What we’re striving to do with Inside is to bring you incredibly in-depth content from your favorite artists, labels, and companies in the music industry with insights and details you would never be able to find in a normal interview or story. It would be hard to explain the importance Kevin Devine has had on the development of PropertyOfZack over the years, and we’re honored to have him as our second Inside feature.
While part one featured Kevin Devine telling his own story, part two is the second half of an oral history of Devine’s entire musical career, as told by bandmates (The Goddamn Band), tour mates (Jesse Lacey, Andy Hull), and collaborators (John Mathiason, Rob Schnapf). Enjoy a comprehensive look at Devine’s career picking up at Brother’s Blood and beyond!
Chris Bracco: After the cycle of Brother’s Blood was finished, it was time to start Between the Concrete & Clouds. This was some time in 2010. This as the first album Mike Skinner didn’t play drums on and I produced myself. The way this started was me, Mike Fadem, and Kevin rehearsed the songs a bit then we had the other guys join in. Everyone wrote a lot more parts on this record, so it’s a pretty dense record. For the band demos, we tracked drums and some guitars in the rehearsal space then finished everything up at our house in Connecticut. When it was time to record, there wasn’t a definite label lined up to release it, so we tracked everything at our house starting sometime in January 2011. Fadem was upstairs in our living room where we recorded the Brother’s Blood demos and Kevin and I were in the basement recording scratch guitar and vocals. After a weekend of getting drums we had the other guys come up over the course of a month on the weekends to add their parts. When we finished tracking, the masters were sent off to Rob Schnapf to mix.
This was also a bit of a learning experience. This is the first record that I recorded but didn’t mix. For me, mixing is a time for experimenting and fixing/changing/re-recording things that I don’t think are working so there are some things on this record that I wished I had fixed before sending off. For this record I was unable to play a lot of shows because of work and a new baby but did get the chance to play some great New York shows and a couple out of state shows. Daniel filled in on bass for most of the album support.
Brian Bonz: Our dynamic in the studio is always very open. We normally demo a month before live, so we know what needs to get done or added when we hit the studio. I remember Kevin and Chris helping me add all the string mellotron parts to “The City Has Left You Alone,” and learning so much about octaves and harmonies in the context of keys/strings. Another good studio story is when Strand ate KD’s sushi not knowing it was his while recording Brothers Blood. We call that a “Classic Strand.”
Andy Hull: I mean beyond Kevin becoming a touring mate, he became a really close and personal friend. You know? He’s one of my top five friends that I have. We were certainly close making that first Bad Books record, but really that first record was not even a record. I know Kevin has said it many times, but we didn’t know what we were making. We just knew we were making something. No intention of being a band, that’s why Ben was going to come down; it was like, “Yeah man it’s whatever, just come down and play some guitar.” We had no idea we were putting together the outlines of a band that people would actually end up really liking. You know? I think that since he and I are both kind of suckers for complete pieces of work and not shitty EPs or whatever it is – we liked the idea of a full album. That’s why we put the first one together. And when it came time for the second record, there was a lot less stepping around each other. We could be really upfront and honest. Like I remember on the first Bad Books record there was something I wanted Kevin to sing and he was like, “I can’t sing that. I can’t do that. I know you can do that, I know you think I can do that, but I can’t do that.” I was like, “But you actually can do it. Can you at least try?” And he would try and then he would do it. And since that period, I feel like – not at all to say that Bad Books was the catalyst, but certainly I think it helped push him further into realizing that he was a really great singer and had a great range for harmonies. Which I don’t think he had in his weaponry when we first met.
Ben Homola: I did a tour a playing drums opening for Manchester Orchestra with Kevin and the GDB a while back. He gave me a call a week or two before and said that he needed a drummer for the run. I didn’t second guess it, and found myself heading up to NYC to rehearse soon after that. I did that tour and after that, I continued drum teching for Brand New. Around that time, what would eventually be called Bad Books got together to start recording what would be our first record, I was playing with Manchester Orchestra. I think with my past playing with Kevin and currently at that point playing with MO it just made sense that I be part of that project. I’m really glad to be a part of that band because it’s a chance to play with two of my favorite groups of people.
He keeps things interesting for sure…especially into the later hours of being in the studio. I mean I’m sure we’ve got footage somewhere of the explosive freakish moments that are signature KD. He’s the type of guy that will have things down on paper but you can also throw him a curveball and he’ll figure it out almost instantly.
Chris Bracco: In 2011, right before BTC&C was released, me, Kevin, and Fadem recorded a tribute to Nirvana’s Nevermind. This was also recorded at our house in Connecticut. Fadem recorded all of the drums in about 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon in August, while Kevin recorded scratch guitar and vocals. A few weeks later, right before Kevin and Fadem were to leave on tour to support BTC&C, Kevin came up to record his guitar and vocals. This was right after Hurricane Irene and our house had no power. There was also no time to reschedule it, since they were leaving for tour in a few days and we really wanted this to come out on the day of Nirvana’s 20th anniversary release date. Fortunately, the people who lived behind us had power so we ran 200 feet of extension cords from their house to my basement: enough power to run a computer, pod guitar processer, and some outboard gear.
He recorded all of his vocals and guitars in about 8 hours. Once our house got power back, I recorded the bass parts and mixed it as fast as possible to make our deadline. Overall, I think it’s a pretty good tribute to Nirvana. It obviously has some flaws, but how can you beat the original anyway? It was mostly done for fun and it was a record we all loved and grew up on.
31. January 2014