Origins is a recurring new music feature which challenges an artist to reveal the influences that gave them inspiration for their newest track.
This Friday, Kevin Devine will release the 12th entry in his long-running Devinyl Split Series. Closing out the second volume of the series, the 7-inch split single is a collaboration with his close friends and tour mates, The Front Bottoms. The A-side featured TFB covering Devine’s “Just Stay”, with the singer-songwriter himself featuring on the track. Those roles are flipped for the B-side, which sees Devine delivering his version of “Rhode Island” as The Front Bottoms back him up.
Taken from TFB’s 2011 self-titled debut, “Rhode Island” is a horn-backed acoustic emo-punk track that’s tinged with sort of scrappy production befitting the band’s early material. In putting his own touch on things, Devine plugs in for a much fuller sound, sustained notes replacing the trumpet and layering TFB frontman Brian Sella’s vocals under his own for a richer timber. It’s an ode to the original, for sure, but one that brings completely new life to the composition.
Take a listen below.
In a unique take on our Origins series, Devine has pointed to some of the things he heard within “Rhode Island” upon first hearing it. “Since I didn’t write ‘Rhode Island’ (though I wish I did), I’ll tell you about what I heard when I fell in love with it,” he explains.
Read on to see the references he picked up in the track, and pre-order Devinyl Splits No. 12 via Bad Timing Records. You can also head here to snag some more Devine vinyl, or here if you’re looking for Front Bottoms wax.
The Weakerthans — “One Great City!”:
John K. Samson is the once and reigning king of a very satisfying and influential iteration of articulate, literate punk rock, invested with a certain understanding of people and how we move around, glimpsed through an endless and expanding ocean of poetically-rendered character studies. His bonsai-eye for detail and the attendant empathy that calls forth set his work apart. It’s with great respect and adoration, then, that I attach Brian to his lineage (and sort of did immediately upon hearing TFB), and I think some of his finest snapshot moments are present here: “Mora cut her hair in Baltimore, right before I left/ I watch her sitting by herself, talking to herself/ Breathing calmly, then trying to catch her breath.” Three-dimensional moments, quotidian and real; what actually comprises a life. It’s John’s lane, but Brian built his own off-ramp.
The Mountain Goats — “No Children”:
The rolling, rising, possessed delivery; the unspooling collage of unflinchingly humanistic images, of self and others, seen; the thrust and energy and momentum, the chaos, legible inside the accomplished lyricism. Front Bottoms are a world-class party band, and an unbeatably caffeinated live act — they are seriously fucking fun — but the secret weapon, what separated and separates them from their peers, has always been what Brian sees, how he paints it, how you see yourself in the gallery. This guy’s pretty good at that too, I guess.
The Violent Femmes — “Kiss Off”:
The aesthetic similarities between early Front Bottoms and Violent Femmes are clear and straight-lined: acoustic-punk scrappers who, in shifting measure, cover up (and explode) their vulnerability with sarcasm, insouciance, and bratty pluck, and find some community and transcendence in the ensuing stew. Brian’s got a louder heart and more obsessive character eye, but the first time I saw TFB I definitely saw the connection. (Once I bled on Gordon Gano’s guitar at some weird alt-rock-radio show on Long Island; he was a tremendously kind sport about it. Unrelated, but true.)