break creating the soundtrack to Little Miss Sunshine.
I read where you are sick of explaining to people where the band got its sound. Are you as equally as sick with the term gypsy punk?
Yes, I am. I don't know who came up with that term or exactly what it means. I think we have grown out of that. When we started, it was the idea to combine many musical ideas. We left the door open to different styles with the intent on making new sounds. We tried not to have any boundaries. Why hide in the basement making boundaries for yourself? We immersed ourselves in the whole burlesque thing that was part of our thing early on. Our early sound fitted that. We had to be able to change directions a lot and we had to have different genres up our sleeves.
Does the burlesque background influence the way you present the music now?
Yes, definitely. We always sort of dreamed about having some sort of variety show atmosphere when I was first imagining this thing. On that particular point in our journey, we could have gone many ways. It was much more fun to incorporate visual items and other performers as well.
Hard to believe the band has been around 15 years.
I can't believe we have been around for that long. I guess it has been that long since I been writing and recording songs for this outfit.
Are you working on a new album?
We did the live album with the symphony orchestra. We put that out in the fall and we are writing new material right now. We are going to try and put together a new record.
Was it a difficult challenge to work with the orchestra?
It wasn't easy, but we sort of worked our way up to it. We've incorporated strings and horn sections on several albums, getting bigger and bigger each time. You have to be on the same page, but we had warmed up for that. It is a whole different ballgame.
You played to 80,000 people when you opened for Muse in France. What was that experience like?
It was a pretty impressive place to sing. To hear the band on that big of a stage was pretty cool. It was pretty neat, but it was hard to connect to that crowd. They were hundreds of years away. It was an amazing experience, but I don't like not connecting with an audience.
Were you nervous?
It was funny because the nerves were pretty much the same as playing in front of 80,000 as for playing in front of 50. Before, I am always nervous, but after we start playing, it's all good.