Lightspeed Champion

Dev Hynes is a tired man...

Dev Hynes is a tired man, and as Clash meets the Lightspeed Champion himself, somewhat appropriately in a Shoreditch espresso bar, it would seem he is in the middle of one of his most hectic weeks in memory.


Just days ago, he finished a tour with Good Shoes, and is heading off on a nationwide jaunt with Patrick Wolf tomorrow morning. In the interim he has filmed the video to next single ‘Tell Me What It’s Worth’, faced the Dictaphones and cameras of the increasingly engrossed press, and made a failed attempt to check himself into hospital.


“My body just collapsed, it was after the video and I lost all track of time and everything,” he recalls between careful sips on a seemingly never-ending can of juice. “Now I’ve got this tooth problem, it’s officially the worst pain in the world, and I don’t have the time to get it fixed.” A minute into the interview and the instinctive compulsion is to send the poor chap off to bed and compose a sick note to send Patrick’s way.


With such a heady schedule, you would be forgiven for thinking that our subject is becoming slightly jaded with this rock star life, but the wry smile and periodic outbreaks of laughter betray any such suggestion. This is, after all, not merely a new up-and-coming artist fresh on the scene, but a veteran who can rightfully lay claim to being one of the founding fathers of the latest musical genre du jour, and still only 21.


The legacy of Test Icicles is all over the new rave scene, rearing its neon head in the clothes of the passing East End fashionistas and the stylised gig posters plastered on many a Shoreditch brick wall. It’s obviously a subject that Dev has been confronted with before. “It’s weird. I hear it everywhere now, the screamy vocals and angular guitars. But for us, it was just The Strokes, stuff like The Rapture and Ex-Models and nu-metal coming together.”


Whatever the inspiration, the trio made an important and lasting impact on the London scene, knocking the Liberscenesters from their faux-poetic perch and making noisy synths cool again. “We had fun. If we had concentrated on it more then we probably would still be touring and releasing stuff and touring,” he reflects. “But I would’ve definitely still done this album.”


The album in question, ‘Falling Off The Lavender Bridge’, is a record that is about as far from his previous musical life as he could feasibly get. Written from a combination of old material and songs composed on a transatlantic flight from Detroit, it is a collection of deeply personal alt-country ballads. The subject matter covers the usual inspirations you’d associate with the genre; break ups, insecurities and overindulgence, but with no rulebook adhered to, giving it an unpretentious and endearingly naïve feel. “It’s just me on there man, there’s no real aim to appeal to any crowd or please the label, I hope that’s what will make some people connect with it.”


Recorded in Nebraska over a two-month period, the album is shot through with Dev’s earthy appeal. Roping in mates from these shores such as Emmy The Great and Martin Brignall of The Train Chronicles, it is the debut recording to emerge from Saddle Creek supremo Mike Mogis’s new studio. Clark Baechle of The Faint played drums, while members of Cursive and Tilly And The Wall would drop in to lay down some harmonies. Not bad for an artist who sometimes struggles to get a band together.


“I fucking hate [playing solo], it’s never how I imagined it to be,” he says, musing on the upcoming tour, which will see him in singer/songwriter mode. “I’m worried people just won’t get it.” Self deprecating till the end, he seems genuinely concerned and humble, despite his status as one of the most affable, well-connected men in music and the fact that he will soon be unleashing an early contender for 2008’s album of the year.


While Dev’s musical about-turn may cast him as something of a musical chameleon, fans of this new venture needn’t ready the tissues for any impending sonic shifts. Unlike Test Icicles, he is happy with his work and is sticking with this incarnation for the time being. “I’ve got the next two albums written and demoed,” he says nonchalantly, “the second one is kinda the opposite of this one. The lyrics are really upbeat but the music is more melancholy, and it’s really just guitar, bass, drums and a bit of synth. It’s still definitely Lightspeed Champion though!”


With such speedy progress, is it possible he is feeling the dreaded second album pressure before even releasing the first? “I thought about it the other day…but really, I’m not big, so it doesn’t matter. I didn’t make this record to sell loads, it’s just kinda me baring my soul, and if people wanna go out and buy it that’s great, but it’s not for the money or the fame or the label, it’s just…me, you know?”


In a time when labels are keen to churn out rehashes and copies of the latest fads, it is refreshing that some people are making music for the right reasons. Never one to do things by halves, Dev has bravely moved out of step with the current musical scene, and come up with some timeless, exciting, and downright excellent.

My body just collapsed

I’ve got the next two albums written and demoed

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