DeVotchKa goes back to its roots at The Temporary
The Aspen Times
IF YOU GO …
What: An Evening with DeVotchKa
Where: The Temporary at Willits
When: Friday, March 22, 8 p.m.
How much: $20-$29
The majestic sweep of DeVotchKa’s cinematic sound has landed the Denver-based rock band on the grandest of stages in recent years, including already legendary performances with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Red Rocks Ampitheatre.
But the four-piece’s latest stop in the mountains brings DeVotchKa to the kind of tiny room where it started. The band will headline The Temporary at Willits — with a capacity of less than 300 — tonight.
“It takes us back to our roots,” DeVotchKa singer and bandleader Nick Urata said in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles. “We spent years and years playing rooms like that, so it’s kind of our thing. The band feels at home in intimate settings.”
DeVotchKa’s first stop at the venue also will be its last. The Temporary is slated to close in early May, as its lease expires and its nonprofit operators pursue building a permanent nearby home for the Arts Center at Willits (expect tears from Temporary staff and regulars when the band plays “How It Ends”).
The band’s newest album, “This Night Falls Forever,” was released in 2018 after more than six years of off-and-on recording and writing sessions. The long creative process was slowed by frequent creative detours to other projects like the annual Colorado Symphony performances, DeVotchKa’s spin on the Sondheim classic “Sweeney Todd” at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in 2016 and a Hollywood Bowl screening/concert performance of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” in 2017, along with an increasing load of film score work for the band that broke out nationally with its soundtrack to “Little Miss Sunshine” in 2006.
These weird and wild side gigs may have kept the band from releasing a follow-up the beloved 2011 album “100 Lovers,” but working on these film and theater projects was, as Urata put it, “the kind of stuff that we used to dream about when we played crappy little coffee shops and parties.”
Urata and his bandmates finished the new record in 2017, but then when they were delayed by a record label shuffle, they went back in and tinkered with the songs more.
“It took too long,” Urata said. “But for us it was super positive thing. We started having all these dream collaborations while we were working on the album and at the time we thought, ‘Well, we’ll just do both and it’ll be fine.’ But it drew out the recording process.”
You can hear the sonic imprint of those ambitious and theatrical undertakings on the new record, with strings and cinematic touches like the Sergio Leone/Ennio Morricone whistling and the classic Hollywood swells of violins before the chorus on the album-closing “Second Chance.”
“We learned a lot and tried to bring some of the process and the grandeur of the scores we were working with onto the record,” Urata said. “It’s what we always aspired to be. It’s the record we always aspired to make.”
From its humble start in the late 1990s, it was improbable that DeVotchKa would rise from Denver musical oddity to internationally known, Grammy-nominated rock star status. More improbable is that the band wouldn’t compromise on its journey to the mainstream — retaining its offbeat blend of operatic drama and international sounds through the breakthrough of “How It Ends” and “Til the End of Time” on the “Little Miss Sunshine” soundtrack and in the years since.
The band still considers Denver home — and all four members still have actual homes there — but they’ve spent increasing amounts of time in Los Angeles in recent years to record and work on movies. Being away from Colorado and being a little homesick, Urata said, has helped fuel the band’s creative fires and inform the often-wistful mood of DeVotchKa’s songs.
“Early in our journey we all agreed we would get into a van and try to take our show on the road, wherever it would take us,” he said. “There is something about the process of leaving, seeing your home disappear in the rearview mirror, that opens you up to new creativity.”
And after 22 years, 11 albums and a growing list of odd side gigs, there is still uncharted terrain for DeVotchKa. Urata said, in all sincerity, that they want to make a Christmas album: “I know that sounds like a joke, but that’s always been a dream of ours.”
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