Masochist: An Interview with Devin

Steven Spoerl

Devin Therriault opens up about rock 'n' roll, the Strokes, and the case for MySpace's continued relevance.



Label: Frenchkiss
US Release Date: 2012-04-10
UK Release Date: 2012-04-10

One of my favorite debut records from this year was Devin Therriault's solo record as Devin, Romancing, a smart blast of infectiously fun, hook-laden punk-infused, rock n' roll. After a slew of very strong performances, he caught the attention of Frenchkiss records, who immediately worked out a deal with him. At the midway point this year, he's showed no signs of slowing, delivering high-intensity live shows (including several high-profile SXSW gigs) and has been continuously pouring himself into his music.

When did you first decide to start making music, and what prompted that decision?

It was just out of pure boredom that I started recording on my computer. It took a while to figure out how to write a song but all the songs on the album are songs that I wrote in my room, just trying to figure out how to write a good song, a good rock n roll song.

Your sound seems pretty heavily influenced by glam-punk bands like the New York Dolls. Are there any bands you consider to be more influential than others?

Yeah, I mean Iggy Pop is my ultimate favorite, it just always gets better -- straight rock n' roll, like Raw Power, I like that a lot. I really like what he did. All those bands from the 1970's. Going back to the 50's, kind of forgetting about the 60's, going back to stripped down rock n' roll. I really like that idea.

Are there any contemporary artists you'd consider yourself to be influenced by?

Well, I definitely liked The Strokes and The Libertines when they came out. At the time, whenever it was, 2000, they definitely had an influence because I really liked them at the time. Whatever, really, I mean, everyone has to listen to the radio, you know?

A lot of times artists disagree with the genre categorization most often attributed to them by the press. How would you describe your own music?

I just say rock n' roll, you know, but that's kind of a vague term anyway. This album has direct, direct references and everything, though. It's no secret that all the songs and riffs have been done before, I would say. They're not exact but I've taken them all from rock n' roll; it's a real investigation of what rock n' roll was. It's kind of been lost now and no one can really pull it off now and I think the lyrics make it modern with themes. I'd say it's rock n' roll, although that's not the best. Also, I'd agree with the press- a lot of the time you tell the press what to write, anyway.

Speaking of the lyrics, there's times on Romancing that strike me as pretty confessional. Are most of the lyrics based on personal experience?

When I started writing it, after I wrote all the songs, basically, I didn't know that it was ever going to be released. I just wrote them for myself and I never thought anyone but my friends would hear them. So, yeah, they're personal.

There's some intricate arrangements on Romancing; how do you usually approach forming a song?

I have a system and I did them all basically the same. I've got ProTools on my computer and I'd start it with the drums. All the drums I'd program on a keyboard and just program the drums for a whole song so it'd just be a beat made up of all the different drum parts, so it'd be all rhythm. That's why all the songs have so much rhythm, they all start from the drums and that's also why it took me so long, I don't know how long, to find a drummer to play the parts. They all start from the drums and the drums really make the song with the drum arrangements. After that I put the bassline on, which would be the melody and a lot of times follow the vocal. Then I put the guitar last because it's the least important, just filling in the space.

How frequently do you write new material?

I try to write as much as possible. I wrote all those songs, and we recorded 18, at the point of when we recorded the album, which was in August. So, I've been busy since then doing stuff and trying to get a real band together and play, so it's been hard to do it. This whole last month, all of April, I really haven't done anything, I've just been at home, like right now, so this whole month I've been working. It was easy for me to work before because I had a good job where I didn't have to do anything and they just paid me to sit around, so I wrote all the time. Now that I'm actually working, playing shows and stuff, it's pretty difficult.

How did you end up signing with Frenchkiss

Syd, he just MySpaced me one day, which was really weird. I just woke up one day, it was at least a year ago but definitely more than that, but I had just woken up and he'd MySpaced me and I had no connection to him, at least that I knew of at that point. It was like "Hey, I'm Syd from Frenchkiss, I heard your MySpace and I just wanted to talk." Then we met. At first I oogled him to see who he was and see that it was real, then was like 'Whoa, this is real- this looks like a good situation.' Then I met him and we liked each other and it has been a real relationship. He helped me a lot in finding the band, he hooked me up with my bass player, Steve, who is the bookkeeper of Frenchkiss, he hooked me up with Zane, who produced the album. It's been a great relationship with Frenchkiss- and very easy. I never thought it would be so easy to get a record deal.

You got a lot of glowing praise following your SXSW appearances. How was that experience for you?

I thought it was awesome. I was really looking forward to it because I really wanted to go last year and couldn't. You hear about it, like you hear about anything, and people always build up things and then you actually see it and you're like 'Ugh; and it doesn't live up to your expectations. SXSW, I definitely thought it was crazy- just to have a city full of bands. It's just a hilarious situation. You know, bands are just the worst, so it was really fun, I liked it a lot. The shows were good, some were terrible, like when you're playing at 12:00, outside, and the sound is terrible and everyone has their hangovers. It's not the best crowd and it can't be the best show. When we played at night, at Stubb's, I think that's a good venue, I think we played after midnight and it was a good show.

What should people be expecting from you next?

We just have to play more. The band is still new, we've been together just for the last couple months. I hope to be playing for the next year and really getting the live show down. Then, once we get it down, I wanna put out another album. We had a different drummer on the first one but I want to do the next album exactly the same. There's really no reason to change. I like the way the album came out and I think the next one will be better, if we keep all the same people in the touring band. They've grown into a good relationship. When we did Romancing everyone was a complete stranger to me. I didn't know them before so it was a strange thing. I think if we got together again, it'd be a little more comfortable. It'd be good.

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