Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band
Now, Now, Harrison Hudson, The Gallery
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
This event is all ages
Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band
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, 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 a historically successful Kickstarter campaign.
Bulldozer is laced with electric 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 sound evolved from Devine’s early days in Miracle of 86; a charging record loaded with feedback, overdriven guitars and unexpectedly memorable 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.”
While writing 22 new songs and touring with Bad Books in fall 2012, Devine wrestled with uneasiness over the ethics of using a Kickstarter model to fund an established artist. He was, however, deeply disillusioned by his experiences inside the traditional label system; in the late months of 2012, as he continued to write, Devine’s discomfort with the Kickstarter idea receded. 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.
The ten songs that comprise Bulldozer, Devine’s acoustic album, were recorded in L.A. from March to April 2013 and produced by frequent collaborator Rob Schnapf. With Devine on guitar, Schnapf gathered a stellar group of musicians to back him—Russell Pollard and Elijah Thomson (Everest) on drums and bass, respectively; Isobel Campbell (Belle & Sebastian) on backup vocals; and Schnapf himself on guitar, mellotron, and percussion.
The commanding big sound of “Now: Navigate!” with its chiming guitars, tongue-in-cheek wordplay, is a stampede of power pop, as is the quintessential rock/pop sound of “Little Bulldozer.” Songs like “She Can See Me” bring out Devine’s punk rock roots.
“From Here” was written in the days after Hurricane Sandy when Devine put things on hold to volunteer around Staten Island, where he partially grew up, and Brooklyn, where he now lives. Primarily, he came to the aid of two close friends who had lost their homes in the hurricane. Devine aided in food and material drives and played in benefit concerts.
“But it’s one of those things no matter how much you do it never seems enough.” On “For Eugene,” centered around the death of Eugene Contrubis, one of the many who drowned on Staten Island, Isobel Campbell, known most popularly from Belle & Sebastian, lends her voice to add a moving layer to a song that swells to high emotional peaks.
During the Fall of 2012, as Devine wrote and recorded demos of the twenty-two songs, he divided his catalog into two camps: the acoustic based songs he would record with Schnapf in L.A., and the songs he would record with Jesse Lacey in New York, some of which were written on bass guitar.
Bubblegum, Devine’s “pedal-to-the-floor” rock album, is the product of his special collaboration with Jesse Lacey of Brand New as producer, shaping and writing alongside Mike Fadem on drums and Mike Strandberg on guitar, the two members of his touring group the Goddamn Band. The album was finished in April 2013, recorded at Dreamland Recording Studios in Hurley, NY and at Atomic Heart Studios in New York City.
The twelve songs on Bubblegum create a hard-driving, angular, and mature indie rock sound. Set to Pixie-like guitar riffs and socially conscious, politically bombastic lyrics, as evident on “Fiscal Cliff,” this is a side of Devine that screams and shouts itself over the feedback. “Nobel Prize” is a head-bouncing intro that captures the record’s relentless energy. “Private First Class,” based on the imprisonment Bradley Manning for leaking classified documents in Iraq, is a surf/punk- sounding anthem of the highest-measure. But even high-octane rock records need to slow down, and Devine does so on tracks like “I Can’t Believe You” and “Red Bird” without losing consistency or steam.
The record’s most poppy tracks hit back to back with “Bloodhound,” “Bubblegum,” and “Sick of Words,” a catchy song that sounds as if Devine assembled Black Francis, Kim Deal, and Jackson Browne to back him—testament to the Goddamn Band’s musicianship provided by Fadem and Strandberg, with a debt to Lacey who also steps in on bass and percussion, and backup vocals.
Things have changed in the fourteen years since I heard that first Kevin Devine demo. Bulldozer and Bubblegum mark a new way to make music. With this simultaneous dual-album release in the fashion of Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, and Bright Eyes, Devine knocks down an old studio model with his audience’s participation. These twenty-two songs in total weave back and forth through our American landscape with bravado, heart, energy, and austerity. The delicacy of Bulldozer delights at every turn, every strum, every word, while Bubblegum turns the volume high, taking you in and out of time, a rock record nonpareil. Listen to them loud.
—Alex Gilvarry, author of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
Threads – the second full-length release from Minneapolis-based Now, Now – explores the fragile and often transitory nature of our existence, our perceived understanding of the world around us and relationships shared with others physically and emotionally. Produced by Howard Redekopp (Tegan and Sara, An Horse, New Pornographers), Threads forms a sprawling sonic endeavor that showcases the bands incredible growth as songwriters and musicians. Vulnerable vocals give way to oceans of sound retaining definition via deftly layered guitar parts augmented by lingering synths which alternate between background and center stage.
"Jack come back/bring back with you the America even outsiders loved/ the America of open highways/the America of boundless forests/the America of sunsets by the river-pier/ an America generous of spirit." - Jack Kerouac, 'Gentleness'
The American rock n’ roll of the ‘50s and ‘60s ran on raw, unfiltered emotion, and was driven by ardent soul. The muscle cars, steel mechanics, and never ending high
ways were the image, but the spirit was inherit in the far reaching melodies and layered vocals -- the ideal at the heart of American Thunder, Harrison Hudson's third full-length album. Behind the languishing spacious guitars and the overall smooth vibe there is Hudson himself, sharing the best moments of the American rock radio that lavished his childhood.
Formed in 2005 in Atlanta, GA Harrison Hudson began as a songwriter backed by a band. In 2006 his debut Angel On One Side…And the Other On The Other displayed a dark shade, a monument of Hudson’s life at the time, but by 2008 Harrison Hudson had become a full band, a trio that found a new home in Nashville, TN releasing the no-frills, full volume, Blood, Sweat, and Sweat. As soon as recording was finished Hudson began writing again, 70 songs that would be sliced down to an integral 12 of pop hooks and rock twist free of overbearing romantic gestures, the shape of American Thunder.
In one aspect American Thunder can construed as one love story, one that goes bad as the girl just must leave, but that’s a stretch as even the hyperbole romantic gestures of the more light-hearted songs (Bookstore Girl, Indie Rock N Roll Queen) can’t take the sarcastic cynical voice that lies in the punch line of other tracks (Stay, Fire and Fizzle Part Two). This voice is the grounding point of the album, the reality of relationships brought to the front.
"It's the kind of thing where you see a beautiful girl and she's definitely the answer,” Hudson describes the voice. “When she turns out to be just another human being like you, you resent her for it because she's is not perfect like you expected--and no one is."
To keep the spirit of the gritty early days of Rock N’ Roll without ending up with a throwback record the band entered a modern studio with Kevin Dailey and Micah Tawlks behind the boards. To jump into an old rock studio of AM radio glory in Nashville would have been easy, but the end album would have been a plastic design. The old idea lost in a chase to recreate.
American Thunder accomplishes the goal. The spirit of the old days of Rock N’ Roll radio have been captured and embraced, not re-manufactured.
The Gallery’s bio goes something like this: Hook-laden rock songs that combine a mix of mainstream appeal and professionalism with indie cred and likeability. Their brand of guitar-driven, southern-infused pop rock blurs the lines between authenticity and commerciality, producing songs that are refined and disarmingly catchy. A subtly biting guitar sound, simple, road-worn lyricism and consistently sharp musicianship transform their tracks into instantly memorable pop gems you don’t want out of your head.
The foursome, Brendan Cooney (lead vocals/guitar), Ryan Cooney (drums), Dave Mozdzanowski (bass/bg vocals) and Ben Lozano (lead guitar) have maintained their hometown fan base in New England, while building a similar following in Southern Florida, where they resided for three years. In 2009, the band set out on the road for their first national tour – a full 50 dates across 25 different states. Since then, they’ve expanded their fan base across the country, playing shows from Florida to Washington and California to Massachusetts. In the past six months alone, the band has performed with such well-known acts as Rooney, The Maine and We the Kings. The Gallery takes pride in sharing their music and passion with fans at live shows. It’s not hard to see or hear why.
Beneath The Gallery’s mainstream veneer is an unexpected lyrical maturity that transcends the group’s young age. They explore the spaces between growing up and following dreams, and between falling in and out of love, writing songs that are both meaningful and instantly relatable. This fall, the band recorded five new songs with producer Warren Huart (The Fray, Augustana, Hot Hot Heat) at Swing House Studios in Hollywood. From the catchy hooks of “Catalyst” to the thought-provoking lyrics of “Who’s in the Right” and the haunting melodies of “Ballroom of Broken Hearts,” the new tracks reveal a band expanding and sharpening its sound. Keep an eye out for tour dates this spring, and an exciting year in 2011.