Interview: Kevin Devine

Written by Jeanne Crump

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This Wednesday, November 27, Kevin Devine and The Goddamn Band will roll into Asbury Park, New Jersey to perform on River City Extension’s annual Simple Gifts Thanksgiving Eve charity show.

Pop-Break’s Jeanne Crump caught up with KD to talk about his new record, his successful Kickstarter campaign and record labels.

Photo Credit: Sean O'Kane
Photo Credit: Sean O’Kane

Pop-Break: You just released two albums simultaneously, Bubblegum and Bulldozer. Did you find that one album was more popular or better received than the other?

Kevin Devine: In the immediate Bubblegum is going to be more well-received, and its also what we’re focusing on first. I think that album is more of a “shower” and Bulldozer is more of a “grower”, and a bit more subtle. I think Bubblegum has slightly outsold Bulldozer. But I think what’s really nice is that it seems pretty even in the response and the attention being paid to them. I think it’s pretty lucky because that’s not always the case when you do things like this. It makes sense that one gets paid more attention to than the other, but it seems pretty even so far.

Photo Credit: Sean O'Kane
Photo Credit: Sean O’Kane

PB: Was your initial plan to release two full albums when you wrote the tracks, or did that come about after your overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign?

KD: The two albums came from the Kickstarter campaign. I’ve had ideas prior to do something like that, but never really found the right the circumstance to commit to it. Then it was a way to differentiate between what I was doing and other campaigns I had seen. It was also a way to justify its existence to me. I had a real back and forth about even using it. The idea of making two records seemed really appealing to me and made it stand out and feel different. I basically wrote the records after the kickstarter went up. It wasn’t like they existed prior. The Kickstarter was the impetus to do it.

PB: Speaking of your Kickstarter campaign, congrats on that. You were the 12th most successful campaign Kickstarter has ever seen. What ultimately made you decide to run the campaign?

KD: Well, I guess ultimately it’s potential benefits outweighed its potentials debits. Most of the concern for me was from a perceptual perspective. I thought people might look at it and ask why someone semi-established would use this. And so, that was a lot of my concern as to whether people were going to see it as someone taking advantage of a model that was more in place for people starting out. What ultimately made it feel comfortable for me was that it became more of pre-order and that the audience was betting by saying “I like what you’ve done to this point so I’m pretty sure I’ll like what you do next and by involving ourselves we will make that happen. That seemed like an interesting way to try that out compared to a more traditional music industry route where you’re going to a label and you’re giving up some things that you don’t want to like artistic control, vision, and ownership of your songs. My experiences haven’t been that inspiring so far and to go back and do it again seemed like a little dreadful. The kickstarter thing was a way to get around that.

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PB: You just touched on this a bit, but you released these albums on your own label after having released material with five different labels through your career. What was the turning point that made you decide to release independently?

KD: I just wanted to try something different. I’ve had a lot of different sized labels and none of them have been especially inspiring. Razor and Tie were awful. That was just a really bad experience and regrettable. Triple Crown was great; that was just about circumstances and timing. And the Capitol thing, they did the best they could and got swallowed about 4 months after our record came out and there was a lot of collateral damage and it was bigger than me and the people that worked there. It wasn’t anything that was in anyone’s control. It’s not just that all record labels are bad, it’s just that my experience with them hasn’t been good.

PB: Do you think you’ll release other artists through your label in the future?

KD: If the label becomes more of a real thing I could see that happening. We don’t have capital or infrasturure. Its just me and my management running it out of a garage in LA somewhere. If there was a band I was really interested in that were looking to put my logo on it and use our social media outlets, or whatever fan base I’ve earned I would consider it, but there really isn’t an infrastructure to support it. I’m interested to see how that develops, but it’s not something that’s a priority with me right now.

PB: You recorded Bubblegum with Jesse Lacey from Brand New. Can you tell us a little about why you chose work with Lacey on this album?

Photo Credit: Ninelle Efremov
Photo Credit: Ninelle Efremov

KD: Yeah we’ve been talking aboit making a record together for a long time. He’s always had clear ideas about my music, and as it has manifested itself with Strandberg and Fadem, (the two Mikes that make the record with me and were in my touring band for six years), the band developed a more dynamic and Pixies-ish and rock-ish sound and I think he had very clear ideas about how the old music has transformed itself into this thing that was more electric and kind of crazy. I think he wanted to hear us make a record that way, and I’ve always had parts of those elements on my records but not a full record. It just seemed like the right time to make that record with him. Especially with the two records, it was a way to split the brain in half almost. He had been talking to me about it since about 2005 and schedules never lined up.

PB: The track “Private First Class,” is about the Bradley Manning scandal. What was it about this topic in particular that compelled you to write the song?

KD: I thought it was especially human to me, his reaction to what he saw and the conversations he had with other people in the intelligence community online about what his emotional motivations were to share the documents with people. He’s been politicized as this guy with mental health issues, who is also this traitor, scumbag, anti-American…and I never saw it in those terms. I saw it as much more simple and much more about the truth, and about being sad and disgusted by the behavior that is being done in the name of you and your country. It’s not about eradicating national identity, just about human people, and we as part of the human condition over there [in Iraq] aren’t doing what we’re supposed to be doing.

PB: I know you’re on tour in November and going over to Europe in January. Anything in the works after that?

KD: Definitely not any recording. We’re going to be working these two records into 2015. I’m sure tons more touring. We’re still figuring out the record’s release in Australia. We haven’t gone up to Canada for this tour so we’re going to try and do that. I’m sure more American and European dates too.

Kevin Devine and The Goddamn Band performs at The Stone Pony on Wednesday November 27th. Click here for tickets.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.