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Dollars To Pounds: Lightspeed You Black Emperor

February 26, 2008


“I’m glad you all came and didn’t stay at home watching Mark Ronson on the Brit Awards,” said Lightspeed Champion Dev Hynes. While his mates Arctic Monkeys collected their Brits trophies dressed as sozzled country gents, Dev completed his transformation from day-glo Dalston scenester to sensitive country troubadour on stage at Camden’s Dingwalls.





After splitting with Test Icicles, Dev took to wearing plaid and turning up in the middle of other people’s sets to play acoustic versions of Strokes and Weezer songs. I wasn’t sure if I should take him seriously, but then he released the nine-minute country-pop suite ‘Midnight Surprise’, which sounded like the best bits of Ryan Adams, Bright Eyes and The Pernice Brothers sung by a wittily neurotic recovering London hipster.


Ideas spill out of Dev like a burst water main. He’s got at least three other projects on the backburner for songs that don’t fit the Lightspeed Champion mould, and it’s not enough for him to headline a show with his own band—he insists on playing bass for support act Semifinalists too. Dev’s own band though are a little shaky the night I saw them, and they missed the backing vocals of Emmy The Great, who’s away on her own tour. But Dev, fur hat clamped to his head throughout, was magnetic, with the confessional stuff about burning stomachs and being sick in his girl’s mouth gaining all the more piquancy because of the locale.

“I wrote all the songs before I knew I was ever going to record them,” he explained to me backstage while slurping pineapple juice. “If I knew people were going to hear them I probably would have held back a bit more. I did consider changing some lyrics. But… it’s cool. It’s weird writing songs now because, knowing they might be on an album someday, they’ve either become overly literal or completely full of ridiculous metaphors.”

Before launching into “Midnight Surprise,” Dev lead his band through a ridiculous version of the “Star Wars Theme” (you can see them do it in Nottingham here). Clearly it was a long-held geek fantasy. “Yeah, it’s really fun to do that,” said Dev. “This is actually the first gig of the tour where I haven’t talked about Star Wars on stage. That’s probably a good thing.”

What Dev would like to warn us about, however, is the imminent potential of time-travelling scientists visiting us from the future. “The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s biggest atom smasher under a mountain in Switzerland. When it opens in May it’s almost 80 percent certain that it’s going to create lots of miniature black holes. There were some theories saying it was going to kill the world. Turns out it’s not. But what they’ve also worked out is that it could be the world’s first time machine, which means we then become Year Zero for people visiting us from the future. It’s crazy. Basically we could start meeting people from the future shortly after May 2008.”

And with that mindfuck, we leave Dev to chill with his Mum, and other people who didn’t get invited to the Brits. If you want to geek out some more with Dev, though, watch him talk about his favourite
comic books in the video above.

From The Collection:

Dollars To Pounds
Dollars To Pounds: Lightspeed You Black Emperor