Dollars to Pounds: Blood Orange


I always enjoy talking to Dev Hynes. He’s candid and switched on and it also helps that his musical output is always surprising. First there was the twitchy dance-punk of Test Icicles, formed when Dev was 18. Then there was the I’m-pissing-off-to-Omaha-and-immersing-myself-in-the-Saddle-Creek-massive album as Lightspeed Champion. His nimble melodies, affinity for pretty harmonies and strings was a surprising about-face.

Now the Texas-born, Essex-raised songwriter lives in Brooklyn and has adopted the moniker Blood Orange. He’s stripped it all back, embraced a higher register and unleashed his love of hip hop and R&B hooks all over the lo-fi, plinky, guitar-rippled, pop of his debut album Coastal Grooves.

On a recent return to London, I spoke to Dev about writing for Solange Knowles, bullies and inspirational drag queens. Download his new mixtape and read our conversation below.

Download: DJ Exotica Sage Presents: Blood Orange Home Recordings Mixtape

It seems like you’ve been living in Brooklyn forever. Three and a half years. It’s weird because everything changes but doesn’t at the same time. I don’t hate London; I just can’t live here. I feel like I’m constantly having to push a little harder. It doesn’t suit my personality. I don’t have a drive and everyone is so driven in London. Do you not think so?

I always had the impression that NY was even more competitive than London. They are, but I just surround myself with less driven people. In New York, I don’t get the question, “What are you doing with Blood Orange?” Whereas being in London I get that all the time.

Surely Blood Orange just is. Exactly. I’m like, what does that even mean? You’ve always got to take everything to the next step all the time. I don’t even have a next step.

As Lightspeed Champion there was quite a big production with a full band. Now it’s just you with a backing track and some triggers. Is this a reaction against your former set up? I think so. I’ve written a bunch of acoustic songs for another Lightspeed album and that stuff was a counter to it, but these songs were written just day to day. I was doing them to put on mixes and give to friends. You know Aaron Pfenning? He used to be in Chairlift and he does a project called Rewards. He was staying on my floor and we’d work on his songs and songs to give them to each other.

It was funny to see you playing guitar on Letterman with Theophilus London a few months back. How did you hook up with him? I met him at a Christmas party a couple of years back. I produced a bunch of his stuff and every now and then he’d ask me to play. That’s how I got hooked up with Solange [Knowles]. I was in LA doing some Theo stuff. At the same time I was also doing the Blood Orange album—literally in between breaks going back and forth on the desk between albums. Solange came to do vocals on “Flying Overseas.” She liked the Blood Orange stuff and asked me to write for her album. I went to Santa Barbara to write and ended up producing the whole album.

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POSTED June 24, 2011 10:04AM IN DOLLARS TO POUNDS Comments (3) TAGS: , , ,