DeVotchKa back at Belly Up Aspen on Sunday
IF YOU GO …
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Sunday, July 21, 8:30 p.m.
How much: $25-$35
Tickets: Belly Up box office; bellyupaspen.com
DeVotchKa’s “This Night Falls Forever” took seemingly forever to make.
The Denver-based band’s latest full-length record 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 who 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 to the beloved 2011 album “100 Lovers,” but working on these film and theater projects was, as DeVotchKa singer and bandleader Nick 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 — who will headline Belly Up Aspen on Sunday — 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 before a local show in March. “But for us it was a 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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The literary nonprofit Aspen Words is restarting its writers-in-residence program that had been on pause during the pandemic. Residents include “Call Me By Your Name” author André Aciman. Public events begin June 15.