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The first solo album I heard by Kevin Devine was a demo tape a friend gave me in 1999.
The tape was pared down sound, just a demo recorded in somebody’s basement with a four-track. Hard-strumming acoustic guitar, toe-tapping percussion, a kid singing his heart out. With vocals untouched, and nothing produced, it was music in its simplest form, addictive and compelling.
But there was an additional side to Devine that I discovered when he performed in the indie rock outfit Miracle of 86, who cut their teeth at punk and hardcore shows in the 90s. Devine could easily transform himself from singer/songwriter into a shouting, high-energy, indie rock singer.
After Miracle broke up, Devine continued to pursue a thriving solo career that has earned him an international following, releasing six studio albums to high acclaim—including Brother’s Blood (2010) and Between the Concrete and the Clouds (2011), both charting on Billboard’s Top 200 and the latter peaking at #1 on Amazon.com’s mp3 album chart. In addition, Devine’s released two Billboard-charting records as a member of Bad Books, a collaboration with the indie rock band Manchester Orchestra.
Now with the simultaneous release of Bulldozer and Bubblegum, his seventh and eighth studio albums, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter attempts two drastically different sounds on two separate recordings in a dual-album project independently funded through an historically successful Kickstarter campaign.
Bulldozer is laced with folk-rock and pop ballads produced by Rob Schnapf (Elliott Smith, Beck, Guided by Voices).
Bubblegum, produced by Jesse Lacey of Brand New, is a proper rock band record, a more evolved sound from his early days in Miracle of 86; a record with up tempos, feedback, loud fuzz guitars, and catchy hooks that bring to mind the best of the Pixies.
“After Miracle broke up,” said Devine, “I’d write two songs per record that would have been Miracle songs. And when you’re opening for rock bands like I was for so many years, [my band] got really good at pedal-to-the-floor rock…. I had the notion to make two different records, two different ways at the same time.”
In between writing twenty-two new songs and touring with Bad Books in fall 2012, Devine was uneasy about the ethics of using a Kickstarter model to fund an established artist. But he was also disillusioned by his experiences inside the traditional label system. In the late months of 2012, as he continued to write, Devine’s uneasiness with the Kickstarter model began to recede. He proceeded with the belief that he would be doing something different and true, placing his trust in his audience to guide him.
“I’ve made six records. In America they’ve been released on five different labels. It’s a pretty unstable industry… What’s made it a sustainable and a justifiable career for me has been the audience and their close, passionate connection to the music.”
The Kickstarter campaign launched in January 2013, and immediately his audience answered back: within eight hours of the 45-day campaign’s launch, his target financing of 50K to produce, record, and tour both records was met, allowing Bulldozer and Bubblegum to be made and released with complete independence. But it didn’t stop there. Devine’s audience surpassed his expectations, and by the end of the 45-day Kickstarter campaign, he had raised $114,805, more than double his initial target.
“When that audience tells you to keep doing it and here’s the money, it almost renders a very crass thing – the exchange of money over the creative process – into a staggeringly humbling and encouraging experience. When this happened, I felt so motivated I dove into making the records.”
From there Devine set out to make what he had called LP7 (Bulldozer) and LP8 (Bubblegum) on his own terms.
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