The Setonian talks Webster Hall anniversary show with Kevin Devine
Q: How and why did you approach the idea of an anniversary concert?
A: I feel like for most of the last two years we’ve batted around the idea of doing a show at Webster Hall and a part of that was because of my career. It has been a little abnormal and I’ve been lucky in a sense that it’s been kind of growing. I’ve been doing shows with [The Bowery Presents] since before “Circle Meets the Square” … I was 17 when I first played the Mercury Lounge in 1997. … It just sort of happens that we got approached about vinyl for the first time with the reissue of Split the Country, Split the Street and I thought “well, what if we did like a re-release show?” I don’t really ever play the Circle songs anymore and I don’t play 90 percent of the “Split the Country,” songs so what if we just did a show where I just did those records? Also, we never did like a proper record release show for “Between the Concrete and Clouds,” so it was sort of an opportunity to do a record release as a way of doing the end of that touring cycle, almost like a party at the end.
Q: Any track you’re especially excited to play at the concert? Can you pick just one?
A: I’m interested in how [Circle Meets The Square] is gonna feel live because those songs at the time, I don’t in any way mean to denigrate them, they’re a little tough for me as a 32-year-old man to relate to the way I felt as an 18-year-old kid. Some of them I still think are pretty cool songs … I like the melody and guitar and some of the words and then there was a song called Fingerprints and Photographs. And there’s a couple songs that I’m a little like the 17-year-old is a little more present … not as well-crafted, but I mean, I was a kid. I’m kinda looking forward to playing all of them and letting myself being okay with playing all of them instead of thinking about the context.
Q: Do you remember your first performance after Circle released in ’02?
A: What I remember is that the record came out and I went to England. I’d just finished school. I went to England and I opened for a Norwegian band called Billion Dollar Mission and I travelled in their van with them for seven shows. I was 21, the van was very crowded. I remember sitting with the tom drum on my lap for most of that trip … I remember playing those songs and I remember no one knowing who I was, no one knowing what the music was and I remember playing Probably and Haircut on that trip which ended up on Split the Country, Split the Street and I remember.
Being very exciting and free-wheeling … I think we played in a vegan sandwich shop and some VFW halls and some pubs and really little rooms. First I was doing residencies at a club in Staten Island called Wetlands in their basement once a month on Thursday nights. I’d invite friends from college and my hometown on Staten Island and they’d all come up and I’d play two or three sets and I remember being very excited … and it feeling intoxicating and a lot of energy … figuring out how to play in front of people.
Q: What musicians do you look up to?
A: A lot of people. Somebody I think maybe some people wouldn’t expect but I think is so strong and courageous in herself and gets a really bad rap and gets called crazy a lot but I think is so remarkably tough and open at the same time is Sinead O’Connor … It’s just insane to be capable of such ferocity, ferocious power, while being such an instrument of almost angelic sweetness when it wants to be.
Q: Why did you add the unreleased tracks to the Split the Country vinyl?
A: There were two songs I really liked back then but I never built them out from demo form into full song form… (We remastered Split the Country), so one of the other things we thought would be cool would be to give these songs an airing because I didn’t give it back then … I feel like I learned a lot about singing over next three records … I feel like it gives a more complete context to what was happening at that time in terms of I guess what the record ended up being, I feel like it gives a more complete picture.