EXCLUSIVE: Q&A With Mat Devine (Kill Hannah, Wrongchilde)
You probably know Mat Devine as the leading man of Kill Hannah. Now, taking a break from the band, Devine is getting ready to release his long-awaited solo album under the moniker, Wrongchilde. Gold Blooded will be released on August 19 and it is full of surprises and killer collaborations. I had the honor of catching up with Mat on what Wrongchilde represents to him, those killer collaborations and the pros and cons of major labels. These truly are the greatest answers ever.
For those not familiar, tell us a little about yourself!
– I’m an underweight Caucasian male of average height and strength. I likeSaltines, vinyl, wine, conspiracy videos, Arrested Development, old pianos, pesto, Christopher Hitchens, Cecil Beaton, abandoned mansions, and girls who say, “Suck my dick,” when they’re mad.
I hate hippies, blood tests, frisee lettuce, the sound of people eating apples, the song “The Monster Mash”, the name Ruth, people licking their fingers to turn pages, and the word “funky”.
I’ve spent the majority of my adult life on tour, and the majority of my childhood hanging out in the woods, trespassing, and setting mailboxes on fire, which for some reason brought me great pleasure.
Describe Wrongchilde and what it embodies for you.
– Wrongchilde is me being as authentic as I can be as an artist; stripping away all of the things that kind of contaminated my writing process and re-learning how to make songs and videos for the pure love of it again.
My favorite bands are The Cure, The Smiths, Psychedelic Furs, and English 90s shoegazer bands (My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Stone Roses, Catherine Wheel, etc.). So Wrongchilde is a return to creating moody, textured, make-out music and stuff to be played in your friend’s car at night.
I don’t have a car.
There are a lot of amazing collaborations on this album – from My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way to M83’s Morgan Kibby. How did they come about?
– Well, I’d been living in NYC for 3 years, so when I moved to LA to make Gold Blooded, the change in environment was so drastic—the hummingbirds and flowers and wind blowing through your windows at night—it’s a super refreshing “witchy” sort of vibe that just makes you want to be more creative, so there’s a real spirit of collaboration out here.
I’d heard legendary stories about some of my favorite bands in the 70s and 80s just wandering over to each other’s houses, and stepping into studio sessions, so I wanted to keep our doors unlocked too.
In the case of Gerard, it was such a cool gift for him to say yes when I asked him. I was lucky that we were both in LA at the time (our studios were only like a couple of miles apart) and experimenting with new directions.
I was in the process of forcing myself to “let go” and break familiar habits and to try something more “mature” I guess—less bombastic, less screaming at the top of my range all the time… and I think he related to that too. So the acoustic ballad just felt right. It seemed a bold choice at the time… a duet with two guys on an acoustic love song… but now I can’t imagine it any other way.
Your upcoming album is going to be independently released, which I find to be admirable in an industry where things can literally change overnight. You’ve been signed to a major label before with Kill Hannah, so being that you’ve experienced both sides, what are the pros and cons of each, in your opinion?
– Before Kill Hannah ever signed with a major, we were self-sufficient and DIY for 6 years. We were fighting tooth and nail to be noticed and to build our fan base in Chicago, all the while learning skills the hard way (how to shoot and edit videos for $100, how to record, how to design/print T-shirts, how to promote shows, how to brand and market, economics, legal shit, street teams, web programming, analytics, etc.), and it turns out those skills are ALWAYS vital… no matter what level of success you reach or how big your team gets. When we signed, it was an anticlimax, and it was wild to see how much more we knew about reaching fans than the experts did.
Truth is, putting out a record in 2014 is the most fucked up, fiscally reckless thing you could ever do. If I ever have a son, I’d rather he join a Mexican cartel than invest in a band. Therefore, the people who are still in it are the people who love it, and we are hungry as hell.
As for pro’s and con’s of self-releasing…
Pros: I love self-releasing because I can micro-manage everything. It’s not like some vague international corporate ghost army of people who barely know you. I get to hand-pick a super mobile sniper unit; a small weaponized ‘dream team’ of people I know who are passionate, love their work, and care whether I live or die. Everyone is accountable and trusted, and the stakes are equally high for everyone.
Cons: Much smaller budgets, no full-scale radio campaign across multiple formats, struggle to scale up operations as record reacts, and it sucks asking people for favors.
Pros and Con’s of major labels…
Pros: Delicious dinners, foot soldiers in every city worldwide, insurance, new instruments, your grandmother sees you on TV, money to spend creatively, but most importantly, a massive base of operations, which IF all pistons are firing at once, (radio/video promotion, worldwide distribution, marketing, licensing, touring, press, etc.), can be powerful as hell and do some real damage.
Cons: Giving up big share of ownership of everything you create, new distance between artist and fan, huge debt, no accountability for fuck ups, unhelpful input from non-artists, etc. But my biggest disillusion was how low the stakes are for labels. Artists have crews, families, girlfriends, and communities of fans and friends built around the band. Success is LIFE or DEATH. In the eyes of a label conglomerate, you’re a statistic.
Sorry… long boring answer.
What are your top 5 favorite songs at the moment?
Fever Ray : When I Grow Up
White Sea : Prague
Mew : Snow Brigade
Stitches : Brick In Yo Face
Mel Gibson Rants: Tape #2
Check out the 80’s/John Hughes inspired lyric video for “Gold Blooded” below:
Stay up to date with all things Wrongchilde HERE.