Q&A with Kevin Devine
The Following Blue Indian Q&A; was done by David Donaldson.
The Blue Indian (David Donaldson): As a journalism major, what are your likes and/or dislikes about music journalism?
Kevin Devine: First, sorry for the delayed response. I think I fell behind between the Europe tour and getting ready for this Australian tour. I dunno. I tend to like any arts/entertainment journalism that bothers to take itself seriously enough to actually pay attention to the content and material as opposed to the trend alignment/superficial bullsh*t, without taking itself so seriously as to forget it’s still dealing with music or movies or whatever. Quick, shallow, reactionary categorizing I’m not big into. Stuff that connects the material to the culture/society at large, when it’s done right, is my favorite.
David: If you were not playing music, what would you be doing with your life?
Kevin: I’m not sure. I’ve worked a lot of places I’m sure I wouldn’t want to go back to. Maybe teach? Go back to school and pursue journalism full time? Use my degree to pursue a law degree and be a public defender? A friend of mine is doing that and it’s inspiring. Social work? I dunno. I think one of those arenas, potentially.
David: Do other forms of media inspire you as much as music?
Kevin: Yes. Sure. Films, literature, and the news media especially.
David: Does your need to create outweigh your need to financially support yourself?
Kevin: I hope so… I think so, though my creatively process has definitely changed since I’ve been making music full time. I dunno. I do know that I’ve made a number of decisions against potential monetary gain because those decisions felt awkward or compromising. I also know I would be writing/playing music regardless of my professional relationship to it. I go through phases where I write very little and phases where I write in streams. Sometimes it’s the performance muscle you’re exercising. Other times it’s writing. Sometimes you’re just watching the river roll. Or “Celebrity Fit Club.”
David: How has New York made you who you are?
Kevin: Well, I think it’s more implicit than explicit. I’m not a particularly in-your-face New York persona; but I do have a certain code that I think comes from growing up there. A kind of watchfulness. I’m not possessed of the drive to be a connoisseur or someone who knows everything. That’s either very New York of me or makes me from Ames, Iowa spiritually. I don’t know. I think if you’re curious about people and their motivations, and interested in social interactions and class distinctions, and if you’re a fan of storytelling and the tragicomic arc of most people’s lives, New York’s a borderline-unparalleled place to grow up and live.
David: When you are not on the road, how do you spend your time?
Kevin: Pretty normally. Lots of catching up with friends and family. It’s important to me to charge that battery. Reading, cooking, making coffee, being domestic. Trying to keep healthy. Movies, running and trying to ride my bike when it’s warm outside. Doing my best to eat well. Playing music. Relaxing.
David: If you were to send one song by any artist/band to all your friends this week, what would it be?
Kevin: “I Think Ur A Contra” by Vampire Weekend. I dunno, I’m as surprised as anybody but that stuff is beautiful.I really am disarmed by it. “Never pick sides, never choose between two, but I just wanted you…” Very sweet and well arranged. Pure melody.
David: When you go to a Barnes and Noble, what books or magazines do you pick through?
Kevin: I’m kind of a drifter. I float around and wait for something to magnetize me. I did buy “The New Yorker” before my flight to Australia and read it pretty much cover to cover on the flight and was reminded why I used to subscribe. Think I need to re-up.
David: Do you have a favorite sports team?
Kevin: The Mets, The Knicks, The Jets, in descending order. To a far lesser extent, The Islanders. I may never see any of them win a world title in my lifetime.
David: You have been proactive in collaborating with other artists (Brand New, Manchester Orchestra, Rachel Yamagata). What do you gain from these experiences? Do they challenge your approach to song writing?
Kevin: Definitely. I think I’m lucky in the sense that I make music that’s kind of elastic. They’re pretty basic songs in one sense but in another they can definitely try on different clothes and work a number of ways. Playing with all these people, with their specific talents and ideas and approaches, especially when they’re often so different from one another, can’t help but make you better, broader, more open. It forces you to reexamine your tool kit. It’s probably what makes my music a nightmare to market but continues keeping it fresh and engaging to me.
David: What makes your relationship with Favorite Gentlemen different than past label experiences?
Kevin: How personal it is, and how aligned I feel our goals are. The immediacy of it. Jeremiah’s the only label boss I’ve made out with. Andy’s helped me shave my head. We’re close.
David: What are the differences in touring in Europe versus the US?
Kevin: I think the audience in both places is pretty varied and surprising, but I think by percentage they’re a bit older in Europe. Obviously, each culture has its stamps but in a a lot of ways I’m finding that my audience seems to be pretty similar in its responses and reactions at shows regardless of where I am, and I mean that positively. Depending on how you do it, European touring can be a lot less exhausting travel-wise just based on the closeness of the cities as compared to the States. Promoters at the club level tend to treat bands better in Europe, especially Germany. It’s harder to keep as closely in touch with your friends/loved ones in Europe; I’ve just joined Skype nation so that might help.
David: What are your plans for 2010?
Kevin: Australian tour, two solo headline shows and five supporting Brand New; short solo acoustic run out to Coachella, which the full band’s doing, Bamboozle NJ, and some more US dates/festivals this summer. Then probably some quiet time for a little bit this fall, some work in New York and hopefully the record I made with Manchester.
David: Any plans to do a headlining tour this year? If so, who would you like as support?
Kevin: I don’t think we’re looking at doing a full proper US headline this year. Stay tuned though…
David: Being a Georgia based blog, would you consider doing a Favorite Gentlemen tour?
Kevin: Sure, I can’t see why not. But only if Gobotron is playing.
David: What is the reason that has kept you creating music and touring for over ten years?
Kevin: Mainly, because I really like it. I just finished a run through the Royal Botanic Gardens along Wooloomooloo Bay in Sydney, to the Opera House and back. I saw a group of white cockateels encircle this giggling woman and perch on her shoulders, eating bread from her palm. I took a piss in the men’s room of the Syndey Opera House. I read a sculpture installation about Darwin in the middle of the park. And tomorrow I’ll play a concert for 30, 50, 80, 100, 150 people 12,000 miles from my home who like my music. That’s crazy, and I think that’s a ridiculous privilege for something I’d be doing regardless. I’m also a 30-year-old small business owner in crazy credit card debt who spends half my year away from his loved ones. There are sacrifices. I do it because it makes me happy, and because I think it’s connected with other people in a way I never expected, and because nothing else feels as right as it does.
David: Any up and coming artists/bands that we should know about?
Kevin: David Bazan, Neil Young, New Numbers, Brian Bonz, Miniature Tigers, An Horse, Les Vinyl, “Mid-Evenings With Jay Miller,” Thanklin Franklin, Phosphorescent.
David: After playing Australia, that will be your fourth continent that you have played music on. Is it safe to assume Antarctica is next?
Kevin: I got my snow boots, son. Let’s ROLLLLLLLLLLLL
David: Do you have any plans to sing a song in baby talk on your collaboration with Manchester Orchestra? Is baby talk the new autotune?
Kevin: Mum’s the word, but rumor has it there is some baby singing, but not by yours truly. We learned it all from Jordy.