Talking with Kevin Devine about bringing a year-long singles club to life
After a series of 7” split EP’s, Brooklyn’s Kevin Devine is reenlisting his Devinyl Split Series partners—Meredith Graves from Perfect Pussy, Matthew Caws from Nada Surf, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins from Tigers Jaw, and Mike Kinsella from Owen and American Football—to bring a massive live show to the TLA tonight. Think of Devine as the ringleader—or the head coach who is also the starting point guard.
Rather than opening acts, playing one after another, it’s a communal effort among friends that Devine projects will last around three hours.
“I wanted to kind of do something over the course of 2015 that would be almost a way to release an EP’s worth—or an album’s worth, when you combine it with the other artists—of new music,” Devine says. “But I wanted to do it in a way that was different, that was more interesting, a little more piecemeal, and also less tethered to a traditional, ‘This is a record of X amount of songs that we recorded at one time and they all share a thematic structure.’”
The split singles idea came to him after remembering the hardcore and punk music that he connected with at a young age. He wanted to reconnect with the split singles that he grew up with, like the Sub Pop Singles Club.
Devine says that many of these artists wouldn’t share a bill ordinarily, but that he is a common denominator that brings them all together and makes sense out of it.
“People might not associate Perfect Pussy with Owen, but they all kind of make sense at a table with me,” Devine says. “That was the operating principle. I had no idea how I was going to execute it or even if it was executable.”
He approached Caws first, who was a guinea pig of sorts, off whom Devine could see if his idea could actually work. If he was onboard, he had something going. Caws was in, and to his surprise, everyone he approached with the idea afterward was positive about it. And the plan fell together.
When he approached them again about the live aspect, he feared that putting together all of these full-time touring musicians, some with families and children, would never work. He was surprised again when they all said they agreed within a few hours.
“That to me was a high-end fantasy,” he says. “I didn’t think all of them would say yes. And they did. Surprise again. So, this is like so much icing on a cake so as to be a second awesome cake on its own at this point.”
Devine is looking forward to these shows as a fan. He’s still a little dumbfounded that this all came together like this, and that he shares the stage with artists and friends whom he admires artistically and personally.
“It doesn’t happen very often where you get to pay, like, 20 bucks or whatever and go see six bands of this kind of caliber in the same three hour show,” he says. “And I really mean that more as a fan than as a back-patting-myself gesture. I think it’s, like, I would go watch that show and be like, ‘Shit, that was cool.’”
Adding to the existing lineup of heavy-hitters of indie rock, Devine looked to add to his already large stable of split-mates announced special guests for each of the tour’s three stops after tickets had already been on sale for a while. Boston gets Brian Sella of the Front Bottoms, Brooklyn got Laura Stevenson last night, and Philadelphia gets emo royalty Jesse Lacey of Brand New.
There’s one split remaining in the series, and Devine is quiet about who he’ll share that last release with. He could neither confirm nor deny that it would be Stevenson, Sella or Lacey, but assures us that they have been in the process and responded positively to the idea.
“Capping at six doesn’t mean there won’t be a second series,” he says. “I guess the better answer is I bet that I end up doing a split with all of them, but that is not necessarily in the immediate future.”
Devine is just over the moon that he gets to add even more personality to what he calls his musical variety show of sorts.
“I kind of thought the whole time that it would be cool to have another color at all of these shows,” he says. “Not that it’s not enough color, but it’s going to be a real gift to whoever’s elected to come to these shows. So I think that them being on it is a cool statue on top of that double cake.”