Twennies Serves up Doses of Nostalgia and Futuristic Danceability
TORONTO | WORDS BY MILES FORRESTER | MUSIC - Issue 10
Juno and SOCAN award winner Martina Sorbara has been making dance-floor focussed indie-pop through her music project, Dragonette, since a self-titled EP in 2005. Following 2007’s debut album, Galore, and a tour with Basement-Jaxx, Dragonette has released three more albums and a surfeit of body-moving singles and collaborations. Twennies, her latest album, produced by Dan Farber, takes the long view of her prolific career. Explaining the title, Sorbara says, “It’s like the diminutive of ‘twenties,’ as if me and ‘twenties’ are super close. So I call it Twennies”—dropping the T like a true Torontonian. Its euphoric first single, “New Suit”, is an anthem for navigating a present moment that’s simultaneously nostalgic and accelerated. Sorbara joins smART
"Twennies" Cover Art
Magazine to introduce the album’s sonic palette, and what charges her batteries, and how she’s seen the music industry change.
sM | How does Twennies balance the past and future for you?
MS ─ It’s got retro vibes in it. I’ve been feeling very nostalgic for the “blog era,” early 2000s—I don’t wanna give away anything, but that’s around when I was in my twenties. Back then it was just me, writing a song with vocals, guitar, and piano. At a certain point, it felt really confining. I started listening to music more broadly and discovering all the different things that pop music meant. I went really far in that direction. Because this album is a mashup of digital and acoustic sounds, I think I’m gonna be more reliant on live instruments than before. I’ve dubbed a new term for my genre, which is “electroacoustic.” Prior tours were very track-driven, almost a mashup of a DJ set and a live set. So I’m going back to my early twenties, and we’re in the 2020s, which is where the futuristic element comes in. I feel like I’ve taken all of my musical experience and passions, and I’ve thrown it all into this album, and voilà.
"New Suit" Cover Art
sM | Nostalgia gets a bad rap—what’s the power in looking back to the past with a bit of a romantic hue?
MS ─ Are you talking about content? Nostalgic lyrics? Pining? If so, then I think that, in music, nostalgia is important and beautiful. There’s a difference between nostalgia and being “derivative.” You don’t wanna hear the past too loudly in a song you’re making now. But to be nostalgic about certain sensibilities, I think that is how we make new genres. You bounce the new stuff off the old stuff, and it becomes its own thing.
sM | What do you think was the biggest false advertising about your twenties?
MS ─ For me, there was this idea of having to put on a show, that I was supposed to be a larger-than-life entity, an extra hue of flamboyance. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older now and I’m out of it, or I’m just in a different place in my life. Maybe everyone in their twenties feels like that, but that was what the “false advertising” felt like for me. It took me a long time to discover and internalize that the main thing that matters for an artist is authenticity. The killer of a great song is a lack of authenticity. If you can’t feel the real texture and fabric of where that person’s coming from, it can’t penetrate. It’s so freeing to recognize that the product is me and my real feelings.
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sM | How have you seen the industry change, for better or worse?
MS ─ Obviously, social media. It’s really great for some people. We don’t have to have somebody else show the world—I can show the world who I am constantly. But it’s so much work. Instead of a few days of press here and there, it’s an everyday job. It’s a lot to ask of artists. I have to be a humourist and an editor—all these things. I used to just be a songwriter and a performer, and that is a lot of work. That’s where my creative energy should be. Now I have to diffuse it in all these other directions. Jesus. It’s a lot. I’m supposed to show my floppy, messy, boring life. Is that exciting to show people on a daily basis? I try to find artists I love who don’t participate—or, at least, don’t as much as they could. It’s doable.
I remember when I was working with this graphic designer. He was like, “Hey, you should check this out. It’s like Twitter for photos.” That was Instagram. I imagine it was probably so enjoyable then. Now it just sucks your time. I still have a MySpace sweatshirt that was given to me at South by Southwest. I hold onto it like, “Oh, those days.” Speaking of nostalgia, God! Such an innocent time.
sM | What other ways have you been exploring your artistry since 2016’s Royal Blues?
MS ─ I’ve allowed myself to consider myself a visual artist. The more years I’m alive and living in this body, operating my creative mind, the more I realize that’s what I’m alive for. That’s what keeps my batteries charging: making things. I got really into sculptural ceramics, and I currently have a bunch of stuff at the framers. My gallerist friend is going to have a show with me if I can get past my complete self-consciousness. To me, framing art is the ultimate ego vulnerability. I kept thinking, “How dare you frame that art?” I had to live with that feeling for a while. Then, slowly, I would look at the piece and say, “No, that’s a nice thing.” I used to beat myself up about working on visual art because if I’m working on visual art, that means I’m not working on music, “and that’s not your career.” These days, I’m aware that those things are interwoven. They feed each other. I can’t survive without both.
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