Dev Hynes Opens Up About New Blood Orange Album

Dev Hynes Opens Up About New Blood Orange Album

DEV HYNES IS EVERYWHERE, BUT WHERE HAS BLOOD ORANGE BEEN? THE ARTIST EVERYONE IS AFTER OFFERS INSIGHT INTO HIS MOST INTIMATE—AND MAYBE BEST—RECORD YET

DEV HYNES IS EVERYWHERE, BUT WHERE HAS BLOOD ORANGE BEEN? THE ARTIST EVERYONE IS AFTER OFFERS INSIGHT INTO HIS MOST INTIMATE—AND MAYBE BEST—RECORD YET

Photography: JASON NOCITO

Text: T. Cole Rachel

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly three years since the release of Cupid Deluxe, the groundbreaking sophomore album from NYC’s Blood Orange. In the years since, Blood Orange—the musical nom de plume of songwriter, performer, and multi-instrumentalist Dev Hynes—has hardly been idle. In addition to writing and recording with the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen, Connan Mockasin, and Ratking, soundtracking Gia Coppola’s Palo Alto, performing sold-out shows at New York’s famed Apollo Theater, giving a TED talk about synesthesia, and releasing bits of incendiary cultural commentary via one-off singles like “Sandra’s Smile” and “Do You See My Skin Through The Flames?”—Hynes has been hard at work crafting what will be one of 2016’s most hotly anticipated records. Due out this spring, Freetown Sound promises to be Hynes’s most personal and stylistically sprawling release to date, or as he teases it on Twitter, “an incomplete study of who I am, who I was and where I’m from while looking outwards at my peers.”

As someone who’s done a little bit of everything over the course of your career, how does this new record differ from what you’ve done before? 

Dev Hynes It’s pretty strange. There are a lot of samples on this record, but not necessarily songs made from samples. It’s all me. It’s inspired by old Dust Brothers records, very cut and paste. It’s like my version of Paul’s Boutique. It kind of plays like a long mix tape.

Every record sort of involves its own weird journey of discovery, but did you have a pretty clear idea of what you wanted this record to be from the outset? 

DH Kind of. I’m always writing and recording a ton of stuff and putting it together in playlists. Eventually I’ll start to see the shape of it come together. This is a very layered and very deep record for me. There’s a lot of meaning behind all of the choices I’ve made for this one. It looks into my childhood and examines who I am at this point in my life. There are so many crazy layers to it that it’s actually quite hard to talk about it, but the record is very reflective of how my brain works. This is gonna sound terrifying, but there is a strong theme of Christianity on the record. When I was growing up, Christianity was drilled into my head so intensely, to the point where, as a child, I was meant to be left-handed but was forced to use my right instead. Left-handedness was seen as a sign of darkness. Freetown Sound also has a lot to do with Freetown—the capital of Sierra Leone—which is where my dad is from. The record addresses the way Christianity was brought to West Africa and the way black households held on very tightly to Christianity because it was this beacon of hope…and how eventually this somehow led to someone in a school telling me not to use my left hand. It’s been very interesting for me trying to understand and tie all of these things together. It’s been a way of working through it. There’s also a lot of stuff about race and specifically things that have happened to me.

Last year (2015) was such an insane year, both in good and bad ways. I appreciated the fact that rather than just ranting online, you actually wrote and released songs like “Sandra’s Smile.” It articulated what a lot of people were feeling.  

DH It was just what I was thinking about. I can’t not say something. I always just want to be honest about everything I do and even it’s just a relatively small number of people who are paying attention to what I’m saying, I just want them to know how I feel. It’s not even about trying to change people’s minds. It’s kind of crazy how many people don’t say how they feel.

Since your records seem to draw from such a wide pool of influences, people often have a hard time trying to define exactly what kind of music you make. This record may confuse them even further. 

DH I find it interesting that people need to know how to classify everything. I do it too. But the things that I love are all so varied…and to me they all just kind of blur together into this one thing. I can see how it might confuse people sometimes who might only know me for one certain thing or a specific song. I don’t really read reviews, so I usually only find out through friends what people are saying about my stuff and it’s usually like, two years later or something.

What are your hopes for 2016? You aren’t known for touring very much, but do you want to play shows? 

DH Yeah, I want to play shows…well, I want to play more shows than I did for the last record. You know, I was asked to play Bonnaroo in Tennessee and I said yes to it, mostly because it seems so weird to be invited.

Your last two records really explored a variety of other voices and personas that weren’t necessarily your own, whereas this record feels like it’s very specifically about you. 

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