The audience at the “Good Morning America” concert series, staged in New York’s Central Park, took shelter under umbrellas and hooded slickers. But the mid-July rain slid right off Martina Sorbara. Pairing jean shorts with a motorcycle jacket, and long bangs with two partial side shaves, Dragonette’s red-lipped lead singer looked every bit its dual-natured namesake — a sprightly, poppy fire-breather.
“I was so relieved when I heard it wasn’t in a TV studio. That’s where I turn into a robot,” Sorbara said the day before. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re playing a Central Park morning concert, and it’s going to be fun.”
The ABC show usually features acts more recognizable than Dragonette on its nationally televised concert series, like Counting Crows, Brad Paisley and Demi Lovato. But the continued momentum of a 2-year-old song — not even its own — got the Canadian three-piece the high-visibility gig, and has opened other significant doors.
“Good Morning America” often played “Hello,” DJ/producer Martin Solveig’s worldwide dance-pop hit featuring Dragonette (and Sorbara’s quirky vocals), on bumpers going in and out of commercial breaks. Since its release in 2010, the track has been featured in several ad spots, including a memorable one for Trident Gum; garnered more than 24 million views for its official video on YouTube; and went platinum in seven countries (and gold in the United States). After checking out more of its music, “Good Morning America” invited the band to perform “Hello” and “Let It Go,” the first single off its third album, “Bodyparts”, out Sept. 25 on its own Dragonette Inc.
“This band has lots of weird fans like that, who we don’t know and find out about as happy surprises,” manager Neil Harris says.
Dragonette — Sorbara, bassist/producer Dan Kurtz and drummer Joel Stouffer — took the hard road to independence through a major-label deal with Mercury that fell apart in 2010, after the label opted not to give stateside releases to the band’s first two albums, 2007’s Galore and 2009’s Fixin to Thrill, licensing them instead to New York-based indie I Surrender.
“It petrified us a little. You like all these people, and they like you, and nothing you want to happen happens,” Sorbara says. “We felt this [independent] option was much more suited to the kind of career we want to have, as opposed to getting into another scary relationship. Through the experience of trying really hard to keep moving after parting ways with Mercury, we learned all the ropes of doing it ourselves. Why not keep going?”
The band’s DIY move was further empowered by excitement around “Hello” and other collaborations with big EDM names, like “Fire in Your New Shoes” with Kaskade. The tracks upped Dragonette’s profile internationally and introduced other lucrative opportunities. “There’s a business around hit records around the world,” Harris says. “It’s like, ‘Play my nightclub in Manila for this corporate sponsorship.’ Things like that were good and put money in their bank account, helping fund the new record and all the indie promotion people we hired.”
The collaborations also made Sorbara an in-demand topline writer and performer. Harris says she receives two to three tracks a day to potentially write to. “I love the opportunity,” Sorbara says. “Not only do you have the chance to jump outside of your creative circle, you get to jump into somebody else’s mind.” She’s currently working on “one or two” such songs, Harris says, before the release of “Bodyparts”. “She’ll only do it if she loves it and feels inspired by it.”
With an album full of its own music just as snarky and danceable as “Hello,” Dragonette might finally take the United States — this time, on its own terms. The band sets out on a two-week, 15-date coastal U.S. tour on Sept. 11, starting in New York and ending in Seattle. Presales “were way better than anybody expected,” Harris says, “and way better than before ‘Hello.'”