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Lightspeed Champion - The New Indie Champion

Author: Carlisle Rogers
Friday, 25 January 2008
Lightspeed Champion is the nom de guerre of devonte hynes, ex-test icicles member and all-around weird and wonderful guy. Falling Off The Lavender Bridge is his first release under that name, and it is a strangely beautiful thing that sounds as if Kele from Bloc party made a melancholy weirdfolk album. Interview by Carlisle Rogers.

There aren’t many people like Hynes working in the music industry, though. To go from hardcore jazz vocalist to singing and playing in hip hop/thrash/punk outfit Test Icicles to his latest venture, which takes in folk, indie and even country sounds and melds them into his own plaintive acid-valium genre, you either have to take yourself completely seriously, or not at all.

He’s the first person to admit he doesn’t really have any clue what direction further releases as Lightspeed Champion will move in.

“I originally gave Domino so many songs, I don’t know how many, and a lot of them are from completely different genres,” he said. “No one really knew what I was going to do. I hadn’t homed into a style for this particular record. I just ran with it for a little bit. A lot of the songs were quite grunge-based songs originally; they were quite loud. The only reason they became how they are is that I decided to take a long time to do the album. I always feel like albums are snapshots. Six months before or after, it would have been a different album. I change my mind quite a lot. It’s strange how we managed to catch an interesting period for me to record the album and have it sound like what it is.

“The songs are from about three years ago, a lot of them. There are only a couple that aren’t. One was written a couple of months before I flew out there, so that’s October 2006, and another one was written when I was in Omaha, the first week of January 2007. They are all pretty old songs. I just had them, and rather than writing for a record, I just had loads of songs. They ended up being on the record. For me, it is weird.”

Hynes says that he has never listened to other folk bands, classic or ‘New Weird America’.

“I never really listened to any of that stuff, which is funny because of the album I just made,” he says. “The closest to that stuff that I listen to is Bright Eyes or the first Ben Kweller album, but I don’t even know if that counts. I don’t know if Neil Young counts either. Maybe my stuff is Americana, because I listen to a lot of stuff that’s that kind of thing.”

It is also probably the first time the world has had a chance to hear Hynes sing melodically, sing as sadly and as emotionally as he can throughout the album, counterbalanced against guest vocalist Emmy the Great for many of the songs.

“This is the first real melodical singing I’ve done where I let people listen to it,” Hynes admits. “In the hardcore band I only sang, I didn’t play any instruments on it. We did an EP somewhere. There was singing, though, we were quite into Glassjaw. Before that I made loads and loads of albums by myself. The only people who heard them were girlfriends and friends and family. I have never really had the desire to ‘put the music out there’. Everything I did was completely selfish.

“The guests mainly contributed vocals, like background vocals. Emma is a good friend of mine. It is mainly female vocals I wanted. She has a voice that complements mine really well, I think.”

Produced with the help of Mike Mogis, famous already for his work with Bright Eyes and Tilly and the Wall, the album sounds beautiful, with that lilting Midwest sonic quality that seems to be soaking into the curtains of dorm rooms around the world right now. Hynes says that Mike originally heard one of his ‘weird demo CDs’ and their relationship grew from there.

“I didn’t know anyone had been given them, then I found out the label had given them to a lot of people,” he says. “He called me up, and it was a really random phone call. Then we became friends and spoke on the phone for eight months or so. We had spoken for so long and he knew what I wanted and there were no hassles – we recorded it in about two weeks. It was really relaxed. He is pretty versatile, he is a great producer. If he wanted to work with me again, that would be great.”

WHO: Lightspeed Champion
WHAT: Falling off the Lavender Bridge through Domino/EMI
WHEN: Out now