Behind the Music interview: DeVotchKa’s Nick Urata


Hailing from the band that helped provide the now-signature soundtrack for Little Miss Sunshine, DeVotchKa’s Nick Urata sat down with us for an interview.

Behind the Music is an ongoing series that seeks to interview and gain an introspective on both established and up-and-coming composers. These composers, who have worked for everything from television to film to commercials, share their experiences, work ethic, and more. For this edition, we interview the composer behind the sinister opening theme music to Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and member of vocal ensemble DeVotchKa, Nick Urata.

Starting up all the way back in 1997, DeVotchKa began to make a name for itself as a band heavily infused with the indie rock scene, leading to a sizable following despite its underground nature. The band’s popularity led them to new heights, following their increased exposure after their single, “How It Ends,” appeared in a trailer for the game Gears of War 2. Not stopping there, Urata and the rest of DeVotchKa provided the charming soundtrack to the 2006 comedy-drama Little Miss Sunshine, gaining further recognition in the process.

Nick Urata has not let the exposure stop him from adding his flavor of music in the entertainment world, composing music for films such as Crazy Stupid Love, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and Ruby Sparks. Urata’s versatility has allowed him to work on different genres, from comedies to thrillers to the classic-sounding theme song from the Netflix series A Series of Unfortunate Events. The Netflix series is among the most prominent topics of our interview with him, which can be read down below!

Hidden Remote: To get things started, I figured it’d be fun to dig into your background a little! Reading parts of your biography online led me to a time in your young life where you left your native home to go play music in Chicago. How did your fascination with music start and why did it prompt you to leave for Chicago to pursue it?

Nick Urata: I was always drawn to music from my earliest memories. It’s always been the one thing that I could never resist. I was lucky to have a grandfather who was a professional musician. He instilled in me the work ethic that it takes to master your instrument. It was a random series of events that led me to Chicago, but I had music friends with roots there and when I landed in the city, I fell in love with it. There was music everywhere.

More from Netflix

HR: You’ve led a long career as a member of the vocal ensemble, DeVotchKa. What would you say were some of the biggest musical influences for your work in the group?

NU: Those years in Chicago were very influential. At the time, when I was searching for my musical identity there seemed to be this shift in the music scene. It was time to stop hiding behind effects and production and get back to basics.

There were definitely a few experiences from those years that shaped me. I opened for Jeff Buckley in an empty bar in New Jersey, and watched him sing Hallelujah with just a Strat. We got tour around the southwestern desert with Calexico and a 7-piece Mariachi band, and later with Gogel Bordello on their early tours. Those experiences had a huge influence on our music.

HR: DeVotchKa seemed to gain a larger audience after exposure in the Gears of War 2 trailer and the soundtrack for Little Miss Sunshine. Do you feel as though your exposure to the mainstream has encouraged a change in style or how do you feel it has affected your approach towards music?

NU: Little Miss Sunshine did blow the doors open. If anything, it enabled and emboldened us to keep going in the direction we were already heading. It is an inspiring thing to know you finally have an audience. It just made us work even harder.

HR: One of your most recent projects involves producing music for the A Series of Unfortunate Events. How did you get involved with writing and producing some of the show’s music, including the grimly catchy opening theme?

NU: I was lucky to meet up with the legendary director Barry Sonnenfeld early on in the show’s development. We gave him a bunch of Devotchka records. He connected with the music and thought I could bring something unique to the show.

HR: What was your thought process while creating your portion of the show’s music, in terms of trying to establish the appropriate tone?

NU: I was very familiar with the books which was a big advantage. You really need to form a bond with the subject you are scoring in order to conjure up the right music. Barry’s beautiful imagery together with Neil Patrick Harris and the cast’s superb performances definitely guided the score where it needed to go.

HR: Is there any musical number or piece from the show that you are particularly proud of? You had a hand in developing a bulk of the show’s songs, so I assume there’s plenty to choose from!

NU: I guess the highlight was the end of season one, with the song “Not How The Story Goes.” I got to put Daniel Handler’s (the author of the series) poetic, funny, and moving lyrics to my music. The other highlight was working with this unbelievably talented cast who performed the song and brought it to life. It was a great moment in the progression of the show. A perfect way to end what was an amazing collaboration of so many artists from so many art forms.

Photo Credit: A Series Of Unfortunate Events/Netflix Image Acquired from Netflix Media Center
Photo Credit: A Series Of Unfortunate Events/Netflix Image Acquired from Netflix Media Center /

HR: Before we wrap this up, a couple of more personal questions for the readers will do! Firstly, your interest in film and shows is crystal clear, given your continued involvement in the art forms. What would you say is your favorite film and show ever and why?

NU: I have so many favorites – it’s hard to narrow down. I’m thinking about those movies that come on and no matter how many times you’ve seen them, you have to watch and you find something new every time. The unique power of film is the ability to capture the world and more importantly, humanity. When you see a great film and you feel that tug on your heartstrings, it’s really reminding us of the connection and common bond we all share, which is that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves.

HR: Are there any future projects coming up you’re excited about?

NU: Devotchka, our newest album, This Night Falls Forever, comes out at the end of this month. I’ve also been scoring Davy Rothbart’s latest documentary. It is the best doc I’ve worked on and has been accurately described as Boyhood meets Boyz in the Hood.

HR: Lastly, is there any advice that you would like to bestow up on the readers and potential music hopefuls looking to break into the industry?

NU: I love this question because I am living proof that a person can find their purpose in this world. If you want to pursue any endeavor, make sure it is the thing that you cannot stop doing. The thing that gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you up all night. If you find that thing, you’ve already done the hardest part. The rest will take care of itself.

Next. Films Netflix should drop in August. dark

Nick Urata’s work can be heard in the opening theme for A Series of Unfortunate Events streaming on Netflix.