Dev Hynes was once a teenage Test Icicle but now goes it alone under the name Lightspeed Champion. This year’s Falling off the Lavender Bridge surprised many, especially Test Icicles fans, as its charming mix of Britpop, folk and alt.country was a significant departure from the indie meets hardcore of his former band. Static’s Chris Berkley spoke to the bespeckled one during his first ever Australian tour about his passion for a good tune, cover versions, dressing up and the next album.
Chris: We’ve tracked down Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion. Welcome to Sydney.
(A very husky voiced Dev) Hey, how is it going?
I’m doing alright. Listen to that voice of yours!
Oh man, it’s funny I have to talk lower so it cuts out less. Maybe it makes people think I’m more masculine than I am because my voice is quite a bit higher. (laughs)
Does that mean no harmonies for you tonight then Dev?
God, no melodies, nothing. I’m going to rock more like Julian Casablancas’ vocals.
Is it a by-product of a year on the road or does it come and go? Have you been in good health this year?
I fall in and out of health constantly but usually my voice is OK. I was just talking about it with my tour manager; this should really have happened a long time ago but it only started a month ago.
This should have happened like somewhere in deep continental Europe where it wouldn’t have mattered as much.
Yeah, exactly. It’s actually really does suck. It’s only now. Yesterday was kind of fine.
Well you have a couple of hours to find yourself. This must have been, hands down, the busiest year of your life. What has it been like being the captain of the ship, and taking the band around?
It’s a strange feeling. It’s crazy… The idea that there are even two people that may have heard a song I wrote is insane, let alone a room full of people. I find it so crazy, you know?
Is it especially since you have been touring for so long that there are still places to go where you found out that people are waiting for you.
Yeah, I like that. It’s really cool to do this show because we do the festivals in Europe and that’s crazy in itself — being asked us to play festival is insane — but at the same time, you know it is kind of not your show. You kind of have to adjust I feel. We have had some really harsh shows.
You’ve had to taper down your wild antics?
It’s kind of the opposite. People expect you to put on a really great show.
Which I’m sure you do when you are in good health.
You must almost feel like you’ve been and done that as well with your previous band Test Icicles, where every show was almost a riot. Did it get like that as well, people expecting you to perform in that band?
Kind of. Maybe on a smaller level. I feel like the level of success of that band has being hugely exaggerated. In fact I feel like if half the people that have spoken about Test Icicles, bought the records and went to the shows…
…you’d still be doing that?
We would still be doing that.
That’s a nice ace to have up your sleeve Dev. You can always have the reunion when the money dries up.
Yeah, God, no. It’s kind of strange actually, that did happen. It was really funny. Because of the music it would seem we were really wacky characters but we were like so boring. We’d turn up to these shoots and people would be like “so we want you to throw paint over each other.” And we’re like, Huh?
Yeah, we don’t normally do that at home.
We were like moody teenagers. I do a lot more stupid stuff now than I did then as a person. It is quite funny the differences.
People’s preconceptions, I guess. You’re sort of a man of the people as well, you’re an active blogger, Do you find that you have to do that kind of stuff to sell yourself and to sell Lightspeed Champion?
Not really, I kind of forget about Lightspeed. I feel like you could read my blog and wouldn’t even realize that I played music. (laughs) Because I never talk about it. It’s the thing I never talk about. I often do other stuff as well. With music — I love it so much, it’s literally like breathing. This is the first time in my life that I ever had to (when we go on to the next album) I’ve had to think about creating music. It’s literally just pours out.
Well also reading your writings it also shines through what a music nut you are. It shows not only in that you have been prolific this year with Lightspeed Champion stuff but you have done a bunch of cover versions, even stuff like that. Are you always looking for new bands to cover or to do yourself? Are you still a bit of a nerd like that?
Yeah massively. I mean, if I love a song I just play it. Luckily if I hear a song I know what notes it is, so if I know the tune I can play it instantly.
I should be chuffed that you did Olivia Newton John’s Xanadu, coming from Australia, but also you big up your contemporaries, you’ve done covers of Amy Winehouse and Patrick Wolf songs. You don’t draw the line of only doing covers of 60s songs.
Yeah, if it is good I’ll just cover it. There’s loads of stuff that people haven’t heard that I just do for fun. I was doing some yesterday that I’m pretty sure no one’s ever going to hear. But I do it for the same reason I write a song. — I get a melody in my head that I have created, or heard, and I want to hear it in a song. To me it is all the same, if I wrote it or someone else did. I guess, it is kind of old fashion, because I know certain musical groups, maybe like 50 or whatever years ago, they just played songs. They played other people’s songs in their set that were out at the time.
Yeah, that’s the thing. If you look at the charts from any year there would be three versions of a Beatles cover. It was just that the Beatles had a hit with it.
Yeah exactly. I’ve always been like a fan of that. I can totally understand that, it doesn’t seem weird to me. When I was young, even now, I hear of bands because they covered a song. And I’m like that’s a cool song and you check it out.
So amongst doing that, have you had to think about the second Lightspeed Champion album? Are you formulating ideas in your head?
Yeah, it’s all there in some shape or form. We are doing a few new songs tonight but even they’re very different version of the demos, and what will eventually be the final songs.
Do you call your demos devos?
I should. Devo were on the radio just before we walked in as well.
You went to Nebraska to do your first album so can you pick anywhere in the world where you want to go to do the second record? Do you have shortlist?
It’s weird, there kind of is. There wasn’t even a list for the last record and there isn’t really a list now. I guess some people have a list of people they want to record with but I’m pretty easy going. If they said “sorry there’s no one who wants to do it, do it yourself” I’d do it myself. But if they were like this guy wants to do it…
…you’d happily field offers as they say?
Yeah, everything I do it as an experiment so I like the ideas of different factors and how that can affect the end product of music.
It’s almost like getting through that environment or swimming through that tide and see what happens.
Yeah. The only thing that I’m strict about, and it’s is a very new thing as well, is the parts [of a song]. I always have the part written exactly. Apart from that, I’m pretty easy going.
And the other part of course of the Lightspeed Champion experience has been going into the dress-up box. For a man who rocks a spider man outfit for a photo shot, I can’t wait to see what you are going to wear on stage tonight. So more importantly, have you thought that far ahead?
(laughs) I probably will just wearing this unless I don’t get a Nando’s t-shirt.
It’s not a lycra suit unfortunately, it’s jeans but with a wacky hat so you are rocking the nut bag hat Dev.
Yeah, I guess so. I’m looking forwards to tonight though. It should be really sweet I think.
We look forward to seeing you play and this is the first time so come back now.
Yeah. It sucks because we’re winding down the tour cause of this album now. It’s a shame because I would have liked to have come back in a few months.
Come back and make the next record or whatever. As I say we’ll field some offers. People can see you of course tonight very shortly at the Oxford Art Factory. You look after your voice.
Cool, thanks man.
First broadcast on Static on 31/07/2008. Static can be heard on Sydney’s 2SER (107.3FM) and via the internet (www.2ser.com) every Thursday evening (AEST).