Kevin Devine


Artist talks about “Super Tuesday,” being part of a group of bands that may not belong in the scene they are currently in and his influences.

Kevin Devine has been e-mailing a friend of his all day discussing the results of what the media have deemed “Super Tuesday.” Devine has been known for his political lyrics, but he doesn’t want to be called a political songwriter.

“I feel like I am an observational songwriter,” said the 28-year-old Brooklyn journalism graduate. “Part of being human right now is existing in this state we live in.” Devine said he grew up in the Clinton and Bush Sr. administrations, and that’s what he relates to right now.

“I think there’s a middle and a far right in this country, there’s not a left and a right,” he said. “With Democrats, productive rights will be taken care of more in the White House. The impoverished people in this country will be better with Democrats in charge. That’s important. That’s the day to day nuts and bolts that shouldn’t be overlooked.”

Devine would vote for Dennis Kusinich but Kusinich doesn’t rate, he said. He isn’t going to be playing any Obama fundraisers either.

“Obama is charismatic,” he said. “He’s smart, compassionate, and extremely poetic when he expresses himself. It’s just poetic enough that you can project whatever you want to it, but I really don’t know what he is saying yet. [Obama] is talking a lot about things in a rhetorical sense.”

Devine said Obama speaks in a desire to want to believe in this dream, but his platform doesn’t differ much from Hilary Clinton, who he sees as being status quo. In the end, he doesn’t want to see a Republican win. “They are generally militaristic, xenophobic or mental lunatics. The only thing I take seriously about their candidacy is that other people do. They are so clearly part of the problem.”

Devine isn’t going to see some things he wants to see happen in this country, but he is hopeful Obama will get to the White House and be amazing. He still isn’t dumb to the fact that Obama is a politician and has to govern, but more often then not, that means that there’s corporate interest.

Devine said there’s an upside of hope with Obama. With Clinton and McCain, Devine knows what to expect. What Devine worries about is the situation overseas.

Saddam Hussein was an egomaniacal dictator that harmed his people in many ways, Devine said, but at the same time, the country had an infrastructure made up of education, health care and distribution of wealth that we went in and dismantled.

“We destroyed their access to something as simple as water and electricity,” he said. “This is a disastrous part of American history. What [the new administration] needs to do is inherit what has happened and not repeat those mistakes. You can’t fix something that is inherently broken. We have to try to be publicly apologetic for what we did.”


Devine is standing on the side of the stage watching The Jealous Girlfriend, waiting to play for about 50 people in Baton Rouge. He couldn’t be happier.

This Spring, Devine went on tour with his “Goddamn Band” in support of his first major label release “Put Your Ghost to Rest.” It just so happened he went out with one of the biggest bands in the scene, and another which was gaining speed in popularity and message boards across the Web. Every night, he played right between them.

“The Brand New, Manchester Orchestra tour is the best tour I’ve ever been on,” he said with a grand smile. “I definitely stuck out. Those bands conduct themselves in away that makes me proud to be apart of them. There’s a minimal amount of bullshit. They just go out and play.”

Devine said those two bands write music that’s more accessible than he writes, but at the same time the music is challenging. He said bands like Brand New, Manchester Orchestra, Colour Revolt, Anathallo, mewithoutYou and Devine himself are part of this small bubble on the scene. He said Brand New is the biggest out of them, but belongs in that bubble and not apart of everything else.

“All these bands are not good enough for the critics to write about on Pitchfork, and they don’t solely belong on either,” he said.

A few months after the sold out Spring tour, Devine went out for a few weeks with Grace Read and Brand New’s frontman Jesse Lacey for a solo acoustic tour. Lacey is one of Devine’s best friends.

“Towards the end of the [Spring] tour, Jesse asked me to go out with him for a few weeks and do a couple solo shows,” he said. “I do everything [with Jesse] that anyone does with a friend. I talk politics with him. I go eat out at diners with him. Then I go on tour with him for six weeks [with Brand New] and watch 6,000 people go completely berserk over everything he does. He’s grown with everything he’s done, and his peer group hasn’t.”


Devine is on a simple level, a singer-songwriter influenced by other songwriters such as Bob Dylan and Elliott Smith, the 90s music he grew up on and the punk rock scene he grew up in up North. He said is stint on Capitol Records was a response to their own Bright Eyes, but it doesn’t faze him.

“I think it’s unfair about the comparison Conor gets from critics,” Devine said. “I know him, and he’s a great guy. But it’s just songs, and you either like them or you don’t. I have never read or spoken to [Oberst] about the subject where he has said ‘I am Bob Dylan.’”

Attaching these lofty sentiments to these bands is ridiculous to Devine. He said it’s just because the marketplace is crowded, and you just can’t “like” something anymore, you’re told how cool something is these days.

“It’s just that music is oversaturated,” he sighs about the current digital age music is moving into. “Everyone who has Internet access and Garageband can have a Myspace page.”

He said the current stereotype of a singer-songwriter is supposed to be this balladeer, unsmiling and kind of featherweight. The two big artists he listens to, Dylan and Smith, don’t fit that description.

“Elliott Smith’s stuff was soft but it was tough,” he sternly said. “He expertly played it and didn’t fit his contemporaries. He mixed punk rock and old country, but toured with East Coast hardcore bands.”

Devine isn’t far from the picture. Growing up in Brooklyn, Devine was raised around the working class of firefighters and police officers, which is where his constant tour ethic blossomed. He believes nothing should be handed to someone without hard work.

For Devine, the majority of the bands he played with in the beginning of his carrer were in the punk and hardcore scenes in the Northeast. “While you won’t hear that sound in my music, those ethics are there. I’m a little more ideo-Socratic and tougher to pin down, and that’s why I’m able to tour with so man different bands.”

Sitting on the couch in the back room of the Spanish Moon, Devine has hope for the state of music today, but still thinks it’s getting complicated with the digital shift that’s changing the industry rapidly. As far as his success, the 50 patrons at tonight’s show is where his content lies in his work.

“I try to keep things very simple, because my brain can get knotted without help,” he said. “My early 20’s were about how I could get people to like my music, but fuck that now. I’m just grateful I have fans and have people come out to my shows.”


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