June 8th, 2008 | Interviews

Devon Williams ‘Elevator’


Devon Williams’ debut record Carefree has just been released. He insisted on watching the Glen Campbell Good Time Hour DVD during this interview. Interview by Frankie Delmane.

You recently toured with the much-venerated Destroyer. How was that?
Really nice. They’re the only current band—other than Outrageous Cherry—who I really like. I think that Destroyer are the most fun and musically exciting band for me, like, right now. There’s no other band that I’d rather see, or go on tour with, except for Thee Makeout Party. Have you heard thee Makeout Party?
I saw them about two years ago. The singer had a voice that made me want to smash his face in.
I love their new record. It’s really good.
Why so many line up changes? Explain yourself.
Before all of this, I had a project that I gave a name to. When that fell apart, I was tired of playing under band names if it was just me all the time. I really hated the idea of, like, bands that were just one guy—like Nine Inch Nails.
I call those ‘quote unquote bands.’
The feeling I had with the album was that I really like who I was playing with—Alan and our friend Greg. We instantly had a lot of really good chemistry. I could write three songs in one night with them and bring it to practice and it would just be awesome. That worked out really well, but that dynamic got old, so we just kinda fell apart. There would be other people to play with, like Jessica. Adam [Payne of Residual Echoes] filled in. Adam’s a really great drummer. I would love to make a record with Adam. His style is so loose. I guess I just like how Bob Dylan always has different musicians playing on his records. It keeps it interesting. I wanna make another album with Alan and Adam and Lana and Peter, but what do I do? Get a band name now?
Call it Devon Williams and the Motherfuckers.
Unless you’re, like, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, every band name sucks.
Your debut is titled Carefree, but on the spine it’s listed as Careerfree. A possible statement?
The “Careerfree” thing was suppose to be an inside thing, like, it could be our stance. Our message, maybe. Then it became the thing I would get e-mails about. Some guy in Japan was like ‘Which is your newest record—Carefree or Careerfree?’
So you had to keep explaining it.
No. I don’t reply to e-mails.
What is the story behind the song ‘One and One’?
After I quit my record store job, I didn’t have an apartment and I was subletting my friend Josh’s place. I think I was depressed. Mildly depressed. Not seeing eye to eye with people, where I felt I couldn’t get along ‘right’ with others. Or not deal with small talk. When I went out I felt like I couldn’t relate. I couldn’t do it. So I was just depressed. That song is contrary to the idea that if I found some one to be in a relationship with, that I would feel better. Musically at the time I was really into the Blue Nile and Aztec Camera.
Oh, Roddy Frame does that to people.
Yeah. That’s the gist of that one—that’s the song.
You’re also a fan of another one of my favorites, the Go-Betweens. What’s your favorite record of theirs?
Spring Hill Fair. I love Grant McClennan. ‘Bachelor Kisses’ is one of my favorite songs. I think ‘River Of Money’ is one of the coolest songs.
And what has motivated you over the years to keep doing this—playing and writing music?
I look to music to really move me. Like why I really like Glen Campbell—it’s bouncy, it’s good, it speaks to a bit of the sappy side in me. My dad listened to the Beach Boys and the Everly Brothers and Dion. So that’s my blueprint for great songs, and I’ve always been a fan of trying to write a great song that could stand the test of time and taste. I mean, in high school, there’s the stuff I learned how to play guitar to, like Fifteen and Screeching Weasel…
For me it was Fang and the Troggs.
So that—fortunately or unfortunately—is how I learned to play guitar.
Or figured out chords.
What do you consider your best song?
I think ‘Elevator,’ up till now, is the best song I’ve ever written.
Tell us about your Replacements cover band.
It’s me and Greg and Adam and Alan. It is now our goal to get Tommy Stinson to come play with us. I know he’s gotta be hanging around.
Yeah—I saw him at the Raspberries show recently.
Was he hanging out with Axl Rose?
What about your desert experience searching for the elusive Greg Sage?
I don’t think there is anything shameful about hero worship. Last summer when we were touring we were listening to the Wipers’ Silver Sail, which is like the sound track for desert rats. We found the compound that his studio was located in. It’s a fenced-in area, with maybe two houses and a studio. We were knocking on the studio door, and we figured he wasn’t there. And then we turn around and he was there, kind of lurking, and then he realized what was going on. We weren’t really there to harass him—we just wanted to maybe talk about ‘D7.’ Or something. We told him where we were playing, but he wasn’t having it. He told us that he was not going to come, informing us that he had to go because he had ‘cats in the bath.’ We swear that’s what we heard him say.
Recently I read a review of your LP which stated that it was somewhat of a genre exercise. What genre would that be?
Uh, action, romantic comedy. A little foreign cinema.