Interview: Devin James Fry
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
If I hadn’t had a decent singing voice I was encouraged to use around the house, I might have ended up full gonzo naturalist and you’d find me studying lichen creeping up the bark of a tree somewhere. Blasting into hyperspace at night and calling it research. Probably pretty happy.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Whether as a reaction to a family history of dyslexia or an expression of it – I’m not sure which – I have a knack for lateral thinking, a terrible memory, and difficulty achieving automaticity with anything. I go to sleep at a different time every night. My thoughts jump. So routine and automaticity is exactly what I always seem to be seeking. I obsess over minute surgical sharpening work, audio/video tinkering, pointillist painting, and developing my own handwriting into what one might call a font. At this point I’ve accepted that I’ll never totally suppress my mental tendency to jump around unexpectedly, so now I like to play with just how much control I can exert over it before it slips away again.
I’ve moonlighted as a bee wrangler off and on for the past decade. You can try to catch a swarm as carefully as you like, but there will always be a few stray bees who slip through and escape. That’s how my mind feels. I have come to enjoy and, as an artist, be able to create things that feel at once tightly controlled and slipping entirely out of my grasp. Tension and release baby.
How long have you been active as an artist?
All kids are artists, so I won’t count that. I started releasing music for others to hear in my teens, and there’s some interesting stuff in my Salesman records from my 20s, but with the formation of Name Sayers a few years ago and my solo work since getting sober recently, I really feel like I’m hitting my stride now. I’m 38 and I sort of love that it took me a lifetime to reach square one. All my deadlines are self imposed anyway, so it’s fine. I hope I always have this feeling of having just arrived.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Denver, Colorado is home now, in 2022, but I’ve been online much more than on the town ever since the Coronavirus took hold. I’m most active as a remote collaborator, both with Name Sayers and with the people I work with on my solo projects, and truthfully that feels great. Live shows have always been pretty draining for me. Working remotely allows me to be as careful as I like.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
I organized a Name Sayers show on my 30th birthday, which was a full moon and a Friday night, half a mile underground in the largest chamber of Longhorn Cavern State Park in Texas, opening for Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Matt Sweeney performing as Superwolves. We packed 400 people into that cave who were so quiet during the show we could hear Will Oldham’s boots squeak. My parents made the trip. It was life affirming.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Some day I would like to hear how my voice sounds in the Labyrinth Gallery underneath Chavin De Huantar, Peru.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Red Rocks. The Knife. Name Sayers. Let’s make it happen.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band?
I hate giving advice.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Dear young Devin, it’s never too early to start doing better drugs.
Of your songs, which one means the most to you and why?
I like the swaggering, weirdo pop songs. The warlike ones, as Rufus Wainwright would say. Offbeat earworms. Black Rainbow. Receiving Evil. Three Will Grow Back. Four Legs. Lioness. I love a thing with heart. I love a thing with huge.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Heron King might be one of the most requested Name Sayers songs at live shows. I think it creeps people out in a satisfying way. Everybody likes a scary story.
Do you ever have a creative block, and if so how do you get past it?
I don’t seem to have this problem. If I sit down and start humming, ideas come along. Hum long enough and words form. Melodies form. The trick, of course, is to sit down.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
My solo record RETRELLION comes out later this year. The next single, Black Rainbow, features the strikingly beautiful Brooklyn rapper Chris Conde. Name Sayers also has a record coming along next year we are calling Joyboys In The Grindhouse. I’m super excited for all of it.