Stylistic Melting Pot: DeVotchKa’s Flair for the Ethnic and the Extraordinary

Denver’s DeVotchKa ain’t your typical indie-rock band. Fusing elements of Slavic, Greek, and Latin styles with punk—and wielding instrumentation that includes bouzouki, sousaphone, violin, accordion, and guitarrón—the quartet sounds as if it just arrived off a ship from the Russian Federation after making several port stops throughout the Mediterranean.
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“We try to borrow a lot of things to make our songs more interesting and to keep us entertained,” explains DeVotchKa’s Jeanie Schroder.

The musical endgame of the band’s “wandering ears” has caught the attention of not just music fans, but also people who need unique soundtracks to capture a viewer’s imagination. DeVotchKa songs have graced film trailers (Everything Is Illuminated), television commercials (Gears of War 2), and the multiple Academy Award-nominated 2006 film, Little Miss Sunshine (where the soundtrack was also nominated for a Grammy).

From a production standpoint, however, there is a wonderfully organic process to crafting such a blend of idiosyncratic sounds.

“It’s all trial and error,” admits Schroder. “We have this weird and magical chemistry that helps us come up with unusual parts. For example, we might start off a song with a 4/4 rock feel, and then Shawn [King, percussionist] will suggest a Latin beat. That’s how our song ‘We’re Leaving’ was transformed into a Mariachi-style waltz. We try out a lot of ideas, and nobody tends to poo-poo anything, so we end up with a fusion of very strange motifs that somehow blend together into a cohesive band vision.”