Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band
Now Now, Harrison Hudson
115 NW 5th Ave
Portland, OR, 97209
Doors 7:30 PM (event ends at 11:00 PM)
Kevin Devine and 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, 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.
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 the tempo of Pixie-like guitar riffs, as on "Fiscal Cliff," and Devine's more socially conscious and politically bombastic lyrics, 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 and scandal of Bradley Manning who leaked unclassified 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 Brown 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.
This past June, Now, Now, a trio composed of Cacie Dalager (Vocals, Guitar), Jess Abbot (Vocals, Guitar), and Brad Hale (Drums, Synth) packed up their van and drove 1800 miles across North America to record with Redekopp in Vancouver, BC. Beyond the geographical shift, the recording felt miles removed from their full-length debut Cars. Released in 2008 prior to Abbot joining the band, Cars saw the fresh out of High School Dalager and Hale traveling the United States non-stop and finding their way onto European arena tours. Through word of mouth and constant touring, Now, Now (formerly Now, Now Every Children) began building a support system of fans and friends, including Maine native, Abbot. Hale and Dalager quickly became fans of the music Abbot was making in other bands; "It was kind of funny because she and I used to make jokes about how in an alternate universe we would probably be in a band together," recalls Dalager. "We had a practice where she played for us the parts she had written for songs off Cars, recalls Hale. It was apparent from those sessions Abbot could bring something to Now, Now. "Her guitar work is amazing," says Dalager, "and just adding another creative brain into the mix was refreshing for us."
Soon enough, Abbot relocated to the Twin Cities to become the third member of Now, Now Every Children, sharing equally in songwriting and vocal contributions. Dropping "Every Children" from their name, Now, Now began working on the Neighbors EP, an experiment in writing and recording for the first time as a three piece. Though the original plan was to self-release the EP, it found a home at No Sleep Records, who encouraged the band to tour through the first half of 2011.
It was during this time another relationship formed during the years following Cars began to grow. Chris Walla, guitarist/producer of Death Cab for Cutie, had taken an interest in the band's music. "From the very first time we had contact with him," explains Hale, "he was always excited and positive about things." Support from an artist they admired musically and personally proved inspiring to Now, Now. At SXSW 2011 Walla came to each of their shows, helped them lug gear and even talked a police officer out of giving them a parking ticket. With mutual admiration all around, it was natural for Now, Now to sign to Walla's Trans- Records. "In working with Chris and his label," explains Abbot, "we've been given a lot of freedom to make sure we're happy with the music. We run at a slower place as a band, and he's not pushed us, but instead given us our time. It's nice to have that from somebody who could probably sign any number of bands, and make them do what he wants."
With a true sense of purpose and excitement they hadn't felt in years, Now, Now made the trip to meet with Redekopp to record Threads. "What people will specifically notice about the songs on Threads," says Hale, "is the way that they are put together. We spent a lot of time going through the basic song ideas and restructuring them to make them their best. Since we haven't released a full-length in so long," he explains, "we wanted to make sure we were all loving everything about it before we went all the way out there to record." Between recording and tracking at three studios in Vancouver, the band would hang out with Redekopp at his house or watch him hit the half pipe at a local skate park. "He became an extended member of the band;" explains Dalager, "he got inside our heads and understood everything we were going for." During the recording Now, Now could tell they were hitting their stride for the first time. "As happy as we are with Neighbors," Abbot says, "a lot of things didn't click because we were just learning how to write together." Dalager notes, "We killed ourselves over Threads. That sounds dramatic, but everything about it was excruciating in a good way. Every little idea was worked to its best." As a result, "this is the first release we feel really proud of."
With the album complete, Now, Now look to the future with great anticipation. "This band feels like an extension of us as people," explains Dalager. "It's something we've been nurturing for a long time and is all we really care about;something we've worked really hard for and need to make happen no matter what."
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.