The British production duo DEVolution quickly caught the attention from the world right as garage music was hitting its stride in 2012 and 2013. Known for their intricate outputs that were pleasing to the ear and electrifying for the rest of the body, they've quickly risen to the ranks of dance music heavyweights in the UK scene.
They are getting ready to release their upcoming EP next week, and we got the chance to ask them a few questions. Comprised of Pete Devereux and Tom Devos, the two talked to us about their start, their music, and give a few words of advice to the ever-growing dance world.
EARMILK: I’m sure you’ve answered this question all day, but could I bother you guys to tell me a little bit about how DEVolution got started? Where does the name come from and what was the moment that made you two want to start making music together? I understand both of you had separate projects before coming together, why become a duo?
Pete Devereux: DEVolution started with mutual friends recommending we get into the studio and make music together. We were aware of each other for several years, I’[d] been ignoring Tom for a long time and he finally caved in and we started making some music. It’s just based on our two surnames- we're both Dev so we were just googling words and liked the look of DEVolution. The actual pronunciation was coined by MistaJam… a lot of people pronounce it differently but we don’t mind. It's all the same.
Tom Devos: I had kind of stopped at that point, I’d been writing music on my own for many years. I have been in and out of Size Records with my own independent releases and I kind of just stopped really, given up. I sold all my equipment and I was down to one last laptop [when] I started working with Pete. We literally started together on my tiny little laptop and some £20 ASDA mini speakers, that’s what we did our first drum n bass on. I think you need to be a certain type to work on your own from long hours in the studio and gigs… so for me I always like working with other people.
EM: For the Transition EP, who were your biggest influences? Did you have a larger overarching goal in regards to this project (like a concept than ran through the tracks?).
TD: Probably not a specific influence for the making of those records but just sort of an ongoing influence of what we like. We play ‘garage – infused house music,’ and I think the Transition EP is a reflection of that really. Also, with a lot of the drums in the EP there’s quite a lot of experimentation with the drums and the timing of it, it’s come directly from RnB and Soul and making slight changes to the placing of the drums rather than having everything kind of set in like a drum machine, which is what I find slightly frustrating about a lot of dance music; there’s a big influence from like Musiq Soulchild things and just the way the beats were created and that which creates a different style of music.
PD: I think its onwards and upwards; whatever goals we set we want to achieve. Initially we just wanted a record on the radio and to play a track in the club so…
and now Tom [was just] in Ibiza (I was doing poorly), he did Space, and we’re off on tour with MistaJam soon. So yeah, the goals we set ourselves we keep.
EM: On a similar note, Which producers should everyone be listening to right now (besides DEVolution)? Is there anything musically that is interesting to you from the US right now? We as bloggers in America love looking across the Atlantic, interested to see if people there do the same.
TD: I’m a big fan of SnakeHips at the moment. I think somebody who’s making big noise at the moment is Chris Lorenzo, who works a lot with other artists. In terms of the whole bass house thing he’s one of the kings, I think returning producers like MK, who disappeared for a long time [but is] sort of back with a bang recently with the most obvious record being the remix of "Storm Queen." I remember MK from the early 90’s so it’s great to see him coming back. Also we’ve been working with Kate P recently she’s got a lot of stuff, she’s started producing, that’s really, really interesting stuff, she’s got great ideas I don’t think anything is really out yet but she’s definitely one to watch.
I’ve never been blown away with US music generally speaking, I think the UK do it better, we got a lot more edge to our sound even records they think are ‘hard’ aren’t ‘hard’. I definitely don’t like EDM that’s blowing up in America hard, I think they can just keep that (laughs). I love my old school Hip Hop. Hip Hop and RnB is one thing they do really, really well. I just think the UK is the birthplace of house and dance music.
EM: Where do you see DEVolution heading in the next year(s)? Do you have a full LP planned anytime soon?
PD: We have one planned, and I think there will probably be another EP before that happens. I think we will also keep doing more of the same. We’ve really enjoyed taking our records into the clubs, DJ’ing and getting that reaction.
EM: You recently worked with MNEK, how do you go about choosing vocalists and writing lyrics? And similarly, do you think vocals and lyrics will become increasingly important for those in the UK garage and dance scene (as witnessed with acts like Disclosure)?
PD: Half of it is people who want to come down and take a chance to work with us really. We sort of throw it out there and our managers speak to various people, and some people say yeah we’ll come down, and MNEK was one of those people. I think it was originally a session with Siren and MNEK together because they write together, but something happened with Siren and she couldn’t make it but MNEK still came down and that was that, but yes, we generally look at what we like, we ask a questions and that’s it. We recently did a Benassi remix of John Legend’s "Dance The Pain Away" so we’ll see if he wants to do a record (laughs).
I think ultimately if you want to get to the level Disclosure are at, you need good songs. You can only get so far with good instrumentals and good backing tracks. I think for any genre to break out you need a wholesome track.
EM: What’s been the greatest experience you guys have gone through together as DEVolution? (Whether it be a show or a festival or something in the studio, on the road… etc.)
TD: There’s been a few moments I thought I can’t believe we’ve managed to pull this out the bag. Wiley's "Heatwave" remix was something we both took a deep breath afterwards. We had one night to do it and we literally worked through the night drank some red wine and just did it, that was really intense because Wiley was taking the track into Annie Mac the next night.
‘Too Much Heaven’ ft. MNEK was a great moment because we both believed in that record, and the response from MistaJam was incredible, he played it like 12 shows running or something. He wouldn’t stop playing it on 1Xtra Radio 1 and then the support from various blogs like the Metro – we thought "wow we’re tipped in there for Top 5 to watch for this summer," and things like that just knock you sideways a bit. You [realize] it’s more than just us at the studio, it's people looking in and checking us out. I’m constantly surprised.
EM: The US dance scene as a whole is starting to open itself to different genres a little bit more, and I’ve always been curious to see what the UK think about everything that’s happening in the states right now. Our biggest crisis currently with dance music has been with the recent deaths in New York and Boston over drugs, but for the UK rave scene, this isn’t a new issue. What do you think would be the most appropriate way for people in the industry to deal with it? What do you think about the close ties between amphetamine-based drugs and music today? What could we learn from Europe and the UK, who’ve dealt with this for a lot longer than the mainstream US public has?
PD: I think drug use is linked with dance culture and has been for 20+ years. I think the Dutch had a really good approach to it, they acknowledge that people are going to go out and take drugs and they try to police it and make it safe. I don’t know what the knock on effect of that was, but people are going to take drugs, you can’t turn a blind eye to it, but I don’t know what the answer is.
TD: I think they should take the approach of cigarettes; cigarettes kill you but they tell you they kill you, they give you the choice, they should do the same with drugs.
I think that reverts to what we just said- I think the thing you can learn from it is accept people will take it no matter what you say in the media, people will still go out and take drugs when they go to parties and[we need to] just make it safer for them.
EM: Have you recently made, or are you planning, any production upgrades? If so, can you share with us what changes you’ve made/will make?
TD: I’ve just moved to Mac purely because everyone came down and was like "wow is that a PC," but everything we’ve done up to now was on a £200 budget computer. Other than that, we don’t have any flashy pieces of equipment; we like to keep it simple, but not to forget, we did convert my loft into a studio so that’s very convenient.
EM: Finally, what would you tell all of the young kids out there that are trying to get into the DJ-ing/production game?
TD: What worked for us was getting up to MistaJam, and just chasing him in the club. I think find[ing] someone you think will be a good champion for you and stalking them until they break [works] (laughs).
PD: Make the music that you want to make, not what you think you should be making, or you’re being told to make. You can get a better opinion from your parents or close friends because they’ll always tell you if your rubbish or not [and] that advice helps. Also don’t think having an email address can be enough. We go the old school way, and especially in London, the DJ who you want to play your record is [probably] going to be playing here in the next month or so, so go to the gig. If you can’t afford to go in, wait outside and when they come out give them the CD. I guarantee they’ll put it in their CD player because no one else [will give] them CD’s. Just believe in yourself, it’s so hard, you’ll get knock backs, but keep on going.
Thanks for talking to us DEVolution! Make sure to snag their EP, Transition, December 8th available via iTunes.
- December 8, 2013