Martina Sorbara is full of fire. Her band, Dragonette, has just rolled into Philadelphia, where the Canadian electro-pop trio is scheduled to perform. Although the 33-year-old singer awoke hours earlier at 4am, when the rest of the group joined her on the tour bus, her husband, and Dragonette’s bassist/producer, Dan Kurtz, felt it necessary to rouse her again at 8am.
Another four hours later, how is she feeling about the situation? “Angry,” she says, dryly.
In a time when the breakneck music-industry marketing cycle compels Rihanna to release at least one album per year — unfinished songs be damned — to remain relevant, Sorbara’s crankiness hearkens back to a simpler time when pop stars were required to rest on occasion.
Not that Dragonette has been immune to the whirlwind. In 2010, Sorbara co-wrote and sang “Hello
,” the single by French producer Martin Solveig that became a smash hit around the world, topping charts in eight countries, including Billboard
’s Hot Dance Club Songs chart (it peaked at number eight in Canada).
Suddenly, Dragonette was playing shows at every conceivable opportunity. Last November, however, they put the kibosh on playing live in order to finish their third album, Bodyparts
, which came out Sept 25 (you can read our review of the record here
Initially, Sorbara was grasping for inspiration when she sat down to write in the home studio she shares with Kurtz in London, England. “I got this idea of not trying to write a dance album or a follow-up to ‘Hello,’” she explains. “I know that sounds like it shouldn’t be a hard conclusion to come to . . . but it was like, oh wait, everybody
on the entire Planet Earth knows this
song. Is that what we’re supposed to do? As soon as that notion was banished everything became easier.”
Rather than replicate “Hello” or the thumping club remixes of older Dragonette hits like “I Get Around
,” Kurtz, Sorbara and drummer Joel Stouffer applied their pop sensibility to brightly coloured beats and glistening synth sounds that occasionally recall the Drive
As a result, Bodyparts
has the big pop anthems, such as “Let It Go
” and “Live in This City
,” Dragonette is known for, but also left-field numbers like the Afro-pop-infused “Giddy Up” and the slick closer “Ghost” — two songs that set the tone for the rest of the recording sessions.
“I was listening to Paul Simon’s Graceland
every time I sat down in the studio,” Sorbara says. “I just wanted to make something that’s as good but meaningful and light at the same time. I don’t know if I achieved it [with “Giddy Up”], but that’s when the picture became clear.
“I just want to make lighthearted songs and take out this dark club sound that’s taking over,” she says. “It’s either euphoric or about getting nasty or drunk. All that stuff was kind of bothering me. It’s too much and it’s not my style.”
One song she’s particularly proud of is the mid-tempo ballad “Ghost,” which was written and recorded quickly. “It just landed,” she says. “It also made me sing using a different part of my voice that I haven’t ever used before. It was like I discovered this other thing. When I listen to it, it feels really personal and really me but also really ‘other,’ like it almost doesn’t belong to me.”
The dark dance beats aren’t the only thing Dragonette has left on the club floor. Sorbara has also dialled-back the insane pop-star fashions for the North American tour.
“My look is my favourite pair of jeans and my most not-disgusting T-shirt,” she says. “We stepped up the look of the stage show, and people are enjoying the relaxed vibe. It’s a fun rock ’n’ roll show. It’s not a pageant.”
Bodyparts is available everywhere on Universal records.