dev and kindness are best mates, collaborators and major music lovers
As we premiere Kindness' new video, Adam Bainbridge and Dev Hynes shoot the breeze on the musicians they love, the instruments they hate and the current state of the music industry.
Dev wears Jacket Schott NYC. T-shirt Calvin Klein Jeans. Jeans Guess. Sunglasses No Relation Vintage. Watch MoMa. Kindness wears t-Shirt Dâm-Funk. Shorts 3.1 Phillip Lim.
Devonté 'Blood Orange' Hynes and Adam 'Kindness' Bainbridge first met ten years ago, when Kindness was asked to interview Dev for nu-rave fashion magazine, Super Super. They've been firm friends ever since, as both have embarked upon successful and singular music careers that have stretched the boundaries of the modern underground and pushed them towards the mainstream, clocking up seven albums, dozens of singles and much critical love.
Whilst neither artist is a fully-fledged household name just yet, both were faces on London's nu-rave scene in the mid-00s, Dev as third of short-lived dance punk trio Test Icicles, and Adam as a DJ, famous even then for his waifish beauty. Dev first came to wider attention as the writer behind two of 2012's greatest pop songs; penning Solange's Losing You and Sky Ferreira's stellar Everything is Embarrassing. 2012 was also the year that Kindness' debut was released to rapturous critical acclaim, heralding a new direction in Britain's underground scene. They both draw from a well of references that contain seemingly incongruous elements of electronica, disco, easy listening, soft rock, and underground funk, all underpinned with an emotional honesty and endearing naiveté that might at a glance sit at odds with their studied auras of cool.
It's no coincidence that two of UK pop music's most virtuoso solo talents - both are experimental, ambiguous, playful and curious - had to leave Britain's shores to grow into their artistic identities. Even if Dev was born in America, he grew up in Essex and, after Test Icicles split up, he moved to America as an early wave Brooklyn hipster to craft a solo career for himself. Kindness, meanwhile, is living in Berlin. If you've ever lived abroad before, you'll know the transformative effect it can have.
Over a pint of lager (Kindness) and a green tea (Hynes) in a pub on the Caledonian Road, a short distance from where they were rehearsing for their Brixton Academy gig (a studio with walls plastered with faded, signed photos of stars like Bonnie Tyler, Robbie Williams and Ocean Colour Scene), they admit that they almost exclusively talk about music, be it 1900s French music teachers or Peter Gabriel, The Smashing Pumpkins or Rae Sremmurd. We tune in to their conversation…
Do you ever find yourselves disagreeing about music?
Kindness: Yes, on New Year's Day Dev was talking with Rostam [from Vampire Weekend] about Smashing Pumpkins a bit too much for my liking.
Dev: I tried to let it go, but I couldn't stop myself!
What were you discussing?
K: Rostam threw out a challenging statement along the lines of, "I don't really believe you know as much about the Smashing Pumpkins as you claim to." So Dev basically recited three-quarters of their Wikipedia page from memory. I was pleased you were right, but I never want to hear that again.
Do you enjoy discussing music together?
D: There are only four people in the world I want to talk to about music, and Adam is definitely one of them.
K: We don't need to go through 60 years of music history, we can speak in shorthand.
Did you like the same music as teenagers?
D: Well, we both listened to a lot of Ash.
K: But then we went in separate directions. When we DJ'd together in 2005, Dev would always play Dem Franchize Boys and I was like, 'I'm Three 6 Mafia. I'm not down with this!' But there are also musicians that we can't disagree on.
D: Arthur Russell, definitely.
K: Lindsey Buckingham [Fleetwood Mac] as well. [Dev laughs] No?
D: Yeah, definitely. Robert Palmer.
K: Lennon and McCartney.
D: Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel, Paul Simon…
K: You might be losing me a bit there!
What are your polar opposites in musical taste?
D: It might be hip-hop…
K: Dev's a big Eminem fan, and while I appreciate Eminem he's never been the be-all and end-all for me.
D: If Eminem didn't hit you when you're younger, then it's almost impossible to be an Eminem fan now. But if he did, then you swear by it.
K: When we were shooting the video for Chamakay in Guyana, Dev and Samantha [Dev's girlfriend] were playing his new song over and over again. All I could hear was the two of you rapping along.
How important is image to you?
D: I respect Adam for putting himself on his album cover twice!
K: It's not a fun thing to do.
D: I know. That's why I respect you. I haven't done it.
K: A lot of people would commission an artist to create something graphical and universally attractive, whereas I put my stupid face in close-up on my sleeve. It meant that only 10 people bought my record, but hey!
D: For the two Blood Orange records, I had the covers done before the albums were finished. The covers inspired the music.
Who do you rate in pop music right now?
K: Mike Will Made It is still doing good work.
D: Sremm Life is a solid album. It's cool to hear a fun hip-hop album.
K: When Mike Will worked with Miley Cyrus, I was like, 'The world is imploding!'
D: The new Usher song with Migos on the ad-libs and Juicy J, yet again, on the rap. Juicy J is doing what Snoop did 10 years ago, phoning in rap verses.
K: I'm waiting for Juicy J to sample Three 6 Mafia and put one of The Corrs on there.
You both have a rep for being geeky about music, is that true?
K: Men can threaten people with physical violence based on their passion for football and cry in front of the television and that's not considered unusual? So why is my interest in music considered obsessive? I think it's normal. I feel very strongly about music. I could probably throw a punch if someone said the wrong things. I'm not a geek just because I believe in what I invest my time in.
What role do you think record labels play today?
K: If you have ambitions to be a top ten artist, you might need a record label. If not, you should invest in your music and reach the people who will genuinely appreciate it. If you're truly talented and meant to do this, it will find you. Someone like WondaGurl can make a beat and in three weeks it's on the Jay Z record, and people like Odd Future can come up out of nowhere. On the other hand, if kids want to go down The X Factor route, I'd say that's going to be miserable.
What are your favourite instruments?
D: I can tell you about the instruments I hate. I fucking despise the guitar! It's a love-hate, but mainly hate relationship. It's the instrument I'm best at. I could be shot in the face and I'd still be able to play guitar, but I've always despised it. I even hate holding a guitar. Every show I've played, the guitar's from the venue or borrowed. I don't even own one.
K: I'm going to be positive about keys. So much music is synthesiser-based these days and that can sound great, but what would sound even greater is if it were the same texture but with even deeper chords behind it. Watch a documentary about the A-list of the global music industry and they all record in huge music studios, but their music sounds cheap. I love artists like Dam Funk, who create something dense and intelligent that doesn't patronise anyone, and they don't need an expensive set-up to do that.
What's your favourite aspect of making music?
D: Writing. It's the only thing I think about.
Where do you like to write?
D: Everywhere. I like kitchens.
What about you Adam?
K: It's all pain.
Seriously though, do you have a time when you feel most in your element with music?
K: Weirdly enough, when I'm DJing. I'm too close to my own music, so some days I can be incredibly proud and some days I can be completely depressed. I have no distance. But if I play a DJ set, it's the happiest I could be.
Text Stuart Brumfitt
Photography Beau Grealy
Styling Andreas Kokkino
Hair Dennis Gots for Jed Root using L'Oreal Professional.
Grooming John McKay at Defacto Inc.
Photography assistance Porter Counts, Bummy, Tyler Ash.
Styling assistance Lesley Macleod.