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 first 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 (Rob John Mathiason, Rob Schnapf). Enjoy a comprehensive look at Devine’s career through Brother’s Blood this week, and look for the rest next week!
Kevin Devine - The Untold Story
Chris Bracco (The Goddamn Band): Mike Skinner and I went to Binghamton University together in Upstate New York. We were both in bands, and our paths would cross from time to time. At the time, I was in a band called Wookiee, and he was in a band called Sidedoor Johnnies, among a handful of others. Near the end of my senior year, our bands decided to release a compilation CD together, along with two other bands from Binghamton. I used to record my band and other bands in Binghamton on 4-track recorders at the time, and this is where my love of recording started. I personally think learning on a 4-track is the best way to learn, because you have to figure out the best ways to work with it’s limitations which leads to a lot of trial and error and experiments.
Anyways, after graduation, Mike and I kept in touch, and our bands would play shows together. When the rest of my band graduated college the next year, we all moved into a house in Queens at 80-20 Margaret Avenue in Glendale. It was at this house that 80-20 Studios started. By this point, I upgraded to a digital 8-track machine and a 16x4x2 mixing board, and kept recording my band and some others in our basement studio. At the time, Mike was living in Williamsburg and we still kept in touch, and we started playing together doing these spaced out jams and art installations. Through Mike, I met our friend Will Quinnell, (Will introduced me to my now wife Amy!) who worked at Sony Studios in their mastering department. Will helped us with some mastering and we hit it off as friends. We both also loved recording.
So Mike, Will, and I decided to pool our resources and get bigger better recording equipment. We upgraded to a DA-88, DA-38 and an 8 track Pro Tools system that was synced with the DA-88 and 38. So we built up a 24 track recording studio in our basement in Queens with a 32x8x2 mixing board. To give you a visual, this house we rented had a finished basement that was probably decorated sometime in the late ‘70s. Wood paneled walls, some carpet, some linoleum tile, and we also put a pool table down there. Around this time, Mike started playing drums with Miracle of 86. The first time I saw them perform was one of Mike’s first shows with them at Brownies in the Lower East Side.
Mike Skinner (Miracle of 86, The Goddamn Band): I hadn’t been playing for a few years, and I had a practice space that was a smaller room in a bigger space, and the person in the larger room was Walter (Schreifels) from Quicksand, who ran a label and offered to help me find a band. I ended up meeting Kevin and the other guys in Williamsburg and joined Miracle.
He and the other guys were so young — they were just really eager kids to me. He was still in the stage before he was comfortable with how good he was. I knew he was a top talent, and I don’t know if I would’ve stayed with a band if I didn’t think they were going somewhere. We were reaching in a lot of different directions.
Mike Stuto (Brownies): I owned and operated Brownies in the East Village until 2002. We used to do emo shows — well they weren’t always emo, but we became known for that — on Sundays, so with bands like Taking Back Sunday and Brand New. I was the bartender on Sunday nights. I owned the club and did some booking, but I wasn’t the main guy. I wasn’t a big fan of that sound, and I’m still not.
Kevin started playing Brownies in ‘99 and 2000, and the first or second time Miracle played, they were second on a bill of four bands and drew a lot of people. Any band that drew like that got a second chance.
If you asked me what band that played Brownies would have “made it,” I probably wouldn’t have picked Miracle. But even when I was miserable and cynical about what I liked, Kevin broke through that. There’s a lot of disingenuous bands when you book shows in New York City, but Kevin was always genuine. He played here when I was at my lowest and angriest at running a rock club.
John Mathiason (Manager): As bizarre as it sounds, I used to manage a band called Weston from Pennsylvania, and I met Kevin through my cousin, because Kevin showed up at one of Weston’s last shows at Brownies in New York. And I didn’t know who Kevin was. I was with my cousin and Kevin starts heckling the band from the back of the bar, yelling things like, “Play your old shit!” They’d just come out with this new record, and the old fans really hated it. Kevin was yelling that, and I lean over to my cousin and I’m like, “I’m going to kick that kid’s ass if he doesn’t shut up.” My cousin was like, “No, no. That’s Kevin Devine. He has this band called Miracle of 86. I want you to listen to it because I think you’d like it. You should manage them.” So Kevin had this band called Miracle of 86. This must have been like 2000… oh boy. 2000. So yeah, we’ve been working together for about thirteen years.
Chris Bracco: I thought they were great. I loved the energy and the songs and thought that Kevin was awesome at screaming/singing and had a great sense of melody. I also liked that they didn’t just play punk/emo/fast songs, there was dynamics in the songs and set. This was something that I always loved about bands like Jane’s Addiction and Smashing Pumpkins. A short while later, Miracle was going to be recording a new record, so Mike suggested that they use our studio in Queens to record some demos and that I could engineer them. The guys showed up one weekend and we recorded about 14 songs. From the time they walked in, I really liked everyone in the band. They were four different personalities, but they really worked well together and I really loved the music. After recording these demos, it turned out that they needed someone to record and produce the official record, so they asked me to do. We recorded it over some weekends and nights throughout the summer of 2002.
Mike Stuto: I don’t think Kevin realized that his draw was big enough to make demands he didn’t make. It got to the point that the first band we’d call was Miracle, and if he knew the band on the bill he’d be psyched, and if he didn’t, he’d trust us. What made him special was a combination of having a good band, working hard, and a good relationship with promoters — you could tell he promoted his show. He was just the nicest guy in the world. He wouldn’t take a show without thinking first: he was always reliable.
Mike Skinner: We were drinking pretty heavily and doing other things, so it was a very wild time — blurry and frenetic. The first record done with Miracle was in a basement studio with Chris Bracco, and we were trying to capture the songs without losing the feeling of playing them live. It was effortless (all of our heads were in the same place) and it happened pretty quickly — maybe in about a week. I don’t remember anyone fighting, and we thought it was good enough to go on tour. The reunion shows we did reminded me a lot about how I remember that as an unblemished time for me.
Chris Bracco: During this time, I learned that Kevin also recorded as a solo artist performing songs that didn’t fit the Miracle sound. When Kevin decided to record his next solo record, Make The Clocks Move, he asked Mike Skinner and I to produce it. We didn’t have much time to make this record, since Kevin had a solo tour lined up in Europe, so we kept it spare and we recorded and mixed it in about a week. This is something that we repeated on future records: record in about seven days, then mix them. At this point, I was really impressed with his songwriting. He had a great sense of melody and his chord structures and guitar parts were simple yet complex. He was also great at putting a lot of feel into his vocals. I also started to realize what an amazing guitarist he is. I don’t think he gives himself enough credit regarding his guitar playing. During down time he’d always be noodling with some Elliott Smith song and learning these intricate songs. I credit him for getting me into Elliott Smith.
Jesse Lacey (Brand New): I met Kevin in 2001 or 2002, and I only got to see him with Miracle once, and mostly I knew of Miracle of 86 because they were on this Fadeaway records comp that a couple of friends had put out, and I always associated them with being from somewhere that was vague and not New York City, or some of them were from Queens maybe, but some were from Connecticut or somewhere. I don’t know if that matters, but back then the matter of where your band was from always preceded you. And because I could never figure out where they were from, I could never figure out who they were.
Riot Fest Chicago kicks off this weekend, and PropertyOfZack has never been more excited for a festival. Just in case you haven’t put together your schedule, we thought it’d be a great idea to put together a list of POZ’s Must See Bands And Artists that will be gracing the stage this weekend in Chicago. Reblog and let us know who we need to see while we’re at the third day of Riot this weekend as well!
For me, getting the chance to actually catch a live Brand New show is comparable to catching a rare Pokemon: on the rare occasion they were actually coming through my hometown, wrangling a pair of tickets was always a mission in itself. I always knew there was a good chance they would sell out in under an hour and I could only hope my fingers were ready to move fast and my Internet connection was strong.
But when you finally see them, it’s pretty much like how Christians feel when they find Jesus. It may not be the most high energy, high action, hilarious candid one-liners spewed by a quirky frontman type of show that you’re used to, but it’s on a completely different level. You’ll gawk at Jesse Lacey and company in a trance like you’re watching some revered, holy entity.
It’s different from any other type of experience that you will probably ever encounter. If you have already witnessed this, you’ll want to experience as many times as possible, and if not, you literally can’t miss it for anything. Don’t hold your breath to hear any of the snarky, angst-filled tunes off Your Favorite Weapon (although you never really know what could happen) but be prepared to have your face meltedoff from greatness by Long Island’s finest. - Brittany Oblak
The Replacements’ first set in 22 years, at last month’s Riot Fest Toronto, found the band shying away from their late-career MOR phase in favor of a set heavy on sloppy teen-punk thrashers like “Takin’ a Ride” and “Hangin’ Downtown” and perpetually-lame goofs like “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out,” with a Chuck Berry cover tossed in for good measure. All of which is to say, Mats2K are as predictably unpredictable as version 1.0 was.
Will we get the same set in Chicago? Will Paul Westerberg decide to flex his more mainstream inclinations this time around? Will Tommy Stinson play that one weird Guns n’ Roses B-side he sings lead on? Will the band cover KISS’s Detroit Rock City from front to back, and then send up their roadies to finish the show? In a world where the Replacements are reunited, anything is possible, and that’s reason enough to attend. - Jesse Richman
Saves The Day
Saves The Day’s fall tour set list has been scarily awesome. The band is playing anywhere from 20 to 27 songs a night, and it’s hard to believe that their bodies are even going to make it to Chicago on Sunday. But they will. We of course won’t be seeing a 25 song setlist, but I have a feeling we’ll get a compact, energized, and somewhat off-the-rails show from one of the most consistent bands in our scene. Saves The Day has a certain aura around them right now on the heels of their new album, and we’ll be feeling it this weekend. - Zack Zarrillo
I had the pleasure of seeing Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace play a solo show a few weeks back, previewing tracks from the band’s long-awaited new album Transgender Dysphoria Blues, and even stripped of the band’s pummeling stomp, those new songs seared with an angst and vigor that AM! hasn’t approached since the Searching For A Former Clarity days.
There has been a ton of interest surrounding Twin Falls lately, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the band features members of Dashboard Confessional, Bad Books, and The Narrative. PropertyOfZack was interested in the band too, which is why we were happy to have Senior Writer Jesse Richman do an incredible interview with the band down at SXSW last week. The interview features information on how Twin Falls came together, what the band means for other projects, an album, tour, and so much more. Check it all out below!
Could you state your names and roles in Twin Falls?
Ben: I am Benjamin Homola and I play the drums.
Jonathan: I’m Jonathan Clark and I play the bass.
Suzie: Suzie Zeldin. I sing.
Chris: Chris Carrabba. Vocals and guitar. Suzie plays mandolin, too.
I saw your first real performance at SXSW [at Central Presbyterian Church] yesterday. Chris, you played some songs at shows in the past few months, but was this the first performance?
Ben: Yes. It was the first performance billed as Twin Falls.
POZ: How did it feel being up there?
Chris: I think that the church we were in made us feel a little reserved, but it felt great to be up there. It felt really great.
All of you come from different bands. Is it strange being on stage with a different group of people than who you’re comfortable with? Is there an adjustment period?
Chris: This is the most comfortable I’ve ever been on stage with anybody.
Jonathan: It’s extremely comfortable.
Chris: We’ve essentially been living together for two years making this record, just deciding what the record is going to be. We didn’t know we were even going to be a band when we decided to start messing around for fun. it started out as a labor of love. We were just pals. We even said at one point that we wouldn’t be a band.
POZ: What changed?
Chris: It was just evident that this was a band.
POZ: Was there a certain moment?
Chris: I think I know what it was. I had a handful of songs, and I was looking for a post-Dashboard thing. I thought what I wanted to do was make delicate finger-picking kind of songs, which is something I like very much. Ben and Jonathan are both producers and were helping me with recording these songs.The more I examined what was important to me about music I began to have a revelation that something that’s great about Dashboard is that the audience is in a state of celebration. Which may be antithetical to what people who don’t know much about what Dashboard think it is. It’s a little bit euphoric. But I’ve always felt like I’m just a focal point, and maybe that I’m not quite part of the party. That was something I realized as I was doing this finger-picking. I was getting further away. I want to stomp my foot, I want to be a part of this party, I want the party to be on stage, go outward, and come right back at us. That was a big shift in the tide.
One of the tracks you played at the first show was a cover of Cory Branan’s “Tall Green Grass,” which you also released on your cover LP.
Chris: We did some covers for Covered In The Flood. I’ve had Cory with me over the course of the last three years as my main opener. I’m very inspired by him. I love that song so I did that song. While we were doing that finger-picking thing, at some point, I said we should make another cover record that was closer to where I want to go because I don’t know how to get there. That’s when things started to take shape. That’s when I started to understand what we were chasing.
Was Covered In The Flood the genesis of you seeing this new direction?
Chris: That allowed me to realize that I should be able to make music like that too. I listened to that as much as I did punk rock.
POZ: Was that big in your house growing up?
Chris: No, it was just kind of something I stumbled on in my pre-teen years. I think it started with Willie Nelson stuff. My grandmother was super into Frank Sinatra, and then I heard Willie Nelson, songs that he wrong for Frank Sinatra. I dove into that. My stepbrother knew a lot about country music, so I dug into it that way. I never saw too much distinction between the outlaw country and punk rock. It’s cut from the same cloth, the same dirty, ragged cloth.
Ben: A stained whiskey cloth.
Chris: Even some Dashboard songs have it tempered into what I did. The covers LP was me saying, “How can I do this in such a way that isn’t disingenuous.” They’re my influences and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with embracing them, but I didn’t want it to be pure imitation.
The release of the solo LP was the first time you put aside Dashboard to put something out under your own name. Was that a conscious break where Dashboard is emo music and Chris Carrabba is something else?
Chris: Dashboard has a lot of trappings. There is an expectation from the listener that makes it difficult to write without an expectation of an outcome. I feel like it’s demanded now, at this point. It wasn’t always like that, there’s a lot of variation between records, but I felt that after six records it had to be a certain kind of thing. That felt void of magic to me.
POZ: Do you see yourself coming back to it in the future?
Chris: Absolutely. I think if it feels magical to me that I’ll do it. If it doesn’t, then I can’t do it. I think what makes people connect with my music is the same thing that would make people know instantly if I was bullshitting.
Bad Books will be playing a one-off show in New York City in mid-July. Check out details below by clicking “Read More.”
Kevin Devine and Andy Hull treat PropertyOfZack better than we could ever ask for, and they always give us incredible interviews. I was able to catch up with the duo at Bad Books' Philadelphia, PA tour stop for one of POZ's best interviews of all time. Kevin, Andy, and I discussed Bad Books' new found cohesiveness and success, all the details you could ask for for Kevin's Kickstarter campaign and two upcoming albums, Manchester Orchestra's reboot with a new split and album, and so much more. We couldn't be more excited about the interview and all the great details within it, so check out all of it below!
So this tour is going really well, it seems. This is the fourth tour for Bad Books right?
Andy Hull: Yeah. We did a few short ones so yeah, four.
How many was it, like a thousand in Ohio?
AH: Yeah its nuts, I think we could have done that easily in New York from what we were told; in New York and Philly and Boston as well. Yeah totally nuts. The reception is really cool. Nobody’s asking for anything other than Bad Books tunes. People are actually enjoying the songs.
You can play a full set now, that’s awesome. No filler.
AH: There’s still plenty of bullshit, but yeah.
Kevin Devine: It feels like the balance is… there is one. It’s definitely more… the bullshit is an accent, as opposed to potentially being the main thing.
AH: Half if not more than half of the show…
I know that for the first record, or even for those first shows, there was always talk of, “This is really cool, but it still feels separated between two parties, rather than one band.”
AH: Dude it is so much different now. It feels like a real thing. It feels exactly like a real band. We’re all developing identities. It’s really cool because it’s going to be sweet to see what happens with the next record now that we have an identity. We all have things that we do in the band now. Rather than, “You do this. You play this.” There are members that are doing things. We can only go up from here.
KD: I think an interesting thing about how that live experience can translate into that next record too is that in carving out those identities, I feel like even though it’s a band it’s been something of a studio project for us in the studio. Like me and you [AH] end up doing a lot.
KD: And I feel like it’s nice to have that as an option. But I also think what this enables us to do in the comfort level we’re reaching here is that the next record can be more like a rock band playing songs; rather than building songs in the studio.
There’s been some satellite radio play too, right?
KD: Amazing response there. Like the number one song the last couple weeks on there.
AH: Yeah, nuts.
Especially because it’s four months out since the release.
KD: Yeah four and a half or so.
AH: There’s two different ways a record can go, you know? You could put a shitload of promotion behind it and then have a really big first week and then everything will trail off, or you can try to do it organically where it will continue to grow and just steady as it goes. It feels like that’s what’s happening with this record. It’s starting to connect more and more the longer it’s been out. It’s cool.
I assume you guys are going to be really busy this year. If the record’s doing well and tours are doing better than well, is that something that you now want to try to carve out more time for Bad Books?
KD: Yeah we were having that conversation last night. Like how it’s kind of…
AH: Short answer, yes we do want to. It’s just about making that decision. And hopefully finding some sort of time for it. It’s a timing thing really. I would love to do it more though, especially since it’s going better.
Have you found that with this touring and the band being more cohesive, that you actually have wanted to do a record sooner rather than later?
KD: We haven’t really talked about that yet. We’ve talked a little bit about doing it, but not about a timeline for it. Because I don’t really know, realistically, what that would look like.
AH: That’s the thing is when we could do it. But yeah, I certianly am in my head, being on this tour like, “Yeah we should be writing and we should go in immediately and go make another record.”
It’s a good problem to have.
KD: Yeah. It’s a luxury problem; it’s awesome.
In terms of Bad Books as a separate entity, do you think there are people now that are just Bad Books fans?
KD: I kind of do. Or I kind of feel like there are people who are more… there are definitely people who like it of it’s own merit. And I think that maybe there are some who even like it more than they like either of our things. Probably not the majority. The majority is probably still kids that are coming from Manchester’s world and my world. But I think it’s built itself into it’s own formidable entity. It’s totally amazing, yeah.
AH: It helps a lot that the second record is just such a… in my opinion, stronger album than the first record. The first record is kind of your perfect stereotypical first album for a band. It’s rough and a lot of loose ends. It’s going in all directions, we hadn’t really found out who we are. I’m stoked that we started with something that, you know, I’d saw was a three star record. I’d say this one is a four star record. Now we’re going to try to make a five star record.
Will Bad Books be going to rest for now until there is more time?
KD: Yeah I guess we’ll figure out what happens.
AH: Hopefully going to try to play as many festivals as we can and get some… We’re down to work. And honestly working with Kevin is a lot easier than working on my own. Not that I’m working on my own with Manchester, but just being the sole front guy, it’s just half the work. It feels nice.
KD: It’s totally noticable. It’s lovely. I feel like Bad Books tour is like… It’s still in a van and a trailer and all that stuff, but the fact that it’s other people doing this stuff sometimes, I’m like, “This is sick. Just hanging out while someone sells the merch… that’s amazing!”
Are we cool to talk about prospecitve projects?
KD: I really wish you wouldn’t… Yeah I don’t care.
AH: What do you mean?
KD: Like Manchester and me.
AH: Oh yeah.
KD: But I have to answer all of the Manchester questions and he has to answer all the the…
AH: That would be cool.