Interview: Lightspeed Champion

Indie polymath Devonté Hynes hints at the end of Lightspeed Champion and rebirth in disco form.

Lightspeed Champion

It’s been very quiet on the Lightspeed Champion front in recent times. Texas born but Essex raised Devonté Hynes is best known as the man behind the moniker, though his talents have been utilised in everything from music writing and production, writing a book of short stories recently published, drawing comics and making music with new band Blood Orange.

His sophomore effort Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You, released early 2010, aimed to take a positive approach with a smorgasboard of musical influences seamlessly blended into intuitive pop and funk songs. But with no promo push or tour, it faded into the abyss.

On the phone from New York, where Hynes has found reception in his girlfriend’s roommate’s bedroom, he’s ponderous of his current state of being. Earlier in the year he confessed to the NME that times have been rough, especially financially. Indie doesn’t pay it appears, and the repercussions will extend to his Australian tour where he was due to take the stage with Adam Green’s band Spacecamp.

“It’s gonna be solo, a solo experience,” he says. “Spacecamp are not coming with me. They had to stay because they have no money. I’m going to try to make it some kind of weird, intimate show. I’m still working it out, everyday I’m trying to work out the set.”

If not to exacerbate the situation, Hynes confesses an unexpected nervousness when the subject of live performance comes up. Though most musicians who’ve been around as long as Hynes would feel no qualms walking on stage, his concerns lie with pleasing his fans.

“I get a little stressed out about it. I don’t think I’m a natural performer but I try,” he says. “It’s a little tough but usually works out. My only worry is, especially performing Lightspeed, I am worried I’m gonna let people down. It’s my little hang up, but I’m getting over it.”

Local admirers of the singer/songwriter are particularly lucky as Hynes has only toured once this year, supporting We Are Scientists on a leg of their US tour, making his visit here a special second outing and his last for the year. Furthermore, Hynes hints that this brief jaunt is potentially the last for Lightspeed Champion.

“I’m looking forward to these shows, they’re the only ones that I have booked, there’s not really anymore after this. I want to make them intimate, and I’m gonna play a healthy selection of songs.”

His reason behind the Lightspeed Champion touring hiatus is simple.

“There’s no point because there’s no Lightspeed record. I just feel, because the Blood Orange album’s gonna come out, that’s just the next album,” he says. “I just don’t have any plans for anymore Lightspeed shows.

“I’ve got another [Lightspeed Champion] album ready. I’m gonna play a couple of songs from it in Australia. I just don’t know, I got a little disheartened about things. I guess I shouldn’t deal in absolutes.”

In the meantime Hynes is preparing himself for the trek down under and figuring out how to make his show both intimate yet interesting, assuring me he plans on bringing all but the kitchen sink when it comes to instruments and playing tunes from across his repertoire, which involves listening back to the songs he’s forgotten from Falling Off The Lavender Bridge as well as this year’s Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You.

“It’s a little interesting, I’ve been trying to learn them [old songs] over the last week. It’s cool, I just need a little distance and now I’m totally fine. I’m going to play a lot of songs from Lavender Bridge and songs I essentially never played, it’s going to be really interesting for me, I don’t know if it will be for everyone else.”

Although Hynes is a modern renaissance man with his many projects having him understatedly point out that it’s been ‘a busy year’, music remains as his main passion.

“I enjoy writing music, whether it’s for me or someone else. It’s the actual act of creating music that is the most fun thing for me,” he says.

He’s certainly been busy writing and producing music for big names including Solange Knowles, Florence and the Machine and Theophilis London. He also featured on the latest Chemical Brothers record with tune My Turn. He only has upbeat words to describe the sound of the much anticipated record from Knowles.

“It’s awesome, it sounds so cool,” he says. “It’s great, it’s fun for me.”

As for his plans next year, production takes the main stage again.

“I’m going to finish the Solange album and there are a few other singers I’m working with. They’re not people anyone would have heard of, they’re people who’ve just signed at Warner, Sony…” he says.

The next possible touring effort from Hynes will be in the form of new band Blood Orange, which has been described as a combination of 80s disco and eastern melodies. Hynes has high hopes for the record and has hinted that the sounds featured are similar to that of Knowles’ record, with similar world music and disco influences permeating both. A new single is due out early January and the album has been slated for release on Terrible Records.

“I finished the album, so it’s gonna come out start of next year,” he says. “There’s more chance I’d tour it. (pause) Yeah I think I will.”

Along with his headline shows Hynes will perform at the Peats Ridge Festival, the dates placing him somewhere in Melbourne for New Year’s Eve, though he seems hazy on his own itinerary. So how is he planning on celebrating the descend into 2011?

“No idea, I don’t know. My girlfriend’s coming with me, so we’ll be in Peats Ridge. And then we’re going to drive to Melbourne, it’s driving distance right? And then I guess we’re going to maybe drink and stay in, I don’t know anything in Australia really.”

I suggest that New Year’s Eve is the most anti-climatic evening of the year, and completely overrated. Luckily, our musician friend wholeheartedly agrees.

“It is, I’m with you on that. It’s actually a much busier and more annoying Saturday. I basically see New Years as a Saturday with less public transport and more people.”

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