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Bad Books - 11.01.10

Interviewed by: Adam Pfleider (11/01/10)
I remember seeing Kevin Devine play back up on Manchester Orchestra's set on Brand New's Spring Tour in 2007. It would be foreshadowing of the present day collaboration known as Bad Books. On the heels of their debut, Andy Hull and Devine took some time to talk about the beginning of a long friendship and the recording process of the record. There's some funny banter in there as well.

=====

After almost two minutes of funny banter, we finally get this thing started....


First off, how did this whole thing get started? Was it the back of the van?


Andy Hull: Can you do it without interrupting the story? [Laughs]

[All laugh]

Kevin Devine: Wait a minute, I was just watching baseball. I'm back in it now. [Laughs]

Hull: [Laughs] Oh. My. God.

Devine: Alright, wait a minute. How it started? Andy, when did it first start?

Hull: I guess you and Jesse in the very beginning of our relationship. He introduced us.

Devine: Jesse Eisenberg, the star of The Social Network.

Hull: [Laughs] Jesse Lacey of Brand New. He's been friends with Kevin forever. Then we met one night in New York and it was a month before we were going on the Brand New tour together. Even before we went on that tour, we were talking about Favorite Gentlemen and collaborating. We were collaborating on that tour. What do you remember?

Devine: I remember that before the tour started, I didn't know the band. I don't usually know a lot of new bands. I'm usually like, "Oh yeah, The Strokes are cool," and everyone is like, "That's so 2006."
Hull: At the time, no one really knew us. It was all label people and shit.

Devine: Yeah, that's true. I know, in that...

Hull: Are you holding the phone like that? This is how much Kevin and I talk on the phone Adam, because I know when he's holding the phone by his ear because I can't hear him as well.

Devine: [Laughs] We met then. We talked on the tour about doing some stuff. I think what's strange about doing that tour is even after three and a half years after it had happen - and it's not a hype thing - I remember feeling it with that group of people that that were not going to happen every time I went out on tour. I've been out on a lot of great tours with a lot of wonderful people. That was like...

Hull: Unfortunately for us, that was our first, so everything was worse after. I think about taking that for granted as well. I was all super young and excited as well.

Devine: Now you're just a jaded old man. I never took it as you were taking it for granted at the time.
Hull: No, but there wasn't a day where something awesome didn't happen.

Devine: The other side of that, I don't know how you could not take something like that for granted. Even the most well-rounded, grounded people who were 19 or 20...

Hull: The kids knew. They got it. That tour started to build up expectation around the country. Now there's this expectation for us to deliver now. I feel like our first collaborating efforts together was that tour, and with Owen and Coachella. Just the two of us playing.

Devine: I think both of those tours we did, we played on each others songs. That was the first time we talked about doing something more formative with it too. I don't remember when, but I feel it came up on one of those drives. Along with [sung] "I've seen a lot of things, but I love chicken wings..."

Hull: [Laughs] One of the weirdest hooks ever said. Alright Adam, where do want us to take this now.

Devine: How did we get to this record? Is that what you want us to discuss?

Well, before that. This record happened. I guess magically you rubbed the genie bottle and this came out and that's how it is. One of the big things I want to comment on, and Kevin we had this discussion last time you were in Austin, was I thought this was going to be a stripped solo record between the two of you all. More of a singer-songwriter thing. When I got the advance, and found out it was more of a full band. What came first? Did the songs come first between the two you guys, and then the band came in later?

Hull: I think you're wrong to think it was a genie rubbing effect. It was very very stressful. We had a blast. It's not Kevin and Manchester playing as a band. It's seven dudes in a room making one thing with two guys providing a theme - the bare bones structure.

Devine: To wrap up how it came to be. I want to wrap this up in the muddle to get this out there. The actual part where it came to be, the actual alchemy when it happened isn't as exciting. There's usually these crazy stories and things that happen that lead up to it. Our manager John, who's friends with these guys, was sitting down after a Brand New/Manchester show on the last tour they did together and was like, "You should do the record."

Hull: "Let's get this record done."

Devine: Then the next day I met up with Robert and Andy and took a plane to meet up with them. It just took someone to sit down and say to do it.

Hull: There are some acoustic songs on the album. That's to say they are not without inspiration from the other...

Devine: No. Not at all...

Hull: On my songs, there were two songs that were single takes. That was Kevin or I saying to each other after the take, "I'm such a fan of what you did and the songwriting, that that's the way it needs to be."
Devine: That's exactly what I was going to say. Those two songs, "Texas" and "You're a Mirror...," were the most purely well done things. I think there was a chaos pedal on ["Mirror..."]. I didn't know that was a song. I was playing it and you guys were in the control room and were like, "That's done."

Hull: You didn't like that song either. That was weird.

Devine: With the "Texas" song, I was in the lounge watching a Hawks game. I walked in [the studio] and "Texas" was being recorded and I was like, "That doesn't need anything. That's done."

Hull: The full band stuff - that was fun. There were definitely arguments. Always exploring. Making me a little more structured in areas. Making Kevin a little bit more wild. Not even on our own songs, but on each others. Kevin, your guitar playing is insane, but mine's pretty sick too. They're totally different [styles].

Devine: The other contribution, besides everyone playing and hanging out and having a good time, even on the songs - whether full band or acoustic - everyone was very verbal. Even on something that was just acoustic, Robert [McDowell] helped on a lot of things.

Hull: Sure.

Devine: It all ended up being great. Even going into it, I didn't really have any expectation.

Hull: No. We made sure we were like that. We had conversations before [going in the studio]. "Look here. We could get no songs out of this or we could get one song out of this." The genie in the bottle moment was when we had eight songs and were like "Holy shit, we could make an album out of this." Not only eight songs, but eight really good songs. I remember us saying that "these are songs."

Devine: It's funny, that phrase. I started writing five songs to demo into whatever the next record is. With Bad Books, with my stuff, I'm always forgetting what a song is. Like, "Is this a song?" I must say that a hundred times a week. "Is this a song?" I'm like, "This is crazy, it's a song," or someone around me is like, "What do you mean 'is this a song?' You've written like 200 songs. How do you not know what a song is?'"

Hull: I wrote a song yesterday KD on my iPhone with no guitar. It's 48 seconds. Robert was in the bathroom and came out and I was like, "I just wrote a pretty sick acapella song." He said, "How is it?" I said, "It's like a minute." I don't think I've ever asked that.

Devine: It makes sense.

[three seconds of silence]

Hull: [to Kevin] Iloveyourband.

Devine: [Laughs]

Hull: Adam?

Yeah, I'm still here. I'm just listening to this banter right now.

Hull: [Laughs] Okay. We've been laughing about this conversation for the past few weeks.

My question is specifically to you Andy, but it definitely applies to Kevin since he's a writing machine. Andy, you're in the midst of finishing up the final chapter for Right Away, Great Captain! series...

Hull: I can't hear anything you're saying. You must be on Zach Morris' cell phone.

Sorry, can you hear me now? You're in the midst of finishing the Right Away, Great Captain! series...

Hull: I've put that on hiatus for a minute.

You have?

Hull: I've written the songs for it. I'm going to finish with Andrew Dost this winter.

Also, as a band, finishing the next Manchester Orchestra record. For you Kevin, as a songwriter who's constantly putting out work, how hard was it to separate this from your other projects?

Hull: Oh, um. Not. Not very hard, because Manchester, when, like we were saying with our songs bringing in, I have a group of guys that were like, out of the ten songs on the new Manchester [album,] seven of them I demoed before and three of them came out of nowhere. [They] just happened. The seven before are now different. That's why Manchester is so important in my songwriting, because I'm not able to do it without them. Kevin and I always write songs...pretty much we've been on the same schedule as far as touring for the last three or so years. Whether it's running into each other at the airport in Australia on separate tours. We've been blessed to have that sort of friendship there. For me...I don't know. Maybe Kevin should answer that question for me. What do you think?

Devine: I don't know...

Hull: I've shown you a lot of music. [Laughs]

Devine: [Laughs] The first thing I want to say is I think it's cool that this interview is being conducted somewhere in a marketplace in Calcutta. [Laughs]

Hull: Yeah. I mean really. [Commenting on the background noise of our conference call.] Ground zero.

Devine: I feel like you're capable of dividing up the parts of your musical personality in a way that it doesn't feel like it's work for you to do. It's like you have different gears to work out of. Different personalities you can try on. Different voices. Different expressions...

Hull: Which somewhat dictates people and their idea of what our personalities are. That's the thing. If people knew what we were like, they'd never hate on us. We're just friendly. We're not depressive. We don't spend our time moping. Especially with writing, it's like, "Let me say some of the most horrid shit, and let me say it beautifully."

Devine: I feel like it's interesting with people. I feel like they get involved with the Internet. It's not necessarily connected with what you're doing. Your work or your personality. What you're like with your friends and family. They just have a high speed modem. Everyone is a critic in this medium. You sort of hear something and then in five minutes you're visceral about it and personal about it when it's not really a personal thing. I had a really nice thing happen where I was putting up lyrics on Facebook, and this kid basically wrote a comment about it. He wrote "drugs, girls, mid-life crisis. grow-up." People started commenting back. I wrote to him, "It's okay. Everyone is entitled to their opinion." I've made peace with the fact that the Internet is a shit storm...

Hull: [Laughs] Drugs. Girls. Mid-life crisis. Grow-up. That's going to be the title of the new Manchester Orchestra record.

Devine: It's like, "Maybe you have an analysis that's insightful to me. This song has nothing to do with drugs. Basically I'm not going to die until I'm 60. So if you want to tell me what you think it means, I'll be more than happy to talk about it." The kid was like, "Oh my god, I'm your biggest fan. I was just being sarcastic." So, it turned out to be a really great back and forth. He seemed like a smart guy and became a great conversation. My thought afterward though was it was a mean thing to say, because if felt like someone was analyzing a body of work as a whole, and then making fun of you for the things that were maybe the Achilles heel of your personality. That was like I was at a show and a girl walked up to me who was a huge fan and said something nasty and I was like, "What if I walked up to you on the street and said that to you? Do you realize you're talking to a person?" It was shocking to her.

Hull: I think if she knew you and not just your lyrics...and I've dealt with that where fans automatically assume what your lyrics are about. I've had that done with people where they'll come up to me and say, "Yeah, 'Shake it Out' is about drinking, right?" And I'm like, "Yeah man, sure!"

Devine: I mean walking up to anyone at their job and making fun about your physical appearance...I felt like I was the attraction at Coney Island. I was like, "Okay, umm, do you just want to take a shit in my face next time? I totally drove out here a hundred miles for that." But to get back to the writing. The thing about the writing, I just write songs because it's the one thing in my life I've done since I was eleven years old. It's the only thing in my life I've done since I was eleven. It just feels the most human to me on some level. I'm also insanely lucky to make out a living doing it. When I have free time, I'm going to write, because that's my job.

Hull: Think about Jimmy Paige being miserable until he was like 24 or 30 when he started Led Zeppelin. He played on like everything. What we did was make a low paying adventure or of this. I love people diving into lyrics. That's why we try and write them. It's cool to us, not necessarily them.

Devine: Exactly.

Hull: I'm not a huge Linkin Park fan, and I'm not trying to bash them because they've said nice things about our band, but there was something that was said about their new record and their response was, "Whoever doesn't like our band can just fuck off. We're selling a million of them and we're touring all the time and we're billionaires. We love the art we make." Now, whether or not their art is legitimized, there's definitely more than a 30 Seconds to Mars vibe, where it feels like they're trying too much. Now I'll get in trouble for that.

Devine: I never felt like I was in the middle of that, but I always though it was cool that kids that liked things like 30 Seconds to Mars actually liked things I do too...

Hull: Right, like Linkin Park too. It's like, Kevin Devine, Death Cab, Staind, Nine Inch Nails. Yeah dawg, where you at? [Laughs]

Devine: I don't think Linkin Park is that good. I've never hated on that band, I just don't think it's that good, from like the five minutes I was forced to hear one of those songs.

Hull: You know, the funny thing about that band is that I hear they're the biggest band in the world! I was like, "What?!" Like the amount of records that band sells is unbelievable. The record scratching kind of sets me off. [Laughs] You know what's weird, the Modest Mouse's Building Something Out of Nothing record, there's scratches on that song.

Devine: Totally. That "Hard Cook Brain" song had that in like 1990 or something like that. It's crazy.

[Hull is just making scratching sounds in the background]

Hull: I would also say, that I'm pretty excited - and I know you are too - for Bad Books to continue writing records.

Devine: Absolutely.

Hull: We talked about that. When we have time. When we made the decision to become a band, we made the decision that it was a priority. The pre-sale has been off the hook! We haven't even talked about that. It's crazy.

Devine: Yeah, I was very surprised by that. It's totally insane.

Why do you think that Kevin?

Devine: I'm sorry, one second, I'm walking out the door heading to practice.

Hull: I know, I can hear the phone being held against your ear again.

Devine: [Laughs] The thing about the writing Adam, in terms of being prolific, I think Andy is very prolific. Being around someone who writes more songs worth hearing in a short amount of time. Being around someone like that and going, "Why aren't I working then?"

Hull: What's that thing you say when I tell you what I'm doing? "Of course you are."

Devine: I think that's a good thing. You understand that you're a songwriter. That's what you do.

Hull: You know, if Lebron gets thirty shots a night, he's going to hit more.

Devine: That's right.

Don't give Andy anymore an ego than he already has. [Laughs]

Devine: [Laughs] I can't believe you compared yourself to Lebron James. How about John Starks?

Hull: Dude, I'm not like Lebron, I'm like the whole fucking dynasty.

One last thing I wanted to comment on was the perception that some listeners may get from the album. It would seem, and correct me if I'm wrong, that the song where one of your vocals is more precedent is the song that that person wrote. As far as the songwriting process went, like on "The Easy Mark...." does that mean that he wrote the base of the song and everyone added from the ground up?


Hull: Yeah. He wrote that song. That song is awesome. We added some kick drum and sleigh bell. I went in the booth and waxed on some harmony. Kevin was enjoying the overlapping.

Devine: Yeah, the two main vocals. Andy pushed me on that Paul Simon thing.

Hull: Kevin did back up on all my songs too. Adding that layer of harmony over it.

Devine: Some songs, like "I Begged You Everything," I tried to do vocal harmonies on. It didn't need it. It was already pretty. That one part was in there, it works. I think that's the nice thing too. Like "Holding Down the Laughter." You listened to it and thought it was fine.

Hull: What his songs did...I had nothing. I had eights songs that were kind of weird that I showed Kevin. Pretty much everything we did, for me, was on the fly. When it came to doing "Holding Down the Laughter," that was the ninth song we tracked, and it really challenged me. We did eight songs in nine days and then we came back and did two more in two days. I then was like, "damn." We toyed around with a few of Chris Freeman's songs.

Devine: Which were really cool. Hopefully we can do something with those one day.

Hull: Yeah. He's recording this cool Neil Young, amped up solo, nine amps thing. "Holding Down the Laughter" was the catalyst for "Baby Shoes." I was like, "Oh shit, I have to go write something that will hold up to that in that way."

Devine: I feel like those last few songs - I don't know if it's because it was more current - but I love the whole fucking thing.

Hull: Yeah.

Devine: That's kind of like planning forward for something. I do want to say something too, without it sounding like a big circle jerk...

Hull: Please, just shy away from us liking each other. We're like best friends.

Devine: I do think the idea that it is a record with you guys made it more comfortable to me than my own record listening to it and listening to it more. It felt more like I was "involved" with this.

Hull: There's more to come.

If I can get one last question, and Kevin I know you have to get going. Is there anything that you don't want people to take away from this?

Hull: I don't give a shit what people think. It's good. It's good. Kevin?

Devine: I think if there's anything negative someone would take away from it, they'd have to be working pretty hard at it. If they did, I would imagine that probably some people think it's a side project and not worthy of their other releases. I would put this record up with anything I've ever put out. I genuinely feel like this record...it is a bunch of friends getting together and making music. It did happen naturally. Sometimes it works out that way.

Hull: I don't want people to think it's five KD songs and five Andy songs. It is not.

Devine: I would have put those five songs on my own record and it wouldn't have been the same.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 19.
11:13 AM on 11/01/10
#2
Nick Le
Yeezy taught me.
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Fun read, great interview. The guys are funny and I enjoy this album.
11:41 AM on 11/01/10
#3
dangerofthought
An Uneducated Opinion
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Best interview I've read on AP.net. Easily. I would've loved to just hear this go on.
12:41 PM on 11/01/10
#4
Ragnar
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Like Kevin was saying about that guy on facebook or a lot of the Bad Books reviews I've read, I don't understand people just saying mean things for the sake of saying them. If I have a negative opinion on something I try to keep it to myself or talk to my friends, resisting the urge to tell the person who created this something. For example, I watched the Colbert/Stewart rally and was disappointed that they were only on stage maybe 1/3 of the time. But if Colbert stood around and shook hands and talked to every person after the rally, there's no way I would go up to him and say, "Hey, your rally sucked, why weren't you on stage more?" I would probably cry because I respect him so much as a person and he brings infinite amounts of joy into my life. Extrapolate that to Kevin and Andy and any of the bands on their label and most of their "indie community"...they respect their fans and talk to them and sign stuff and take photos and sell their own merch and let us hear demos and post lyrics for us, etc. Shouldn't we reward nice artists like that by not continually talking shit about them on the internet?

I love this interview and I love Bad Books.
T.FRANKS
02:52 PM on 11/01/10
#5
yufli
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Awesome interview. Huge KD fan, myself, always enjoy discovering what he has to say about things. Great album, looking forward to more KD releases!
03:20 PM on 11/01/10
#6
awakeohsleeper
We never met, you and I
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Best interview I've read for a long, long time.
04:06 PM on 11/01/10
#7
irthesteve
All that wander are not lost
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Hard to read at times, but a fun and very good interview nonetheless
04:32 PM on 11/01/10
#8
Clark
Dirk Nowitzki's Beard
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I would have loved to listen in on this. Andy Hull is hilarious.
05:02 PM on 11/01/10
#9
micsforsinging
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great guys
06:05 PM on 11/01/10
Adam Pfleider
wait. what were we talking about?
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Hard to read at times, but a fun and very good interview nonetheless

Hahaha...I made sure to send this off for quote check after transcribing.
08:13 PM on 11/01/10
SmeezyBeezy
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Like Kevin was saying about that guy on facebook or a lot of the Bad Books reviews I've read, I don't understand people just saying mean things for the sake of saying them. If I have a negative opinion on something I try to keep it to myself or talk to my friends, resisting the urge to tell the person who created this something. For example, I watched the Colbert/Stewart rally and was disappointed that they were only on stage maybe 1/3 of the time. But if Colbert stood around and shook hands and talked to every person after the rally, there's no way I would go up to him and say, "Hey, your rally sucked, why weren't you on stage more?" I would probably cry because I respect him so much as a person and he brings infinite amounts of joy into my life. Extrapolate that to Kevin and Andy and any of the bands on their label and most of their "indie community"...they respect their fans and talk to them and sign stuff and take photos and sell their own merch and let us hear demos and post lyrics for us, etc. Shouldn't we reward nice artists like that by not continually talking shit about them on the internet?

I love this interview and I love Bad Books.
T.FRANKS
Are you the vikings mascot?
09:55 PM on 11/01/10
s.t.e.v.e.n.
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Great read.
08:00 AM on 11/02/10
Say Nothing
Oh the burdens of time
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Great stuff.
09:27 AM on 11/02/10
Ragnar
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Are you the vikings mascot?

I don't know what that means. Anyway...was just sharing my opinion about how people could be nicer on the interwebs.
09:44 AM on 11/02/10
shotgunbang
shotgun bang!
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great interview. so into this album. can't wait for my copy on vinyl to come in!
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