A Three-Way Chat with Kevin Devine and Brian Bonz

James was quite fortunate to spend his Saturday night chatting with two of our favorite folk/indie artists: Kevin Devine and Brian Bonz. The pair had stopped in Boston on Kevin’s full band headlining tour.

UTG: Here I am in Boston with a pair we last shared coffee with in Lansing, MI: Kevin Devine and Brian Bonz.

KD and BB: Hi, nice to see you again, good to hear things are going well.

UTG: Well, let’s start with Brian because a lot has been going on with you since we last spoke. You’re no longer just a member of the Goddamn Band [Devine’s backing band], but you have a full band out supporting you as well.

BB: Yea, it’s pretty awesome. It’s like, over the past year, we’ve been mixing and mastering between going out with Kevin and working at home, but the record is done finally. Triple Crown is putting it out digitally on July 14th and I believe in August it will hit stores through Triple Crown and Favorite Gentlemen. Doing it together with Triple Crown is something I think both groups wanted to do because they both really believe in the project and everything which is really good. Then we have a tour coming up with Nightmare of You next month so things have really just picked up after waiting a long time. It’s really nice though and I’m a lot less stressed. I think playing with Kevin and everything opened a lot of doors and let us get exposure. Also, with the label as Kevin has worked with them in the past.

KD: But no one would do anything if you weren’t any good. I mean, they believe in what you do and you’re talented and I’m glad they see that as well as I do. It’s been kind of fun for me to watch this all happen.

UTG: It’s almost like passing a torch because many people think you jumped a lot in popularity because of Jesse Lacey and Brand New and now you are, in a way, doing something similar with Brian.

KD: I think it’s what you do. If you get a little bit of something, you help other people out who deserve it as well. There’s not a ton of music that…I live in a scene where there is a lot of music and artifice about making music, but Brian and his friends are making music for what I believe is the right reason.

UTG: It’s nice to see this torch being passed.

BB: I think it also happens to come from being around the right network of people. Everyone seems to help everyone out whether it’s Brand New or Manchester or Kevin. It’s just beautiful to see people helping one another like that.

UTG: Well Kevin, you have one of our favorite records of the year thus far, so congratulations on that.

KD: Thank you for that, it’s really cool of you to do something like that for me.

UTG: Well, it’s all you, I mean, we just pass the word.

KD: I make it, but it’s up to everyone to decide what they think of it. I’m thrilled with the reception of it thus far. I mean, you never know how people will take it and you shouldn’t care, but you do. You shouldn’t really let it make you crazy, but it does and it can be a good thing because it makes you better. I thought it was a strong release, but you don’t know until people hear it.

UTG: Brian, you play on the record as well. With your solo project getting big, will you remain in the Goddamn Band?

BB: Basically, I’m trying to play ping pong as much as possible right now. Whenever I’m not out with my thing, I want to be with Kevin as much as possible. It seems like it’s going to work out quite well and I’m really excited about that because it’s fun to not be the front man and not be focused on everything or have the attention at you. I like what I do in the band and it’s fun. so, I guess it’s two different sets of shoes and I really love both, so I want to keep it going. In December, that tour with Manchester, was fun because you’re just a guy in Kevin’s band and the focus isn’t all on you. You just relax and have fun with everything. Also, we weren’t even headlining and it was great to think that al lI had to do was set up keyboards and play. I didn’t have to think about crowd reception and such. However, I love them both.

KD: In addition, I knew Brian had this going when we started and that it was a focus of his and I think it’s required of me to be adaptable and make things work. It’s been that way for five years now and I’ve learned to make it work even when you don’t have everyone you may want there. Not to say this is how I want it to be for sure, but it’s part of the thing and I wouldn’t ever hurt their advancement for myself. I think we’ll figure it out.

UTG: you’ve also used other part time members in the past. You have had Brand New’s drum tech as your drummer and he’ll be gone a lot in the near future.

KD: Yea, well, at this point with drums, bass, and some guitars, I have a few people who can play the parts. so I have options. It’s not a bad thing at all either because it keeps things elastic and changeable. We don’t have to be concrete and I don’t think we should ever be that way.

BB: It keeps things interesting as well because you’ll have the studio sound and band, then the tour sound, then Kevin alone. It’s always changing and fresh. It feels more creative this way because everyone can add their own flares to it.

UTG: Now Kevin, rumor is you are one of the opening acts for Brand New’s upcoming small club tour. Can you deny or verify that for us?

KD: I haven’t heard that if it is the rumor. I mean, I’ve heard the rumor, but I don’t know it to be a fact if that is the case. We’re doing the UK with them for a week as well as two headlining shows and then we come home and go back to the UK with Manchester [Orchestra], then I’ll be on a solo run to Lollapalooza where the band will meet me.

UTG: I think it’s become expected almost that you or Manchester will accompany them anytime they go out.

KD: Well they like to have their crew of friends and such with them. You know, Anathallo, Color Revolt, us, Manchester, or Mewithoutyou. However, I think on this tour, and this isn’t fact just one more fan’s opinion, they’re looking to switch that whole though around a bit.

UTG: You just mentioned a solo run?

KD: Yes, I will be doing one in July. It’s fun and different. I mean, there are people who enjoy one over another, but that’s how it always will be. I find it funny that without doubt at every full band show someone will ask me to play solo and at every solo show someone will say they wish the band were there. That’s a good thing to me though because people love both. I mean, it’s fucking lucking anyone is into it at all. I mean in the modern, media saturated, myspace world of today, it’s lucky to have anyone come to your shows period.

UTG: Well, the last few records have been heavier on the full band, so is it weird to go back to solo?

KD: Everyone says that, but I think it’s quite curious because it’s never been just me. I mean, even Circle Gets The Square had some additional work. I get the feeling they mean though because those old records have me and a drummer attempting to approximate a band while I play 5 things, but these past few have had actual bands behind me. I’m going to play however I can because it all starts as just me in my room, so it can go anywhere.

UTG: Kevin, the video for, “I Could Be With Anyone,” seems to carry a message of Equality, was that what you were going for?

KD: I think that to me, it’s about having awareness. You can be playful and make a point. There’s a mindfulness that you can’t legislate morality and I think that’s what a lot of that stuff has been. It’s not my idea whatever ideals this country was suppose to be founded on.

UTG: Was that the original intent of the song?

KD: No, not at all. The song is actually a very personal tale. The director just heard something different and that’s cool because it’s not like I don’t agree or put those thoughts into other songs, but that’s just the difference in how we perceived this one track. That’s what’s beautiful about music is that what means something to someone may mean something entirely different, yet equally relevant to another.

UTG: Well, Kevin, you have to play soon and Brian, you obviously will be joining him, so do you have any last comments to make:

KD: What’s been on my mind outside of the NBA Playoffs and getting home to see The Mets is the whole Kansas Abortion Massacre thing. The person entered his church and shot them dead. It’s scary and really dark. It speaks to a serious division and frightening hypocrisy of some of the Christians in our country. That, added to all the other problems in our world and such is just bad, but that story keeps coming to mind. That and whether or not the outside shooters on the Magic will help Howard out. You have to keep a balance between the dark and fun side of life. At least, I do, I spent a lot of my 20’s bunkered down over the messed up shit in the world.

BB: I’m in a position where I think I’m just watching it. I’m watching the next tour which will be the first outing with people I don’t know which is exciting. I’m excited to see what comes out of it and the reaction to the album. I’m watching Kevin’s fans and thinking how kind they’ve been this whole tour. It’s awesome to be in a position where people come to shows and I can get paid to do this. Also, I’m worried about Sherlock Holmes is going to be and finishing The Wire. Also, women. I can’t wait to find my wife and have kids [everyone laughs]..wait, I’m 23. Nevermind. Hopefully I can take the family with me on tour.

UTG: Well thank you guys for chatting with me and I’ll see you [Brian] next month with Nightmare of You and I’ll see you [Kevin] as soon as possible.

James Shotwell
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