Kevin Devine has been at the forefront of the folk/indie scene for several years now. Although he is closely associated with Brand New and Manchester Orchestra, Kevin remains a solid artist within his own right; not forgetting a fantastic live performance also. Recently released CD 'Brothers Blood' has been cited by many people as being his most accomplished effort yet. I caught up with Kevin on the BSM Christmas tour to find out more.
How are you coping with the British winter so far then, sir?
Kevin: Well you know, i'm an East Coast kid, I grew up in New York, and it gets pretty cold out there but here it like it lives inside your bones! [laughs] It's pretty intense.
You recently played with Brand New and Glassjaw etc at their biggest show to date in Nassau Colliseum in the States. How was this for you?
Kevin: It was nuts because I think Give It A Name in London at the Earls Court, that show and this show were probably the biggest shows so far in terms of scope. This was like 13,000 people and kinda the biggest show we've ever played because GIAN there's 20 bands, this one there was like 5 bands so it was very focused, The response was great. It just happened to be in the 5 days I was home between The Get Up Kids US tour and this. [BSM Christmas Tour] which includes Germany and Austria afterwards and it's 17 days. Putting together the band, rehearsing, sorting out your guestlist in basically a hometown show at a 13,000 capacity in a arena in the 5 days your home, I wouldn't advise that! It was a bit stressful. But it turned out incredible, just totally surreal.
Talking of The Get Up Kids tour, I saw a video recently of you doing a rap with them on stage. Just wondering if you have a Hip Hop name for yourself?
Kevin: Kurt Cocaine, I reckon.
You sure, Kev-Dizzle?
Kevin: [laughs] nah i'm gonna stick with Kurt Cocaine, I think thats really funny.
Good stuff! So how did this rap interlude come about?
Kevin: Their amps had broken and I think the stage power went off. I just said I would go up and do that to help fill the time. So Ryan started to play drum beat and now it's on youtube apparently!
With quite a lot of hits too actually I believe!
Kevin: Seriously, how many exactly?
I'm not sure, a few hundred at least.
Kevin: Oh noo! [laughs]
So you've recently been signed to BSM records, how did this come about?
Kevin: I met Kevin at SXSW music festival at Austin Texas this March and I just felt good about what they're doing here; It felt like the right fit. I know we're a little different from what is on the label. I feel like attitudenly and in terms of the way he approaches things it just seemed like the right thing . Really good guy and he works really hard and takes care of his bands.
It does have a very diverse lineup. Have you heard of many of the bands on the label since you've been signed?
Kevin: I don't know too much about the label yet to be completely honest. I have listened to a couple of things Kevin had given me. I like what Toby [Shoes On Socks Off] is doing . I played with a band though who reminded me of a lot like Kinsella, Owen and Joan of Arc in Oxford called This Town Needs Guns. I''m looking forward to playing with Stage Coach from Kevins other label in Kingston soon too.
As you are own Favourite Gentlemen in the US, do you think smaller labels are better, as you used to be on a major?
Kevin: Yeah, I made one record with Capitol Records. I really think that thats the way things are going now anyway. The music industry is changing pretty rapidly, I dont think people should be made to think theyre going to be on labels like Capitol in any kind of functional way in a couple of years, because I don't know if those labels are even going to exist for the Beyonces and Jay Zs of the world.
Do you feel a bit more safer on a smaller label also, having that extra bit of security?
Kevin: Sure, and I also think its nice to have a career in music without having a lot to do with the music industry. Dealing with people like Kevin and labels like Favourite Gentlemen, It's a different animal. It feels a little less corporate.
Does it help as you are friends with the guys from Favourite Gentlemen also?
Kevin: Yeah it definately helps but sometimes it can make it a little awkward too. If there's certain things you disagree about for instance. You're still an artist and a label and sometimes they just don't agree. But I think it also helps us see through these actions more easily.
Your new CD Brother's Blood is arguably your most diverse album yet. Following on from the more acoustically based "Put Your Ghost To Rest" Were you expecting such positive reviews?
Kevin: I think it's the best received record i've made, and I think that there are things on that record that are different to anything i've done before but elements of that record are in every record i've made prior, but I do think its a step out slightly but still retaining what makes my music mine. But yeah the response has been wonderful. Internationally it's been the best reviewed record i've ever made too.
Now you have such a large amount of songs on your back catalouge do you find it harder to pick the right songs for the set?
Kevin: On this tour it's been a really different set each night which I really like. Besides how great it is to know how things are arranged, to the size of the bands etc. The songs change a lot regardless but then to be able to change the set list from night to night.
I've noticed you play a lot of covers in your sets too. How do these usually get chosen?
Kevin: It's just whatever I like, generally. There are just some songs that get burned in my brain that I just wanna play over and over again.
What are you listening to on the road at the moment?
Kevin: I havent been listening to any music at all on this tour. I've been listened to alot of what theyre playing in the car, they've been playing this band called Jadiohead which is Jay Z stuff over Radiohead beats which was cool. It's not because I like music, I think when you play 200 shows a year for 3 years you like quiet too; I like reading. I've been reading Eugine O'Niel "Ah Wilderness!" which was a play. I was listening to Casamacones before I came out here, and this Mount Eerie record "Wind's Poem"
One of the merch items tonight is the exclusive single "Splitting Up Christmas" How did this come about?
Kevin: Thats a song I wrote 6/7 Years ago which I put on "Make The Clocks Move" and it was an exercise for me to see if its possible to write a christmas song that isn't corny. It's probably still a little cheesy but I like it. Kevin [BSM Records] had an idea to put out this as a single and we wanted to have it out on limited edition CDs with a different B-Side each night. So he's wrapped them up like christmas presents and I write personalised messages in them.
What plans do you have for 2010?
Kevin: The record just came out in Europe in November, so I'm gonna tour over there in February and March, then Australia around end of March. Also then I will be back home in the States for a tour which will include the Coachella and Bamboozle festivals. After this i'm gonna take some time off becuase the record would have been out in the states for a year and i'll have been on tour for pretty much the majority of that.
Do you find that touring extensively takes its toll at all?
Kevin: I think some nights like tonight I can feel my voice is a little crackly and i'm sure thats because of travelling all over the place. And sure, sometimes you wanna be around your friends and family and not in the freezing cold somewhere. But at the same time I love what I do,I could look up at people and say "I wish I was in his position" but then I realise they're literally hundreds of thousands of people playing music or some open mic that no-one's paying attention to that would love to be able to do this. So when it gets too tiresome I'll stop, but until then I still really like it.