Dragonette’s newest album brings the brain and the bod back to the beat
It’s a scalding 32 degrees in lush Prince Edward County, two hours east of Toronto, and Canadian pop trio Dragonette is taking cover on a 52-acre woodland estate owned by lead singer Martina Sorbara’s family. Her dad, Greg, is a longtime Liberal MPP and former Ontario finance minister. The Sorbara compound is the group’s official HQ for the weekend. Cooling their heels in a man-made lake after a feverish tour cycle, the Juno winners—Sorbara, her husband, producer and bassist Dan Kurtz, and drummer Joel Stouffer—are trying to unwind. But a cellphone ring echoes among the flora, fauna and even a few fawns, and FASHION’s shoot in a converted barn turned photo studio calls them away from nature.
“We really are a little bit country and a little bit rock ’n’ roll,” says Sorbara, breaking into an impromptu version of Dolly Parton’s “Love Is Like A Butterfly” while eyeing the makeup and jewellery strewn over an old picnic table. A lifetime ago, Sorbara was a solo artist who wrote what she called “tamponic” folk music. Her image then would have blended in with the Lilith Fair feel of today’s surroundings.
Dragonette’s latest disc, Bodyparts, seems a universe away from the folk and country and western influences the band has explored in the past. More dancefloor than road-trip, their new batch of high-octane pop succeeds their glossy 2007 debut, Galore, and 2009’s rockier Fixin’ To Thrill. Unlike previous releases, Bodyparts has a lot in common with “Hello,” the group’s recent chart-topper with DJ/producer Martin Solveig, who has since built on that sound while producing songs for Madonna’s MDNA.
“Emphasizing the excess is what Dragonette’s always been about.”
“We are now a rococo version of ourselves, which I actually think can be a good thing,” Kurtz says of Bodyparts’ synth-, drum machine- and hand clap-heavy sound. “Emphasizing the excess is what Dragonette’s always been about. Bringing on the bells and whistles is kind of in our blood.”
The group’s extreme beats have garnered them famous fans including Björk, Kanye West and Cyndi Lauper; impressing icons seems to come as naturally to Sorbara as reflecting them. “Let it Go” and “Untouchable” have her sliding somewhere between Betty Boop, Joan Jett and Dita Von Teese. “Right Woman” is featured on the Proud to be Woman album produced by Diane von Furstenberg to celebrate International Women’s Day. (“She’s a total badass,” says Sorbara.)
The disc’s most revealing song is the downtempo “Lay Low.” “I couldn’t listen to it without crying,” says Kurtz, who’s been married to Sorbara for nine years. “It’s about weathering the storms within a long-term relationship, which Dan and I have,” Sorbara explains. “It’s about getting restless in your life when you are in love for a long time, and what that can mean…and knowing that everything goes in cycles and knowing that you eventually have to get back on track, romantically.”
Sorbara says her visual palette for Bodyparts reflects the band’s new sound and vision. Style-wise, she is experimenting with on-the-cusp designers such as Canadian Calla Haynes and Brit Hermione de Paula, as well as rebel clothiers Jean Paul Gaultier (Dragonette collaborated on the video and song for Gaultier’s Ma Dame perfume) and Alexander McQueen, whom Sorbara knew on a first-name basis.
“I paused a bit on doing fashion with a capital F all the time. You know, Fash-on,” she says with dramatic emphasis. “I think it’s a reaction to Lady Gaga, because people can’t keep up. She’s awesome, but I would just love to see her in high-waisted jeans, a tank top and Keds. That’s my dream. I’m at a place where I’m paring down my look and making sure it doesn’t get overstyled. I’ve decided it’s much more important to show who I am than show some crazy statement in fashion.”