Alter The Press!


Interview: Kevin Devine

Alter The Press was fortunate enough to catch up with Brooklyn, NY's own Kevin Devine recently, who is currently touring around the US in support of his stunning new album, 'Between The Concrete And Clouds'.

ATP spoke to Kevin about the new album, signing with Razor & Tie Records, the possibility of another Bad Books record and more.

Alter The Press: You ended 2010 with Bad Books, a collaboration with Manchester Orchestra, your contributions included "You're A Mirror I Cannot Avoid" as well as "Mesa, AZ", both of which differ stylistically from your previous efforts. Did you have a mindset to write these particular differently?
Kevin Devine: No, not especially. I wrote "Mesa" pretty much start to finish on Christmas Eve 2009. Just kind of came to me and kept unspooling until it was done. "You're A Mirror" was something I'd had the first half of, I think I wrote it earlier that fall. I ended up abandoning it, intending to come back to it...I started messing around and playing it at the Bad Books recording during a break in the action, kinda to myself, and didn't realize Robert and Andy had been listening in from the control room. They kind of forced me into finishing it on the spot, they loved it. It's one of my favorites, too.

ATP: Are there plans in the near future for a second Bad Books album?
Kevin: Loose plans, yes - maybe next year some time.

ATP: The 'She Stayed As Steam' EP featured the aforementioned title track as well as "Big Bad Man". What lead you to omit these tracks from 'Brother's Blood'?
Kevin: I really like both of those songs; I just felt like we had other songs on that record that did similar things in terms of arrangement and dynamics, and I ended up feeling like those tracks that did make the album were in some respects stronger, at least as they were recorded. It was a hard call, and I know it was not necessarily unanimous within the band. I guess it's a good problem to have.

ATP: The Goddamn Band has had a revolving lineup of talented musicians, who is currently performing alongside you in the band?
Kevin: On the tour I'm on right now, it's Mike Fadem drumming, Daniel Sparks playing bass and singing, and Mike Strandberg playing guitar and singing.

ATP: 'Between The Concrete & Clouds' has an emphasis on a full band sound. What influenced you to omit the acoustic guitar from this album?
Kevin: Well, the acoustic guitar is in actuality all over the record; there just aren't any songs where I'm alone, playing and singing by myself with no other instrumentation. I just thought these songs sounded better that way on record.

ATP: Lyrically, how do you feel 'Between The Concrete & Clouds' is different to your previous efforts? What would you say the main themes of the album are?
Kevin: I think it's a record about strugglers, about people trying to make sense of their choices, the reality surrounding them, about people trying to figure out a path through a difficult and complicated life. In a sense, I think most of my songs are probably about that. Trying to make peace with the worlds within and around you.

ATP: You began posting rough drafts of lyrics on your Facebook page, what made you decide to post up lyrics of new songs before you had even begun production on the new album?
Kevin: I thought it'd be a cool way of letting people know we were working. A way to bridge the gap and give people a window into one aspect of the process this time around. Last time I did acoustic demos; this time I wanted to try something else.

ATP: The tentative title for "Awake in the Dirt" was "Merry Levov", based on Philip Roth's novel "American Pastoral", could you explain the relation that the song has towards the novel?
Kevin: The song is my take on her addressing her father, trying to explain her actions. Without giving too much away, that character is fascinating to me. One person's terrorist is another person's revolutionary. It's clear Roth sees her in the former light, but writing her opens up some pretty heavy questions about American identity. I couldn't stop reading the book, or get her out of my head when it was over. She's unattractive, stutters, is filled with seemingly inexplicable and boundless resentment and directionless anger, but she's brilliant and, in some weird ways, transcendent; she's like his physical manifestation of the deformation of the American Dream after Vietnam. It's intense.

ATP: With this release, you signed with Razor & Tie. How did the deal come around?
Kevin: I had worked out a publishing deal with them and really liked the company, the people. We brought Bad Books to them and were similarly pleased with those results, so it just felt like a natural outgrowth of those experiences. It's great because Favorite Gentlemen is still very much a part of this release, so it's the best of both worlds.

ATP: Are there any plans for you to return to the UK to support this album?
Kevin: I believe I'll be back over in the first half of next year, though we are still working out some details.

ATP: Thanks Kevin for your time. Is there anything you'd like to add?
Kevin: Thanks for the continued support and I hope I see you all soon. Take care. Occupy Wall Street.

'Between The Concrete And Clouds' is out now.

George Gadd.

Alter The Press!