photo credit: emily driskill.
kevin devine has been one of the more prolific writers of our generation. it’s just a shame more people haven’t gotten into him yet. he’s currently on the promo run for his freshly released fifth-studio album, brother’s blood. the album just dropped on april 28, 2009, and comes off of a very, very early leak.
if you’ve ever been a fan of his previous work, you’d hardly be disappointed with the new stuff, despite a small departure from his older material. there are a few more rock songs than you may be used to, but it all comes together on brother’s blood.
he’s currently out on tour with the goddamn band, sarah jaffe and miniature tigers, which will be hitting texas very soon. may 10th cannot come quick enough.
in his interview, kev dev touched base on the leak, response on the album and the intimacy of his live shows. be sure to peep his myspace for tour dates and check him out when he’s in your city.
hit the jump for the interview.
photo credit: emily driskill.
Roshan Bhatt, weworemasks.com: Your album release show tonight at the Bowery Ballroom sold out in 5 days, is that right? how does that feel?
Kevin Devine: Yeah, I think that’s right, but not to be a stickler, I think it sold out in 3 or 4.
WWM: That’s awesome. How did that feel?
KD: Being from New York, I grew up going to and jostling for positions at shows in that club. For me, the kind of band we are and the kind of artist I am, that’s the premier venue in New York. There’s bigger venues, there’s people that sells more tickets, but I don’t think there is any place that’s cooler. There’s bands like Wilco and guys like Morrissey that are looking to play a prestigious club show under their normal capacity, they always do it there. It’s the best sounding venue, and it goes shot for shot with some of the bigger venues. They have great equipment and great people. For us, we’ve sold out a show before, but it was the day of, and I was shocked, shocked, shocked. So it felt good and I felt really really lucky.
WWM: What is your biggest expectation going into this tour?
KD: I try to keep as free of expectation as possible, because it can easily lead to resentment. For me, some of our expectations have already been exceeded because some of the presale numbers are…man. This is the first time I’ve ever done a full headline tour in the US. Coming from someone who has been making records for a while, I’ve only been a regularly touring artist for the past 3 years, more or less. I got a late start. Not until Put Your Ghost to Rest came out.
We were seeing places with a strong response, and for me, I’ve always been a guy to show up the day of. So for a town that I’m not from, 30,40, 100 people buying tickets — that’s insane. I have a lot more infrastructural help this time around, but a lot of stuff is DIY, compared to the bands I’m friends with. Especially in the last 2 and a half years, after I was dropped from Capitol, we’ve been fighting for our lives. I really cherish it, though. If we’re in a place on this tour, where I can turn around and can say none of the shows were total duds, and i didn’t lose a shirt, then we’ve definitely turned a corner as to where I’m sitting in the world.
WWM: It’s been a while since The Goddamn Band has come out with you, at least to Houston. Is there any reason behind that?
KD: The first thing is, there’s a whole lot of people in the god damn band, and it always depends on who’s available. Sometimes, I don’t necessarily have the money, simply put. There’s an economic consideration. Some of the guys won’t be on the tour because they have full time jobs and can’t get 6 weeks off to go on tour. I always have a system to where some of the guys can come out where they can come out and play.
It’s probably a little more work than an average band, but it’s like keeping 18 people totally up to speed so people can jump in depending on who is or isn’t available. Sometimes, the tour might have been requested to be solo. It’s not like I said, “Fuck those guys,” or anything.
WWM: You’re very personal with your live show in the sense that you are very open to taking requests, joking, making connections with who comes and what not. You’re very good at drawing people’s attention, even those not familiar with your work. How have you developed your stage show over the years?
KD: With regards to the first part, that’s a night by night thing. Sometimes I’m more like any other person. Some entertainers are able to be in the worst mood, and when they get on stage, it’s like “Lights, camera, action.” They can perform and you’d never know anything was wrong. I’m personally not one of those people. If I’m in a bad place or having trouble, you’ll be able to tell when I’m up there. If I’m in a good mood, what’s better? What could be better than going up and playing songs, especially if people are paying to see it?
It might sound like bullshit, but I’m a really lucky dude. I’m not always happy. Whether I’m famous or not, or rich or not. I’m not any of those things. But this is my job, and it’s great. Even if I never get on the cover of any magazine, I just get to do this the way I want to. That makes it easy to develop that personal thing you see in the shows. I’m lucky that these people come out to have an experience, and if I’m able to help encapsulate their thoughts and make them relate to me and have fun with it, I will.
I’ve probably played 1500 or a 1000 shows in 10 years. That develops a lot from NOT getting attention and playing shows where people don’t give a shit. You find ways to make them give a shit, or you stop playing. I just figured I should be myself regardless of what the show is, what the other bands are, where it is, you know? This might sound exceedingly self-aware, but the thing that people react to most about my music, is that it might not even be my music. They just know I’m telling the truth. They might like the vocals, guitar or arrangements, I just think they see a connection because they know they’re not being fucked around. And they’re not.
WWM: Most definitely. Let’s move onto your new album. Brother’s Blood leaked about 2 months early, and you handled it just about as well as any artist possibly could.
KD: Thank you.
WWM: What are your most current thoughts as you approached your release date?
KD: It seems to be the most uniformly positive-reviewed album I’ve made. There will be [negative reviews], and there might already be one, but I haven’t seen it. It’s been an overwhelming response from people who are already familiar with my work. It’s also the most promotional and biggest press ramp-up to what I’ve done, too. There’s a stronger response from those people, too.
In a sense, I feel like maybe whoever leaked the album helped in one regard, because it got them talking about the album way ahead of time. It enabled them to hear it. I have an ego like everyone else. I’m not the most ego maniacal musician, but you wanna like what you make. You better like what you make, because you’ve been through a lot to make it.
I love the record and have since we made it, and I’ve always known that it’s my favorite so far. I think it’s the best work I’ve done so far and the band killed it. I don’t know how the response will be, but it didn’t even matter. If I go down swinging with this one, then I’ll figure it out. The fact that it’s been validated by people is extremely rewarding. It definitely didn’t hurt, but people don’t buy records anymore anyway right?
KD: If we sell as many records as it looks like we might, it won’t be a major benchmark, but we won’t have too hard of a time to meet our prior best. If we do that, then I guess everything will work out okay. I’d be naive to say that the album leaking was negative.
WWM: It’s always cool to see a musician have that perspective with album leaks. Sometimes an artist’s album will leak, and they’ll obviously be bitter about it. You could just tell if you see an artist whose album leaked a month before hand, and you see them live. You see them kind of weirded out that people know the music already.
KD: With things like that, it’s weird. How could you be mad at the kids? You don’t get mad at wind, right? It’s such a larger issue than just the music industry. You’re talking about a technologically advancing society that’s perpetually in flux. How do you deal with that from all angles? Like in 5 years, newspapers will be completely obsolete?
WWM: I was just laid off from one, so I feel you on that one.
KD: It’s an industry that’s been around for 250-300 years. I mean however long there’s been ink. That might go completely digital, you know. There’s a lot of things happening that are bigger than a kid downloading my album off of a fucking torrent. I also think it’s OK to acknowledge that it sucks, but it doesn’t suck for the reasons I hear a lot of the people complaining about. It just means that I felt was a really cool part of a process that has changed and will never go back.
I’ve always liked having a date where I could hear my favorite band’s music. I mean there were bootlegs and demos. The first time I ever got something beforehand was the Figure 8 demos for Elliott Smith, and the record was close to what I had. And I felt weird that I did it and was thinking to myself, “Why didn’t I just wait?” That’s the culture now. I’m 29. There are kids that are 18 who haven’t had a conscious living experience that didn’t involve the internet.
It’s tricky, but I firmly believe that if you make good stuff, you’re true to yourself, you’re good to the people who come see you and you challenge yourself creatively, they’ll keep coming. If they don’t come back, then you go do something else.
WWM: With Brother’s Blood, do you feel like you are covering new territory as far as subject matter?
KD: I feel like I am a fanatic writer. I write about the economy, the people, the fears, the lights and darks. The mundane observations, your internal crises, the things people do and the reasons they do them. I guess I’m in the middle of all of that. Also, relationships and trying to understand your own psychology, along with everything else. But all my records are about that. Each one is just a different cross section of the puzzle.
Musically, this album took off in a lot of different directions than we planned to. We came out with a record that was more textural and varied in sound, and the only conscious decision we made was to unshackle ourselves from any binding decisions. This was a lot more freewheeling, the songs opened out in more interesting ways. The bands more of a creative force instead of me doing 80% of it and teaching it to the band. The band wrote more of their own parts and things like that.
I know a lot of songwriters who write about love, the lack of love, God, sex or drugs, and I just can’t choose one. I want to write about all of it.
WWM: How was it working with Andy Hull and Jeremiah Edmond [from Manchester Orchestra] and their label, Favorite Gentleman?
KD: Andy and Jeremiah are great. The have their plates full with their own band. Andy is more of an ideas guy, and Jeremiah is more of a driving force, like the nuts and bolts guy. I worked a lot more with Jeremiah, and I was totally blown away. It was the best set up I’ve ever heard. It was done by two dudes who simultaneously were planning a huge and important record of their own.
I’m in a position to be better because I’ve done like 400 fucking shows in three years and have built this little thing. They accessed that thing and came to the table with their own ideas. It’s been nothing but a joy. They’ve been above and beyond.
WWM: Perfect. Well, I don’t want to take anymore of your time, I know you have a show. But thanks man, did you wanna add in anything else?
KD: Well, I’m definitely looking forward to coming back through. I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by the response down in Houston. It’s great.
kevin devine on the web:
that’ll do it. support this man and enjoy.