Genre-defying, multi-instrumentalists DeVotchKa are back with a brand new album called This Night Falls Forever (out 8/24 on Concord Records) and their dynamically eclectic musicality has grown even more expansive and adventurous. For our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One, we chatted with DeVotchKa frontman Nick Urata about the band’s new album, the atmospheric differences between sold out arena shows and intimate club gigs, songwriting work ethic, his film score work, and much more!
NoiseTrade: I read that your new album This Night Falls Forever was motivated in part by the differences you’ve experienced between playing large, arena-scale shows and smaller, intimate club gigs. What are the best and worst parts of each experience and how did they give birth to your new collection of songs?
Nick Urata: I’ve always been most inspired by the small scale, bare bones, punk-rock style shows. The audience have to endure less-than-ideal conditions, and you’re right there with them. It makes me cherish the fact that people have connected with our music. I wanted to keep that connection going and make sure these songs were worthy of it. When you are moved by any piece of music, it’s a rare and wonderful thing that you can’t really explain.
NT: I’m absolutely smitten with the late summer night vibe of album opener “Straight Shot.” Tell us about the musical and lyrical inspirations of this propulsively slinky track.
Urata: I’m so happy you picked up on the summer night vibe. Those drama filled nights of youth, where everything seems so huge, they shape who you are. I found myself constantly drifting back there. New York City loomed large in my formative years…all the music, neighborhoods, and romantic misfires I stumbled upon…I hope you can somehow hear them in this tune. And although my short lived window into the city is long gone, I always find some train platform or exit ramp that never changes, and it brings me right back to those nights.
NT: Your NoiseTrade sampler also features the indie rock grit of “Angels” and the chaotic charm of “Lose You In The Crowd.” What are the stories behind the writing and recording of each of these new songs (especially the spark for the string work on “Lose You In The Crowd”)?
Urata: The fact that you heard these songs and are asking me about them is a huge deal for us. These looked great on paper but bringing them into reality proved to be a great challenge. There was a long stretch where I thought they would never be completed. I had a lyric book that I filled after the last album. It fell out of my guitar case and was missing for years. I tried to stay positive and reconstruct what I could remember, but it didn’t work, and I thought there would never be another album. Then one day out of the blue, my friend who had made the guitar case found it behind a bookshelf. I got it back, and the first three pages were the words to “Lose You in the Crowd.” I don’t remember writing this, but I was back in business.
The lyric book also contained the song “Angels.” I always have loved the idea of “the sleep of angels” and the fragility of a safe place to lay your head. It speaks to the times when you must project an air of certainty to those in your charge while deep down inside you are quaking in your boots.
There is a sort of wishful thinking behind both of these songs. That wish found its way into the album title: This Night Falls Forever.
NT: You’re notorious for having a strong work ethic when it comes to your songwriting – approaching it with daily consistency instead of just randomly waiting for the muse to visit you. Where did this creative mindset originate for you and are there any other songwriters that you are aware of or admire that employ the same principled regularity?
Urata: It started as therapy. When I was trying to get this band off the ground, we had to work a lot of shitty jobs. I would literally run home to work on my songs, mostly to combat the notion that I would die in this dead end occupation and none of them would ever see the light of day. There was one particular day I randomly decided to plug my Casio into a few weird effects pedals I had laying around. That exact recording opens the film Little Miss Sunshine. What if I had gone out with my friends that day? I probably wouldn’t be talking with you right now. The idea that I could have missed that haunts me. I think of it every time I feel lazy.
NT: Finally, your impressive work as a film score composer – Little Miss Sunshine, Crazy Stupid Love, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Paddington – certainly keeps you busy as well. First, how does your film work inform your band work (and vice versa)? Second, what are some of your favorite film scores from other composers that you would recommend listeners check out?
Urata: When you score a film, the story and the performances often dictate where the music should go, so you regularly have to step out of your comfort zone. This has led me down all kinds of musical pathways that I never would have traveled. I think it has influenced my song writing and production style in a very unique way.