A cross-pollination of numerous influences, including cabaret, spaghetti Westerns, norteño, punk, and the immigrant dance music of Eastern Europe, Colorado-based quartet DeVotchKa emerged as unlikely indie heroes in the mid-2000s.
Along with bands like Calexico and Gogol Bordello, they infused modern indie music with a global flavor, eventually finding widespread success in 2006 with their Grammy-nominated soundtrack to the hit indie film Little Miss Sunshine. Signing with Anti- in 2008, they released their landmark fourth album, A Mad & Faithful Telling. Following the world tour in support of 2011’s cinematic 100 Lovers album, DeVotchKa entered a hiatus, regrouping for 2018’s This Night Falls Forever.
DeVotchKa was formed in Denver by multi-instrumentalists Nick Urata (vocals, guitar, trumpet), Tom Hagerman (violin, accordion), Jeanie Schroder (sousaphone, bass), and percussionist Shawn King. Originally a backing back for local burlesque shows, they recorded their debut album, Supermelodrama, in 2000, garnering numerous accolades and touring with such luminaries as Calexico, 16 Horsepower, Flogging Molly, and Archer Prewitt. Una Volta followed in May 2003. Issued by the Boulder, Colorado indie Cicero, DeVotchKa promoted the album through a tour with noted burlesque/fetish entertainer Dita Von Teese. With the release of their third album, 2004’s How It Ends, the band found a wider audience thanks to its title cut being used in, among other places, a major campaign for the video game Gears of War 2, and a trailer for the move Everything Is Illuminated. It was followed in 2006 by Curse Your Little Heart, an EP of covers that included Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Last Beat of My Heart” and the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs.” That same year, they composed the lush score for the independent film Little Miss Sunshine, earning a Grammy nomination for Best Soundtrack, bringing DeVotchKa mainstream exposure.
Signing with revered indie, Anti-, the band delivered A Mad and Faithful Telling in early 2008, reaching the number nine slot on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. A lengthy world tour followed, including stops at major festivals like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Bumbershoot. After doing more soundtrack work, this time for the 2009 comedy I Love You Phillip Morris, the group returned to the studio for 2011’s moody and triumphant 100 Lovers. Embarking on another world tour, they collaborated with the Colorado Symphony on the 2012 concert album Live with the Colorado Symphony. Over the next several years, Urata became increasingly involved in his own film composition career, scoring movies like Crazy Stupid Love, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Paddington, and the Netflix series A Series of Unfortunate Events. Meanwhile, the band regrouped for a lengthy recording session, eventually returning in 2018 with their sixth album, This Night Falls Forever, this time via Concord Records. ~ Johnny Loftus, Rovi
The Joy Formidable
A Welsh rock trio with a predilection for delivering stadium-sized riffs with shoegazey vistas and dreamy post-punk riffage, the Joy Formidable emerged in 2011 with the fiery Big Roar, which effectively paired ’90s alt-rock sonic might with indie pop smarts. Taking a cue from bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, My Bloody Valentine, and Arcade Fire, the trio continued to push their already expansive sound further on subsequent offerings like Wolf’s Law (2013) and AAARTH (2018), while maintaining the hook-driven indie rock foundation laid down on their chart-topping debut.
After spending several years with the post-punk outfit Sidecar Kisses, vocalist/guitarist Ritzy Bryan and bassist Rhydian Dafydd left the lineup and launched the Joy Formidable, drawing heavily from shoegaze and noisy alt-rock to create their new group’s sound. Formed in North Wales in 2007, the band later resettled in London, where original drummer Justin Stahley was replaced by Matt Thomas. The Joy Formidable began building a buzz in 2008, making appearances at several British festivals and earning high marks from publications like The Guardian, which recommended the band’s “darkly joyous soft-loud racket.”
A Balloon Called Moaning After releasing several singles, the group issued the mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning in early 2009. Tours with the Editors and Passion Pit followed, and the Joy Formidable issued a live album, First You Have to Get Mad, before signing with Black Bell Records, an independent label run by Passion Pit member Ayad Al Adhamy. With Black Bell’s support, A Balloon Called Moaning was released stateside in 2010. The Joy Formidable toured throughout the year and kicked off 2011 with the international release of The Big Roar, their well-received full-length studio debut. The band spent the following year writing its second record while on the road supporting Muse. The resulting Wolf’s Law, which was recorded in the small town of Casco, Maine, arrived in early 2013 and peaked at the number 51 slot on the Billboard 200 in the U.S., and at number 41 on the U.K. album charts.
Hitch The following year saw the band issue a series of monthly vinyl-only singles sung in their native Welsh, and in early 2016 they announced via Facebook that they would be releasing their much-anticipated third studio long-player, Hitch, later that March. The record was preceded by the single “The Last Thing on My Mind,” which was accompanied by a video that included a montage of scantily clad men — a comment on the over-sexualization of women in the media. The group went on to promote the record with a tour that spanned the U.K. and Europe, as well as playing an opening slot for Foo Fighters across North America. In 2017, the Joy Formidable got to work writing and recording their fourth record. Riffing on the Welsh word for “bear,” the album, titled AAARTH, arrived in September 2018.