After breaking through with the short-lived, but much-adored, dance-punk outfit Test Icicles, Dev Hynes made the transition into the Lightspeed Champion moniker with a collection of mostly acoustic-driven folk songs.
After breaking through with the short-lived, but much-adored, dance-punk outfit Test Icicles, Dev Hynes made the transition into the Lightspeed Champion moniker with a collection of mostly acoustic-driven folk songs. The stylistic transition continued with this year’s well-received release of the sardonically titled Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You . As well as sustaining a richly prolific output, Dev has played a behind the scenes role composing and producing for a wide-range of buzzworthy acts from both sides of the pond. It’s fitting that he’s also assumed a role as a conduit between his native England and his new home in New York. “I’ll always call myself English,” Dev states while chilling in his girlfriend’s Brooklyn apartment. “I’ve kind of become the default tour guide for anyone coming over from England,” he laughs. “Everybody seems to give out my number to anyone visiting from home.”
With ‘tour guide’ added to such a long CV of accomplishments, it’s difficult to comprehend that the dude’s still only 24 years old. The releases under the title of Lightspeed Champion present a sort of stabilising anchor to an often spasmodic stream of work, which is where Blood Orange, also a solo Dev Hynes project, comes in to play. “Yeah Blood Orange is really the latest batch of songs that I’ve done, really an ‘80s soul type of thing that I started writing last year,” Dev explains.
Assigning these different guises provides a coping mechanism not so much for the man himself, but more so for those consuming his craft. “Well the thing is, in my mind there is zero distinction (between Lightspeed and Blood Orange), I know how people these days don’t really allow you to do different things,” he attempts to explain. “It’s not really a problem, I’m fine with it. I mean, I don’t really play live that often, so it’s never really an issue,” he says in regards to any potential identity crisis. “I figured if I did this stuff under Lightspeed everybody would judge it as the ‘new Lightspeed album’, which I don’t really want.”
So what can the many fans expect as Lightspeed Champion does a run of Australian shows over the New Year period? “Well I’m gonna play a lot of stuff from Lavender Bridge (the first Lightspeed album – Falling Off The Lavender Bridge), it’s actually just me coming over, so I’ll be doing some piano, electric guitar, a cappella, backing track and loop stuff,” he explains. “I’ll throw in some newer stuff from the next Lightspeed.”
The next Lightspeed?
“Oh I’ve actually finished it, but I don’t think I’ll actually release it,” he laughs. “I just can’t be bothered with all the trauma that goes along with releasing something, and having people be weird about it. I don’ know. I really like it,” he reflects, “but I might just give it to friends or something.”
Though we may never get to lay our ears on the finished product, Dev attempts to explain what we’re missing out on, “It’s a lot more sparse, it’s a bit like The Zombies actually. There’s a lot of acoustic guitar, much more than the other albums,” he details. “There’s a ton of backing vocals, a lot like Beach Boys harmonies and that. It’s probably a bit more depressing than the other two, if that’s even possible,” he says with a mighty laugh.
“I don’t wanna like overdo it,” he further explains. “I think the Blood Orange album comes out the start of next year, so I guess people will just be confused if there’s a Lightspeed album on top of that.”
The ridiculous level of output, as well as an eclectic and ever-shifting embracement of style, stems from an insatiably studious exploration of song. “I write songs every day, usually it’s a gradual change that slowly develops,” he states. “It’s never like one thing that happens, I’m never standing around thinking to myself ‘I’m gonna do this now.’ It just somehow happens. I mean it’s just me, so I can’t really argue with myself,” he laughs. “It always just goes wherever I want it to go.”
After writing and producing for the likes of Florence And The Machine and Basement Jaxx, Dev has begun work on the debut release of upcoming songstress Solange Knowles (yes, Beyonce’s lil’ sis), “I always enjoy working with singers – as in, talented singers,” Dev states. “It’s kind of exciting for me; I have so many ideas but can’t really pull all of them off, so it’s good to work with someone that can actually do it.”
It appears that songwriting brings the most joy, even if the track isn’t for one of Dev’s solo outings. “I always enjoy writing songs, whether it’s for me or someone else, I always get fulfilment out of it,” he muses. “Maybe even more fulfilment when it’s for someone else.”
Also manning the boards for Solange’s record is Melbourne’s own Vincent from Midnight Juggernauts, whose company Dev seemed to enjoy, “Yeah it was awesome, that guy is fucking rad,” he gleefully recalls. “I hadn’t really heard of them (Midnight Juggernauts) before that happened. Then later on they came out to New York to do a show,” he recalls. “I came out to see it and it was amazing; I really, really enjoyed it.”
When talking to Dev you can sense a conflict between a burdening sense of world-weariness and a sheer, unbridled optimism. This is neatly reflected in his art – often sunny pop songs laced with devastating lyrical tales. Then it’s not surprising that Dev possesses a distinct thirst for somewhat demented forms of culture, evident when the topic of conversation turns to the twisted The Human Centipede. “Yeah it’s ok I guess, it’s definitely not the sickest film ever,” he states with a sense of disappointment. “I’d say I’ve seen probably thirty sicker films,” he laughs.
“The idea in itself is pretty sick, but the actual reality of it’s that it’s kind of a shitty art film. Having said that, I’ll definitely go see the next one.”
LIGHTSPEED CHAMPION returns to Australia for PYRAMID ROCK FESTIVAL– alongaide N*E*R*D, The Temper Trap, Arrested Development, Xaiver Rudd, Chromeo, Future Of The Left, Midnight Juggernauts, Basement Birds, Operator Please, Built To Spill, Mystery Jets and heaps more on Phillip Island over December 30-January 1 thepyramidrockfestival.com. Dev will also play The East Brunswick Club on Sunday January 2 – tickets from The East box office, 9388 9794 or eastbrunswickclub.com. LIGHTSPEED CHAMPION’s new album, Life Is Sweet , Nice To Meet You is out now through EMI.