Dragonette’s Martina Sorbara on Songwriting, Life on the Road, and ‘Girls’

If you haven’t heard the masterful music of award-winning electropop prodigy Dragonette, your ears are about to be elevated to a heavenly level. Listeners can’t help but bounce around to the catchy tunes of this energetic trio, comprising singer-songwriter Martina Sorbara, her husband, bassist and producer Dan Kurtz, and their trusty drummer Joel Stouffer.

Three years ago to the date they unveiled their sophomore effort, Fixin’ to Thrill, and today, at long last, they return to the record release scene with Bodyparts, via Universal Music Canada. Fans have waited quite some time for this moment to arrive and, finally, it’s here. As for the anticipation? It was worth it. The 13-track gem proves an audible assault of the best breed, with addictive numbers ranging in aesthetic from fist-pumping bangers (“Riot”) to electric-meets-cheeky (“Right Woman”), from old school-cum-modern (“Giddy Up”) to ‘80s-esque romantic jams (“Untouchable”), from sing-along ditties (“Live In This City”) to booty-moving anthems (“Let It Go”). We dare you not to dance. Speaking of which, they’re in the midst of a US tour. Have you secured your tickets yet?

The only thing better than a spankin‘ new album from our favorite Canadian-born, London-based band? Access to the talents responsible for our remarkably upbeat demeanor.

We had the privilege of catching up with Sorbara recently, a discussion during which the vocalist talked about the Bodyparts process, lyrics versus poetry, and the title she proposed that was summarily shot down. Bonus: the pint-sized singer confesses she loves continent-hopping with her hubs and dubs HBO’s Girls the best thing to ever reach TV screens. Read on for the amusing scoop straight from the source herself.

Why the title Bodyparts?
I feel like I saw the words. I saw a piece of art and it was called “Body Parts.” It was not macabre; it was the opposite. I thought it was musical, in a way. There’s a song on the album called “My Legs,” and I realized [our] lyrics often have body parts in them. I don’t know why. I like the way the words could be construed as musical or sexual or physical, depending how you look at it or what you’re looking at when you see that word.

Did you know you wanted it to be one word?
No. I had another title in mind, too, that was many, many words. But no one would go for it.

What was it?
Everything’s Happening All At Once.

I like that!
Me too. I want to write a song with that lyric.

I feel like listeners take for granted how difficult it is to write songs, to make music.
Yeah. My weakness is planning ahead with lyrics. If someone said, “Okay, use this lyric and write a song,” it would take a very long time. Unless the song is building itself up subconsciously in my mind, kind of creating itself, it’s going to take a long time for it to come.

Does it usually start with lyrics or sitting down to the music?
Sitting down and hearing the music and counting syllables, generally. And it always feels like, after a song is written, that it was already planned out, that I just had to listen to the syllables I was saying and figure out what the words were. In a way.

Like in a way it’s already written.
It sounds really cheesy, but I think the reason I like writing is because I’m not a very eloquent speaker and I’m not quick-witted in conversation. But when I get to sit down and listen to what’s happening in the back of my mind, what comes out when I pay attention, I get to know better what’s inside me.

Do you also compose poetry?
To me, those two aren’t connected at all. To a lot of writers they are. I think some lyrics are poetic, but, when I read poetry, it’s a very different thing than with lyrics.

Was the Bodyparts process different from past albums?
Kind of. Writing has generally been sort of tag-teaming. Spending very little time in the studio at the same time, spending a lot of time alone. Dan does his thing, I do my thing. I think this time around we were very insolated. We didn’t go rent a big studio. We did the whole thing at home, aside from mixing the album; we did that in Paris. Other than that, it was our really tiny studio. And a lot of software. [Laughs]

Awesome to be in Paris, I bet.
It was fun to spend so much time just the two of us, having other people tinker with stuff that, until then, had been something that existed only in our little house. No one had touched it. [I enjoyed the experience of] bringing it to another place and having someone else’s ears experience it.

You’re presently based out of London, yes?
Yeah, although it’s going to be two months total that I will be away from my house. We’re based there but we’re not there very much.

What’s it like to disappear from home for so long?
It’s kind of normal. That’s the way my life has been for the past seven years. It’s, like, we’ve been living in London, but we’ve had so much time in North America that it kind of feels like we don’t live anywhere. In a good way.

You don’t mind that feeling?
No, mostly not. Mostly I feel lucky. I’m sure there’s going to be a time in my life when I’m very stationary. Whether it’s in the next five years or the next ten years or I don’t know. I think I’ll miss the jump-around of this life.

Do you feel like you’re in a unique position because you have your husband with you?
Yeah. If I was going away for two months and I was leaving my husband or if he was going away for two months and leaving me, I think either one of those scenarios would be untenable and unsustainable. Our home is each other. We become each other’s comfort zone. The stability of home isn’t as important when we’re with each other.

I feel like so many people don’t have it that way, so you have to feel fortunate.
Yeah, totally. I think that was part of the incentive, initially.

Incentive?
Well, we were both in different bands. I was solo and he was playing with The New Deal, so we spent a lot of time apart in the [beginning] of our relationship. Then Dan suggested, “Oh, let’s write songs together.” I think that was the light at the end of the tunnel after touring separately and spending weeks and weeks apart.

Speaking of traveling together, you played in New York City two weeks ago at Webster Hall. When you come here, what do you like to do and where do you like to go?
I have a lot of good friends there, so I generally just find my friends and have them take me somewhere fun. The problem I have when I go to New York City is that I end up almost exclusively in Soho, so I don’t even know one other part of the city. It’s ridiculous. For how many times I’ve been there, I haven’t seen a lot of Manhattan. What is wrong with me?!

So, no favorite places to eat?
I have gone to some amazing restaurants there. [One] time we finished our show [at] almost midnight, probably past midnight, and my girlfriends took me to Veselka, because I was starving. Everyone had gone to party at some nightclub, but it was late night perogies for me, which was the most satisfying thing. I was very happy about that. It was a girl dinner, like an episode of Girls.

You watch that show?!
Oh my God, it’s so good. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen on television.

Who’s your favorite character?
I have a crush on Jessa. But I want to be best friends with Lena. And, I want to be the nerdy virgin next door. What’s her name? I don’t know her name.

Shoshanna!
Shoshanna! That’s it. Of course!

I’m also obsessed. Clearly.
I can’t think of one show on television that [features] women I can relate to or that I feel represent me. Am I supposed to relate to the women on Sex and the City? I don’t think so. 

Photo by Kristin Vicari

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