Dev Hynes' s funky new musical project takes his songwriting to new levels
Ever the musical chameleon, Dev Hynes has shed his skin as Lightspeed Champion in favour of a new sound, something way more funkier. His latest project, Coastal Grooves, under his new name Blood Orange, is fuelled by sexy synths and an electro disco sound informed by the likes of Chris Issack, Billy Idol, 80s Japanese pop such as Yellow magic Orchestra and French singer F.R David. Hynes' sultry feminine crooning will make you do a double take as he transforms his vocals from his Lightspeed Champion and Test Icicles days to the point of it being completely unrecognisable. Busier than ever as an in-demand producer and songwriter for artists like Florence & The Machine and Theophilus London, Hynes is finally ready to step back into the spotlight. As Coastal Grooves is being prepared to drop into the pool of mainstream music, and surely make a few ripples, we got the chance to find out more about the shy guy who would rather sit at home watching films and writing songs than hang with the scenesters.
Dazed Digital: We haven't see you in quite a while! And you've relocated to the US, what prompted the move?
Dev Hynes: There's nothing that really triggered it apart from not wanting to be in London! There wasn't one or two deciding factors it was just like an overall thing. I had been back and fourth to New York and just decided to stay! I guess in 2008 I didn't want to put out music, more like I didn't want to put it out on, I use the term loosely, a commercial scale. I always want to write and make music but I really don't like putting myself out there and making myself open to criticisms.
DD: How does the music scene in London and the music scene Stateside compare? Is there a different attitude towards new music?
Dev Hynes: I guess so. I didn't really get drawn into the music scene in New York, I guess I did by default eventually, but just by friends who also play music. For example, a while ago I was in London for a bit and people had heard of Blood Orange, and I've been playing gigs in New York for the last like two years but I either don't tell anyone or would just do it with friends or whatever, but when I was back in London people kept saying: “What are you doing with Blood Orange?” And that's a comment I literally hadn't heard ever! It kind of summed everything up about how people view things in London. It's just music and it exists. It's available, there is no extra agenda. So I had to escape that mentality and also do things for myself.
DD: And how do you feel now?
Dev Hynes: I've now worked out how to be content and I'm really happy with the music so I'm ok doing the other stuff, I'm cool to share it.
DD: What kind of influences have you experienced whilst being in the U.S?
Dev Hynes: I think all my influences that will be reflected will be more personal and just general surroundings. Like no matter who you are or what you do in life your surroundings will influence it, even if you are aware of it or your fighting it. Either way it's still an influence of some kind. Also, I guess like freedom, I'm kind of obsessed with escapism and stuff like that.
DD: When you're writing tracks for other people do you have to adapt your style to accommodate them?
Dev Hynes: No, because every time I write I actually want someone else to sing it, like every single song and if they don't then I usually end up having to keep it. But even then they can still have it, there are songs on the mixtape that are now in some form with another artist at the moment.
DD: So you never feel like: 'I can't give this away, its way too personal'?
Dev Hynes: No, it's more other people telling me not to give it away! I always really want to give stuff away, I don't particularly care who to because I feel like with every experiment...the worst that can happen is it's a bad song. I mean no one dies, it's not the end of the world!
DD: So how did the name Blood Orange come about?
Dev Hynes: Erm the name is actually the name Lightspeed Champion was gonna be called and then I switched it at the last second, but it's actually the name of a comic book I used to draw. I have a pool of names whether it's album names or artist names stored to just use.
DD: The new album is such a departure from the stuff you have done before, it has a very funky, soulful feel, reminiscent of Earth Wind and Fire and Prince's sound in the 70s and 80s, was that a conscious decision to go down that route?
Dev Hynes: No not really, it just kind of naturally happened, especially as I was working on the Solange album, and its funny you said Earth Wind and Fire because I tracked Verdine White for the Solange album. The Solange record has been like the last year or so, on and off, and there is a certain type of music that I really really fucking love and she really loves and I think we both brought that side out way more in each other, in what we were doing, and so for the large part of the last year that's blossomed way more than anything else.
DD: And if you had to sum up the sound of the blood orange record in a sentence what would it be?
Dev Hynes: I would say an expression of beauty! That's all I'm trying to do!