DeVotchKa's Nick Urata on the romance and dichotomy of Valentine's Day

DeVotchKa's Nick Urata on the romance and dichotomy of Valentine's Day
Anti- Records

There's hardly a band more suited to play a Valentine's show at First Avenue than DeVotchKa. This Friday -- technically the day after the proper holiday -- DeVotchKa bring their sweeping, romantic scores to Minneapolis, in hopes of bringing together couples young and old.

A Valentine's show has become a tradition for the band, but they don't exclude fans who are stranded on the desert of singledom. 2011's 100 Lovers was as sweepingly romantic as it was heartbreaking, so if you're more in the mood to find a dark corner to cry in, chances are there will be plenty of those moments at DeVotchKa's show this Friday as well.

Gimme Noise caught up with lead singer Nick Urata to chat about what makes Minneapolis a special visit for the band, how their new album Live with the Colorado Symphony came to be, and what they have in store for all the Valentine's Day lovers this year.

Gimme Noise: So, this looks like it's a short tour for you. You have a Denver date, a Minneapolis date, and a Chicago date. Why those three cities? Why up to the Midwest? You know it's cold here, right?

Nick Urata: Yes, we were way too warm in Denver and California so... [laughs] No, I don't know. You know, we had a short window to play a few shows for Valentine's Day, and we basically wanted to go to some of our favorite places that we hadn't been to in a while. We just released a record that we recorded with the Colorado Symphony. Since we can't have the entire symphony at the club with us, we have a small chamber orchestra, so we can do it in smaller spurts.

What makes Minneapolis one of your favorites?

First Avenue and the radio station there in Minneapolis, the Current... Minneapolis was really one of the first cities to embrace our sound and our little band, so we've always loved going back there. Before everybody else heard us, the Current was playing us, so we always we appreciate that.

In November, you released a new album, Live with the Colorado Symphony. It's a really beautiful, orchestral endeavor. What made you decide to record that album?

Well, it was a no-brainer. Since we had started recording, we had always tried to create an orchestra with our own instruments, and as each album progressed we started to arrange for bigger and bigger things, and when we had this opportunity.... It's kind of the way we envisioned the songs, and finally we got to do it that way.

Are you totally spoiled now, after getting to record with a 60-piece symphony orchestra?

[Laughs] It is a little bit addicting, but everything has its motivation.

What do you have planned for the Valentine's Day shows?

It's basically a scaled down version of what we did on the record. We have string, horn, brass, and percussion sections. We've done it a few times, and it works really great for a night club experience. You still get to rock out a little bit, and get the gentleness of an orchestra sound as well.

Looks like you did a Valentine's Day show last year, and every year for the past -- what, four years?

Longer than that. It seems like as long as the band has been together, we've been doing Valentine's Day shows.

What is it about Valentine's Day that makes the holiday so special to DeVotchKa?

We always enjoyed the romance and the dichotomy of it. For some people, it's a celebration of that tingly, lovey feeling that you get, and for other people, it's sort of a bittersweet day on the calendar, because you don't have somebody. We've always enjoyed that.
What's your favorite Valentine's Day memory? Do you have any horrifying Valentine's Day stories to tell? Or any really gooey ones?

I guess one of my favorite memories is kind of personal... We have a very large and gregarious sound guy that travels with us, and one year he dressed up like Cupid for us -- in a loincloth and nothing else -- and shot arrows at the crowd. I'm hoping he does it again this year... The only thing is, he might not be available [to tour with us], but that's the only thing that would hold him back.

A lot of DeVotchKa's music can get pretty heavy. 100 Lovers was romantic in a sweeping, epic kind of way--not the candy hearts and butterflies kind of way. Is this going to be a show for the jilted lovers or for the couples?

You know what, I think it's for both... And First Ave is kind of funny because we actually had someone propose to his girl the last time we were there. I'm sure this happens to a lot of other bands, and we always get letters and cards that say, "I met my betrothed at your show," and that's part of it. We get those kinds of things all the time. We're bringing people together! [The show is] not only a good place to bring people you already love, but to also meet people.

DeVotchKa. 18+, $25, 9 p.m. on Friday, February 15 at First Avenue. Click here.

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