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New World: Devotchka interview

5 mars 2008


Depuis que je suis tombé par hasard sur leur chanson You Love Me je suis fasciné par ce groupe.

Bizarrement, je trouve qu’on en entend pas assez parlé. Ou peut-être que c’est moi qui ne regarde pas à la bonne place. Leur album à paraître à la mi-mars sur ANTI- devrait changer ça.

Voici simplement l’entrevue que j’ai fait avec leur chanteur Nick Urata par un après-midi comme les autres. Un entretien d’un vingtaine de minutes qui a commencé par: «Actually I was expecting your call tomorrow. But it’s all fine»


Are you excited about going on tour and the release of your new record?

I’m getting excited yes. Yeah we’re very excited.

Can you tell me why you chose such a title as A Mad and Faithful Telling?

I see it has, the way the album’s written. We wrote it over the last two or three years. I felt like a lot of times I would be driving in the car or travelling and I would get flash or ideas at inconvenient time and write them on cocktail napkins or call my answering machine and sing into it. When we finally sat down and recorded it I wanted to be sure that we were faithful. There was a sort of manic feeling to get it all out in the right way. I think that’s what showed up on tape. Does that sound like a good explanation?

What about the cover art. What does it represent to you? It reminds me of some of those old communist pictures. Maybe I’m wrong.

Yeah. I’ve always been sort of fascinated by that sort of aesthetic. I do think it’s beautiful. I think the idea didn’t turn out well but it kind of represents our hope for the future.

What’s your favourite song on the new record and why.

I like them all. Which is good because I’m a harsh critic. It does change from day to day but I think I like Along the Way the most. I like it because I don’t feel like I really wrote it. It just sort of passed through me. I feel like it has a good message and a good…I don’t know. I sort of think it has a timeless feeling where you couldn’t really pinned down the era that it was done in. That was what we were hoping for. I hope it comes through.

How is it to work with ANTI-?

You couldn’t ask for a better label to start out with. You know you hear some horror stories about label who try to change the record and everything. It’s not what ANTI- is about. So far it’s been very good. It was very satisfying to release our own record by our self but we didn’t get them out very far that way. And know you’re calling me from Montreal. That’s one positive thing about working with them. And they have the most amazing roster that I’m very happy to be part of.

Which bands are you crazy about sharing the same label as them?

Hum, Tom Waits. He’s a big hero of mine.

Did you ever saw him?

I’ve never seen him live, no. He’s not playing much. Last time it got sold out in like 2 minutes.

People often use the expression gypsy-punkto describe your band. What do you think is the punk side of Devotchka?

Well, I think maybe it’s just the rock side of our performance and maybe the driving beats we use. And also I hope to convey a feeling of anti-establishmentarianism.


Did you ever listen to any punk when you were younger?

I definitely went through a period where I was amazed by punk rock. I like the Sex Pistols and The Ramones and Black Flag. Agent Orange was also one of my favourites.

Did you ever saw Black Flag live?

No. I was a little too young for that. I wish I had. I wish I had seen the Sex Pistols.

How did you guys got to know montrealer Win Butler which apparently suggested you to cover the song The Last Beat of My Heart?

Yeah. We met him on a club where we were playing with M. Ward. That guy from Arcade Fire came to the show and I think we have mutual friend in Montreal. We also got to travel with Lasa in the USA and she was home last time we got to Montreal and she showed us around. I love the city, one of my favourites. But maybe a little too cold.

On you record How It Ends there’s a song that fascinate and scares me at the same time. I talk about This Place is Haunted. What made you wrote such a song? Is there a story expressed in it?

I wrote that at the time I got dumped by my girl. Everybody went through that. I recorded it in a little bedroom. I was so…you know when it happens you think it’s the end of the world. You’re so sad and you think life is never going to get better but it does. That’s about trying to get through the first few days of that. I think that if you try to stay at the same place where all this pain is happening you won’t be able to get over it because all these painful memories that haunt the place. This song is about leaving.

On this record there’s also a song call Charlotte Mittnacht that reminds a lot of people of the soundtrack of the movie Amélie Poulain. Is it a kind of tribute to the movie?

Yeah it’s a tribute to the movie and Yann Tiersen who wrote the music for that movie. Charlotte is a lover of the accordion player in the band who wrote the song.

Do you follow American politics or it’s just some stupid shit for you?

No, I care a lot about politics. This pre-campaign is pretty exciting. I’m pretty excited about Barack Obama. I think everybody is. I think he will beat McCain in the end. He’s going to kill him. It’s great. I think the sun is shinning. It’s very hopeful. I think young black boys will get so much hope from him. I think Hillary is a good person but she has ties to the war and we need something new and different. We need to get out of that same crap.

You think Obama will get America out for Irak and give a good push in the back of the American economy?

Well, I’m hopeful. Let’s just say I’m hopeful. He still has to deal with Congress.

Do you consider your music has carrying some sort of political or social message?

Yeah. I think it’s more subliminal or unconscious. I try not to bring too much of that into the party because it is partially our duty to help people to put their problems aside for a while. I think there are issues that are more important like love and life.

Where do you think the rich musical heritage of Devotchka comes from? I know your descendents are from Sicily. Is it something you’ve always carried?

I like to think that’s it. It is sort of a melting pot of influences that the four members bring. I think it’s a yearning to get back to where the music comes from.

Any video coming out for any song on the new record?

We’re working on that right now. We can’t choose what song we’ll do.

What’s your favourite part of the world to tour?

That’s a hard one. So many beautiful places. Like I said I love Montreal but I also really liked England, Ireland, France and Spain. I love Barcelona.

How different is it to tour Europe compared to America?

I think Europeans are a little bit more open when they don’t know us but it’s kind of the same really.

If you could go back in time to witness a moment or a period in music history where and when would you go?

I think I would like to go to maybe, the early ’60. ‘Cause then you could still see the Ratpack and the great jazz musicians has well has the Rolling stones and the Beatles coming. It was the great schism, is that how they call it? To witness both of them would be amazing.

And do you think you take some influences from that period?

I think aesthetically it always looked so cool. Everyone was wearing those cool suits. Everything’s in black and white and everyone looked so cool. I don’t know if it was any cooler back then but everyone looked so cool.

Any plans of coming back to Montreal?

I thought we were coming this summer but I’m not sure. I apologize to the people of Montreal. I love your city. Maybe late in the summer.

The new record ends with a song called New World. Is it something you’re dreaming of or something you’ve found?

It’s still kind of a dream. I think I had this vision…I think it’s that vision we all have about…It was inspired by these artist who made many trips to the island of Tahiti and painted it…Is name escapes me so that kind of kills the story. Anyways, in is later years he said he kept going back there in his mind and it made him happy. That’s sort of the idea of that song. Everyone has kind of an ideal place that might not exist and probably doesn’t exist but having that in your mind is a little hopeful and keep you going.

Cool, I’ll keep that in mind when I listen to the song.

Nice. Thank you for writing about us.

Oh man, thanks to you for making music.

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