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Seismic-Sound Interview: Shawn King of Devotchka.

March 2, 2011

I sometimes underestimate the overall impact Devotchka has not only had in the United States much less the World. Playing together since “97”  as a back-up band for a burlesque show in Denver, who would have thunk they would be leaders in the  gypsy punk movement today. Standing the test of time and a track record that continues to flourish. Devotchka is about to release their new album “100 Lovers” on the ANTI- label March 1st and kick off the west coast tour the very same day in Salt Lake City. I asked Shawn King (percussionist and trumpet player) some questions about fame, life,  Seattle and touring.
Some of you know Shawn is married to my cousin so he is family. That’s how I may know a bit more than others …. I wish it was due to research but it’s not. I just pester him a lot. Lets see if he gives up the goods.

SS: So Shawn…you’re a BIG GIANT star now (smirking). Whats this about you meeting Jimmy Page or something like that in London, is this true?
SK:Yeah, he stopped in towards the end, and was met with a gang of awestruck musicians; you can’t deny your inner child in those situations but I didn’t ask him to sign anything!  I think he has a crush on Gogol Bordello’s Elizabeth Sun. 
SS: You’re going to be playing Bonnaroo this year with Grammy winners Arcade Fire. Weren’t they kind of chummy with you guys? and do you think they will even chat with you anymore *snidely joking*? Or will you snub them because you went to the Oscars and the Grammys (Little Miss Sunshine) first?
SK:They are great people! We’ve known them for quite some time, and Tom and I saw them play a few songs at a live radio event that KEXP set up in New York.  There were no more than 25 people in that room including the Arcade Fire, and it just exploded like nothing I’ve seen before or since.  I bet they’d at least hi-five us at Bonnaroo to answer your Q.  
SS: What do you think of indie becoming mainstream, is it a good thing?
SK:Well, when a previously under-the-radar artist starts to attract fans who look like the dudes in high school who would kick my ass, I gotta draw the line.  I might still listen to their record, but not go to their show.  It’s a strange landscape these days, and in our case even though we’re heard in a few movies, it’s not exactly mainstream.  That term ‘indie’ has got to be on its last legs, no?  
SS: Do you ever look at Festival line-up and think “Holy shit! Neil Young is playing as well”, or have you become jaded?
SK:Not jaded in that regard, just overexerted some days.  Randomly you find some things when you’re not even checking the line-ups; I saw Alberta Cross at some Dutch festival and really got into them. And seeing Bootsy Collins at a festival in the fairytale-like Bruges was surreal. 
SS: I think it was this fall or early summer, you sent me a video clip on my phone of the stadium you were playing in Paris, opening for Muse. The video was overwhelming just to see on video. I can’t imagine how it feels to play in a venue that seats 80,000 people, so tell me … how does it feel?
SK:It’s a giant rush and equally terrifying! Mostly the time delayed speakers are a bit bizarre and make you feel like you’re at a giant political rally.  We were a bit out of our element for sure.  But even with the experience, I have to think Muse still gets a rush out of it. 
SS: So the new album… first lets talk about why you seem to be the poster boy for the band this year. Your face is on the Twitter account (devotchkamusic), and its also on the cover of the new album. What’s up with that? you’re not the only good-looking one in the band.
SK:I can only claim the twitter pic!  Gary Isaacs, who photographed us in the Great Sand Dunes, has a few dozen mesmerizing shots from the day a few of which are in the liner notes.  Oddly there’s a detachment between us personally and his pictures, you know?  He’s a true master like that

SS: Was this process any different from past experiences in recording as far as contribution or what not? and does it get easier 5 albums in?
SK:We tracked a lot this time, and maybe even too much in the beginning.  So what you hear now is a bit refined, but still more layered than say “Una Volta”. Is it easier now? Not quite, but you learn what to let go of and what to hold tight to, like toward the end where I was rushing to Tucson to get some hand claps on a couple of tunes just had to have it.  
SS: The album is incredible, and the reviews have been very favorable. I know this is cliché, but do the negative or positive reviews effect you as a band, or no?
SK:It helps to know that your fans support you in trying new stuff, for sure.  But you gotta be like a buoy.  Float with the tide when the bad reviews come, or even good ones for that matter.  Besides, what’s the saying “History won’t remember the critics” or something?
SS: The Song “Common Good” is like the album “100 Lovers” all rolled into one Devotchka song for me. Is there a song for you that truly represents Devotchkas sound off this album?
SK:Thanks Jason, it’s one of my faves too. But I wouldn’t say we have a definitive song which is our M.O. in a way.  Throw a bunch of styles together and try to make sense of it when we put it in a sequence.  We contemplated releasing just one long mp3 so people would hear the songs properly in this shuffle-age.  The label didn’t dig on that one. 
SS: So you’re playing Seattle on March 5th at The Paramount Theater, and it’s well-known that you have a rabid fan base here, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that KEXP loves you guys. Outside of the obvious, how much do you love playing here? Seems like Seattle latched onto you guys early on. 
SK:They did and we’re lucky to have such loyal fans outside of Denver.  I’ve always loved playing in Seattle, really.  In the early days, playing the Tractor Tavern and the Crocodile were rites of passage and a couple of the earliest times I thought I might be able to quit my day job.   
SS: Rumor is you’ll be Dj’ing an after party when the show is over? Is this the case?
SK:I hope to! My DJ skills are comical, but I will at least get my band mates on the dance floor.  I was supposed to DJ another aftershow recently and forgot a few cables so I had to give up on it all together.  Sooo with that as my disclaimer, come hang with us late night! (Columbia City Theater will be hosting a Devotchka after-party, that will hopefully start around midnight, pay attention to seismic-sound on Facebook for details, leading right up to the event.)
SS: Can’t wait to see you. Thanks for spending the time with us.

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