INTERVIEW: Dragonette Just Wants To Make You Dance
Playing to a hip and energetic crowd, the Toronto-born, London-based electro pop band was welcomed by an audience of serious super fans.
Dragonette's set was a combination of old favorites ("I Get Around", "Hello") and new songs off of their newly released album, "Bodyparts."
Released on Wednesday, the album has been available for preview online for about a month, which was evident by the chorus of fans singing along and dancing up a storm in the historic Art Deco theater.
This latest album, available now on iTunes, is one of those rare albums that makes you want to listen straight through and then play it all over again and again. My personal favorite track (at least for now) is "Live In This City", a rebelious pop song complete with major drums, hand-clapping, sass and confidence.
Afro punk duo, The Knocks are opening for Dragonette on their current tour. Their performance last night was an energizing warm-up to the main act. The Knocks performed after Frank + Derol, a sultry female duo (including Miley Cyrus' sister Brandi) who sang both original tracks and covers.
In addition to playing a badass show at the El Rey and getting me to dance my ass off, the members of Dragonette were kind enough to sit down for an exclusive interview with Neon Tommy. I had the incredible pleasure of sitting down with the band before their show to hear about "Bodyparts", feminism, the internet, musical influences and what kind of gigs get them off.
Q: You have a new album out. What do you want fans to know about it?
Dan: This is the best Dragonette album ever, that's what I want people to know about it! No, we love our old songs too. This one's newer. More Dragonette today, now.
Martina: This album took a long time to write. I don't know why it felt like a harder birthing process than Fixin to Thrill.
Dan: I think just like how people often forget how painful birth is, you forget how painful it was to write Fixin to Thrill.
Martina: No! I remember when we finished writing that one, I was like, 'wow that was a lot easier than I thought'. And then with this one, I was like, Oh my god, it's over!!'
Q: Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Dan: I think those go in cycles too. You have to love every song you do in order to finish it.
Martina: Yeah for us, songs we don't love sit on the hard drive, and we say 'maybe we'll finish it', but if we're not excited to hear what it sounds like as a finished song then it doesn't generally make it to that stage.
Dan: But at the time, I think you hope that every song you're writing right now is the best song you've ever done. That's the kind of energy you need to put in it. Even if you're lying to yourself you have to say, 'this is going to be fucking amazing'.
Q: How did you guys hook up with The Knocks?
Dan: They did a great remix for "Let it Go" and it was our manager who said here are these other wicked guys.
Martina: And then we hung out with them for a bit at Coachella.
Dan: They're way cooler than we are. Way cooler. You just have to look at the way they walk around, wear sunglasses in the dark.
Q: How did you guys meet and end up collaborating with Martin Solveig (for the chart-topping collaboration, "Hello")?
Martina: We met him in Australia where we were both playing a festival there. And then he got in touch with us later.
Dan: He was doing a fashion thing for John Paul Gautier, a fashion song, and asked Tina to do the vocals. He wrote this song called "Boys and Girls", which Gautier commissioned for the launch of his perfume. That's why when you watch the video he appears in it.
Q: Many of your songs are about relationship drama and being "over" guys. Or at least, that is how many fans interpret the songs. What is your inspiration?
Dan: This is Tina reliving a fantasy that she can break-up with me but then realizing you're stuck with not only a marriage but a band.
Martina: No! I don't know if that's what the content is. I don't really know how to write unless it's from some place real-ish. I may be able to manipulate the story in my mind, but it still has to feel like somewhat of a true story.
Q: You write all the songs, yes?
Martina: I write all the lyrics.
Q: How long have you guys been together?
Martina: Ten years. Many moons!
Dan: Now it actually feels like it's been forever. We spend a lot of time together as you can imagine. People say they spend a lot of time together who have been married for ten years, but people who also have a small business that happens to require them being together the whole time…
Martina: Yeah, we've basically been together for 50 years in normal human years.
Dan: Tina doesn't have any white hair. I have a lot.
Q: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Martina: I guess so. That word has all [these] weird connotations…but I think it would be ridiculous to be an adult woman in this day in age and be like 'I am not a feminist'. That would just sound ridiculous. I think people are afraid of that word, which is kind of dumb.
Joel: People just picture the caricature of what that means and lose sight of what the actual true meaning of it is.
Are you a feminist, Joel?
Dan: How could you not be being in this band?
Q: What's your dream gig? Who's your dream act to open for?
Joel: Prince is always our go-to dream answer, when it comes to collaborations as well as getting close to somebody.
Dan: Prince would be fucking amazing. I also talk about George Michael, because I think he's fucking awesome. I mean I realize not necessarily as Dragonette, but if Tina and George Michael did a duet, it would be really fun for me. I almost thought about Tweeting him, because he's an avid tweeter. But you don't want to harass someone bigger than you.
Collaborations are so much easier nowadays, people can email songs back and forth. And if it works great, and if it doesn't or you're too busy...
And dream gigs, I think depend. There are so many dream gigs. We played an awesome gig last night in San Diego. The venue was great, the people were really nice. That's a dream gig.
Joel: A five minute walk to the beach…
Martina: I think fucking tonight is pretty dreamy. It's sold out, it's in a beautiful room, oh my god. It just feels.. I feel so okay.
Dan: We've also played a lot of dream gigs. I remember, it was a terrifying gig, but amazing. We were standing on this stage that came up from underneath a circular bar overlooking the beach in Beirut, Lebanon and we're looking at eachother like, 'what the fuck are we doing here? This is cool, man!!" A dream gig is when you're playing for as many people as you can and you can connect with them and they're all there because they want to see you play. It doesn't matter where that is. It could be in a shed.
Joel: Could be 100 people, or it could be thousands of people. As long as the focus is right, and people are into it, then it's amazing. It doesn't matter what the number is.
Q: How do you guys feel about people pirating or illegally sharing your music?
Martina: I think there's no other way to feel about it except to appreciate that they're going to the effort to try to listen to the music.
Dan: And that they'll hopefully come to a show at some point.
Martina: I mean, I love that people buy the album and I obviously appreciate that a lot more than somebody stealing it. But we get to go and play places that our album has never come out. We don't have a bazillion labels in every country in the world that are dying to put our music out. We're an indie band, and we put our own music out and if it wasn't for the internet we wouldn't be able to go to places like Chile and Argentina and Mexico. We just played an amazing gig in Mexico in a beautiful venue, and none of our albums have ever come out there.
Dan: And the whole room is singing along to the songs. In another language- Mexicans singing in English to an album that they can't buy in Mexico. And there were 1,000 of them! It's pretty cool. So, bless the internet.
Martina: It's a new age. And obviously it changes the game, where you are going to make revenue. You're going to have to hope it comes from somewhere else. You have to accept a new paradigm.
Joel: I think the first reaction when your manager tells you, 'You got 50,000 downloads of your new record today that were illegally linked', you're like, 'Wow, that many people are trying to steal our record!' and then it shifts into confusion...like 'wait a minute'...
Q: What is your fan base like in Asia? I hear, for example, that you have a huge fan base in Japan.
Dan: We haven't played there yet. We just released our album in Japan. Of all of the territories where our album is being released, our manager tells us that the reaction from Japan is the most enthusiastic of all of them. Which is fucking great. Maybe we'll place a show in Japan. It's such a fascinating place to go and I would love for us to play there so much. So I hope there are lots of Japanese fans.
Q: Tina, you are seen as a role model for a lot of young women around the world. And certainly in North America. How do you feel about that and is there any advice you would share with young women of today?
Martina: I love that.
Dan: I love that question.
Martina: I think that a lot of young women look to the outside world to see how they are supposed to be. And I think that my advice would be, just because you don't see your particular personality and ay you represent yourself out in the world and on TV, and in magazines, doesn't mean that it's not valid and it's not awesome. You don't have to reflect what's out there. You can make up your own definition and version of being a girl.
To check out Dragonette on iTunes and download their album click here.