Posts Tagged ‘Big Scary Monsters’

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Kevin Devine – Splitting up Christmas

December 14, 2009

The combination of pride and modesty that exudes from Kevin Devine as he talks about his music is incredibly endearing. He is on the third date of the first leg of his Big Scary Monsters Holiday Tour promoting his new album, Brother’s Blood. There is not a particularly festive mood in the air but one of a relaxed, close-knit tour driven by the desire to have fun and give the fans a treat.

Kevin recognises with a smile that there has been an incremental increase in his popularity over in the UK. Big Scary Monsters, an Oxford based label, have given him the chance to have a British base as opposed to the previous occasions where he just “came over because fans invited him.” As he speaks of the ‘kids’ that come out to his shows a paternal pride can be seen on his bearded face.

“The last year I’ve watched it get bigger with everything i’ve done. It’s been the most successful year in terms of establishing myself in the UK.” Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band, or Kevin Devine, in any other variation, has definitely got a footing in Britain now. Tours and friendships with Brand New and Manchester Orchestra has increased his profile greatly. When asked what he puts it down to he is obviously very proud of his work and success, yet modest, attaching a caveat to any statement that may be perceived as selling himself.

He fills the minutes assessing himself and explaining his musical progression. He is very keen to explain himself, as someone with such a beautiful product as ‘Brother’s Blood’ should be. “It’s maybe the best record i’ve made. People are responding to it internationally in a way they never had before, but also playing 300 shows…it’s a case of ‘if you build it, they will come.’”

Despite this success Kevin speaks excitedly about the prospect of 30-date tour with just a car as his transport. Thankfully for all the venues, this mean they will be witness to a brilliant acoustic set. He feels ‘Brother’s Blood’ is record that most combines energy and low-fi grit with a professional well-rounded sound. Because all the music is written with such passion and commitment, even when it is just Kevin and his guitar there is no conviction or emotion lost. This is a case of less is more.

“When it is just me it is to present something that isn’t just standard finger picking talking about the sad weather or lost love, but doing it in a way that has some ‘teeth’ to it.” If you strip Kevin’s sound down, you see the raw aspects of his work. He sings the praises of early ‘Make The Clocks Move’ for its primal nature and notes that, although the studio is a somewhat sterile environment, he is still singing his songs which he wrote and loves, and consequently, nothing can be removed from the music.

Though success is now within reach and he has been touring religiously for the past year or so, it seems like it was originally slow to take hold for him. He responds to questions about the history of his music with an air of nostalgia, recalling for himself how it all started – delivering a comprehensive story and how and why he got where is today. The sense of enjoyment and pleasure is visible. He toured haphazardly through his first three records and did not quit his day job until going into Put Your Ghost To Rest. He humbly suggests that he does not know if there will not be day when he has to go back to it.

Any barriers between singer and fan seem to fall as his modesty leads him to discuss how his live shows have developed his voice over the past years. Though he has always had the voice to hit the notes, his confidence has not always allowed him. He tells how he was told not to “do that goat thing” and shake his voice when recording. His recent success and the massive respect he derives from crowds means this now is a thing of the past.

This is obvious when he takes the stage. When playing live, Kevin tries and succeeds in bringing “the spontaneity of jazz and the energy of punk to our folk rock pop songs.” His diverse musical background – hardcore, Dylan, his Mum’s “hippy music”, his Dad’s big band – lends an unique sound to his acoustic teeth.

The crowd sit on the floor – respectful. Kevin Devine displays why he is the one of the special artists to be playing music today. His politicised acoustic, folk, rock, pop and desire to maintain a close relationship with music results in a success that can only grow. Mid-set, as he closes a reprise of ‘Cotton Crush’, he breaks for applause but everyone is too stunned to move. He accepts this response inwardly and begins the next song.

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Music what I like, yeh.

November 21, 2009

Every now and again I will digress from the lyrical direction of this blog and talk amount bands/songs I like. I think this is fair, and because of my musical tastes, the lyrics will probably be hot stuff anyway. So here we go, the first ‘Bands/songs that I may have just found out about, or liked for ages, or liked for a little bit but just remembered them and want to tell you about them’ post. Exciting stuff.

Ahead of seeing Kevin Devine in a few weeks, which I am ridonkulously excited about, I have been scouring the excellent Big Scary Monsters label which is home to This Town Needs Guns and Pulled Apart By Horses (edit. Both bands have now left the label, but they used to be on it. Close enough), amongst others. My little soiree led to the discovery of two bands on the Favourite Gentlemen label, All Get Out and O’Brother. Actually if I recall I think I ‘discovered’ them through a twitter link from the omnipotent Manchester Orchestra – the method’s not important or interesting but… smashing, eh?

All Get Out hail from South Carolina and offer some splendid alternative-indie-pop intelligence. Don’t be put off by the deep V neck, I think it works anyway. Nathan Hussey, the lead singer, has an American twang that ignites his voice. Like much of the music worth listening, it has got some feeling. Sounds cheesy and cliched, but it is true and important. Once more with feeling springs to mind.

One of the great things about approaching a band without any prior knowledge is that there is no ‘single’ in your head which taints the way you view the other tracks. It is an insignificant pleasure but I do enjoy listening to an album where I don’t know which songs have been released as singles and well, making it up myself. It seems, and it doesn’t surprise me, that ‘Water and God’ is All Get Out’s flagship track.

The other band, O’ Brother, are from Georgia, Atlanta. Their new EP ‘Death of the Day’ is a melancholy, gritty affair compared to All Get Out. Lo-fi growls lead a passionate selection of tracks. 9-minute ‘The Uncharitable Thief’ stands out as an emotional tour-de-force where ‘The Great Release’ is a superb fired up track. O’ Brother’s melodic blend of atmospheric ‘rock’ is unrivalled by any band I have heard for the first time this year. Enough of my rambling, let the music speak for itself.

It is difficult to get across how good bands are in words. Listen. I look forward to the next installment of bands what I like and stuff.

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Kick off our braces and start straightening out

October 23, 2009

This is an impromptu post because this song has been stuck on repeat in my head for several weeks now. It truly is a masterful piece of music. Below is Mr. Devine doing it acoustic, but be sure to check out the album version, or full band version.

Kevin Devine is a close friend of Jesse Lacey and their bands regularly do shows together, often appearing on stage together; search youtube for some orgasmic moments of this. Andy Hull, of Manchester Orchestra, kicks around with them as well. Jesse has done backing vocals on Cotton Crush, but Kevin doing it on his own is still beautiful.

Kevin Devine

On first listen the build up to there’s a cotton crush seems unnecessary, like waiting for the punchline whilst ignoring the joke. Give it a few more listens and the song takes on a more complete story of a boy seemingly losing control of himself.

You friends won’t wait/ so don’t believe that shit/ when they say they’ll wait/ trust me your friends will not wait for you/

The inner dialogue really portrays a vulnerable person. Kevin then suggests how he is going to crack;

Then you’ll be stoned in some park/ just nodding your head and pinching your arm/ when a girl walks alone/ she’s humming your song/ with your t-shirt on/ and that’s when you’re done/

The release at this point comes in both lyrics and music. The explosive chords combine with directions to stop f*cking around…maybe we need to be hollowed. Everyone needs to escape; to release themselves; kick of our braces and start straightening out.

I very much doubt anyone can listen to this song, especially the album version with the full band, and not want to escape themselves. Try it. Now.

Check out Kevin Devine’s other stuff; it’s really good folk/pop/rock with genuine emotion.