Nick Urata may not have wings sprouting out of his back or a cloth diaper covering his junk, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a modern embodiment of the arrow-slinging cherub. Hopped up on human growth hormone. And with a flamenco-leaning axe and soaring pipes in place of the bow. Urata and his melodic co-conspirators in Devotchka—filling The Fillmore with amour February 12—have been sound-tracking Denver area devotees’ V-Days for the better part of a decade.
“We get lots of letters from people who’ve met or fallen in love at one of our shows. If we’re stimulating a little romance, maybe we’re doing some good.”
The colorful concoction that borrowed its moniker from Clockwork Orange—a metaphor for robotic citrus—is easily Colorado’s finest, not to mention most eclectic, musical export. Devotchka’s potent aural potion is a melting pot of influences, from Mariachi to Polish, Gypsy to Slavic, Romani to Greek. The resulting synthesis facilitates a sonic getaway for lovers who can’t always afford airfare to Mexico City or Rome. A travel agency for Imagination Land—an allusion to another entertainment enterprise with its roots in The Rockies. Les Claypool, the low end virtuoso behind a certain crude cartoon’s theme tune, cherry-picked Devotchka to warmup a string of dates.
“Strip away the outfits and he’s just another band geek like the rest of us. It was cool ’cause he was actually aware of our band and hand-picked all of the opening acts for that tour. There was a lot of musical knowledge being exchanged backstage.”
Urata and his collaborators certainly weren’t relegated to the receiving end of said green room IQ. Devotchka’s four core members—Tom Hagerman, Jeanie Schroder, Shawn King and ringmaster Urata—have collectively mastered at least ten instruments, from violin to theremin, trumpet to accordion, bouzouki to sousaphone. Schroder was discovered blowing the Oompa Loompa tune on tuba; King was the drag queen drummer in a (mostly) all-grrrl punk band.
“In the beginning, it was hard to find anyone that would commit to the band. I kind of had an open door policy back then. One by one, the current lineup materialized. And we all have similar goals, musically.”
The vitality of Devotchka’s unified vision has been apparent for some time now. The Grammy nod for Little Miss Sunshine was obviously a major breakthrough. Then there’s Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, among other festivals where they’ve emerged as favorites. I Love You Phillip Morris, the recently released film starring Jim Carrey as a flaming con artist (in one of the most outlandish true stories ever committed to celluloid), is destined to be yet another highlight. No wonder Urata was included in a list of top 10 up-and-coming film composers by Hollywood Reporter. 100 Lovers, the breathtaking new full-length due March 1 (conjured once again in the Arizona desert), certainly doesn’t skimp on cinematic masterpieces.
Forget the box of chocolates. Give your main squeeze the gift of squeezebox. Or meet your future squeeze within earshot.
As seen in the February 2011 issue of 303 Magazine.