It was only a couple of weeks ago that I heard their name for a first time: Devilstrip. A new band from Akron, Ohio, has just recently released their debut album and is ready to take on the world!
Since publishing my CD review of ‘Rise’, I had the pleasure to interview the band’s bass player. A warm welcome to my blog to Graig Lindgren, another great tall talent (6′ – same as his fellow drummer Jimmy Gray).
– First of all, tell us about the band. How long have you been playing together, who are you?
– The band has only been around since January last year, so we are an year and a half old! We have been playing for years and years, in different cover bands, in some original projects here and there, but it wasn’t perfect. In this last cover band, we were a five-piece band. The three of us got together one day; we were just practising and we ended up writing this song, which we thought was pretty cool. That song was ‘Go’ (the opening track to their album). At that moment we decided we were going to give it a run.
High School Beginnings
One of the interesting stories about us is that me and Jimmy the drummer went to the same Junior high school (we must have been thirteen). He was first chair trumpet and I was second chair trumpet in the concert band. We got to be friends and started talking about music. We both have a mutual love for Motley Crew. We decided right there and then that we were going to make a band. So we started a garage band, if you will. We recruited one of our other buddies to play. Me and the other buddies decided we had to pick our instruments. We both wanted to play the guitar.
– So you weren’t actually able to play the guitar yet, were you?
– No, not at all, we didn’t play anything! I played trumpet, but you don’t do that in rock. Jeff and I decided we would flip a coin. Well, I lost, so now I play bass! So we just got together and started playing really bad, bad metal. You know, virgins, shadows of the devil, that kind of stuff… Just horrible. We were just a terrible, terrible band. We could barely play, and I wasn’t very good at bass, but we did it for love.
– You’ve got to start from somewhere…
– Exactly! We did that pretty much through high school. After high school we all went our separate ways until one day, about two years ago my wife and I went to a Motley Crue concert in Cleveland and saw Jimmy and his wife. So we reconnected. He told me he lived about two hours away, in Columbus, Ohio. Bad luck, but both our parents at the time had cancer. He was moving back here to Akron to help take care of his father, so although we didn’t want to capitalise on the misfortune, when he moved back up here, we put this band together.
It was a mashup band: we take songs, mash them together in a weird way. Like you take a hip hop song and mash it with a rock song. One of our big songs was by Beastie Boys. We did ‘Back In Black’ with ‘Power Vere’. So it’s the AC/DC music, but it is the rap of ‘Paul Revere’ on top of it. That was fun, so we did that for a while. We actually got quite popular in Ohio. We played this huge festival for 15,000 people, which was crazy. But it kind of ran its course.
The ‘Aha’ Moment: We Got Something Special Here
The three of us (Mark, Jimmy and I) were just rehearsing in my house. We were in the studio and started playing this song, I put some bass on it, Jimmy laid down the track, and twenty minutes later ‘Go’ was completely written. I mean, completely written: everything other than the final lyrics (we had phonetic lyrics). It was one of those ‘aha’ moments. We looked at each other: that’s crazy, you know, we got something special here! Then we decided on the name Devistrip and what we were going to do… and have been doing it ever since.
– What about the band’s name – is there a special meaning to it, or is it just random?
– No, it’s very specific. This goes back to who we are, what we do. We all live in Akron, Ohio. We wanted something that was uniquely Akron. Now, all over the United States between someone’s front yard there is a piece of land between the sidewalk and the road. Everywhere else in the United States it is called a tree lawn. In Akron, and only in Akron, it is called a devilstrip. There are signs ‘No parking on the devilstrip’, and it’s just something that’s so uniquely Akron. It’s funny as I came over as a teenager to mow my grandmother’s yard, and I can remember her yelling through the front door: ‘Don’t forget to mow the devilstrip!’ It fits us so perfectly, as we can do devilish things, we can play on the word hell, fire (there is a fire in our logo), but at the same time for people from Akron this is a piece of land, so it is kind of interesting.
Running the Band
The main thing we decided early on was that we were going to run this like a business. We were doing it for love, because we love to do it, but we’re also going to do it very much like a business. Here in the States we have what is called a LLC, a limited liability company, so we have a tax ID number, we are paying taxes, we have our own banking account, everything you would do if you were running a business. We are running it as a three-way partnership.
Giving It 1000%
This is a big thing with us. We decided earlier that anything we do we will do at 1000% – otherwise why do it! That’s why when I hit Twitter, I hit it hard. When we do our merchandise, our t-shirts, we pay probably 25% more than the average band because we want our shirts to be really comfortable. We pay a premium for premium shirts, we go to a premium printer. That’s just an example of everything that we do.
Working on the Album
You wouldn’t believe the countless number of hours that we have put into making that album and producing it! It took us 400% longer than we thought it was going to take us. We started it in October (2013) and released it in August (2014). We wanted it done by last Christmas, but we are super happy with how it is. It is exactly what we wanted it to be. We wanted it to be a little bit raw, not super over polished, over produced. We wanted our vocals to sound like killer, we wanted the guitar to sound crunchy. Everything you hear is exactly how it sounds when we are on stage. People say, ‘I don’t know how you did it, it sounds like you took a live recording and made it a CD’. That’s a testament to our dedication I guess.
– It would be really interesting to see you live in London one day, hopefully.
– I just got a thing on Twitter earlier, from Tweetmap. They send me mail every week and tell me what our trends are, how many people followed us, how many unfollowed us, countries and cities where we are doing well and where we are not doing well. London is by far our best city in the entire world. So, we’ve got to come over! I know that Planet Rock played us at least once, I know that for a fact.
The Album Title – ‘Rise’
I’m a graphic designer by trade and artist, so when it comes down to doing art work and logos, it kind of falls on my plate. The title ‘Rise’ comes from the lyrics of one of our songs, ‘To the Enemy’ (the lyrics is ‘rise to the enemy’). We took it out of the title of the song and put it in the title of the album. This is us; in our minds and what we are trying to do we are on a rise. We are going to rise like a bird, like a plane. We are going to give it all our energy. It just kind of becomes like a mark, it fits like a glove, it fits perfectly.
– When we first spoke, you said you are ready to go big. Are you ready to give up your privacy and the normality of your lives?
– Yeah, absolutely!
– Once you become famous, there is no turning back, you know, people will recognise you in the streets.
– The three of us would love to model the way we do business, the way we handle things, and have modeled it to some extent, by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. Right now he’s famous and, as much money as he has, everything that has come to him, he still seems like a guy that I could invite through my front door and sit, crack a beer and have a conversation with. I always wanted to be that guy, and we all do. He seems very humble, he’ll say f*** you to the people who he thinks deserve it. He’s strong, he’s a good business man. He embodies what we want to be as how he handles himself. Currently. How he was in Nirvana is not really my cup of tea, but that’s another story.
– So, who is your cup of tea? Motley Crue? Who else?
– You know, when I first started playing bass, I was horrible. When I was about 17, I just decided one day that I wanted to be a much better bass player. I wanted to be good at my craft. Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue is not the bass player you want to model yourself after. I decided I was going to be good, so I went to a local music store here in Akron and talked to the guy behind the counter. I said: I play bass, I’ve been playing since I was 14, I’m not very good but I want to be good, what can we do?
His Bass Teacher
So here comes this little white guy, his height just about 5’2” – tiny little white guy. Found out he was the bass player in an all black funk band here in Akron. So everyone else is black but their bass player is this tiny white guy. I didn’t want to play funk but he said he could play everything and could teach me.
After our first lesson, he asked me to go home and learn ‘What Is and What Should Never Be’ from ‘Led Zeppelin II’ so good that when I came back, he wanted me to play four minutes perfect. ‘Call me when you have learned it, he said. It’s not gonna take you a week, I know your skill level, it’s gonna take you a while’. So like a month later I finally master the song, so I go back and he says, ‘Now I know you are serious. All right, if you really want to continue, we’ll start doing drills and lessons and all that, but learn that whole album. If you learn to play everything on ‘Led Zeppelin II’, you are a good bass player’. And this is what I did. It took a long, long time.
John Paul Johns is probably my favourite bass player. Geddy Lee Weibrib is great influence on me (from Rush). I do like funky stuff. Duran Duran – that guy is phenomenal. As far as influencing bass wise is concerned, it started with heavy metal just because that’s the age group I was in, that’s my peer group. Through the years it’s been everything. I’m a Beatles fan, I’m a classical fan. I love Mozart. To the Stones, to the Zeppelin, to Rush, Foo Fighters, all that. We share the same taste. Mark is more of a story teller, kind of melodic vocalist. It comes out, I see it in reviews from different people: ‘Hey, you guys kind of have a live sound!’ I’m not surprised. And then, Jimmy: he and I are very much alike as far as musical styles, musical likes. He may be a little more on the punk side, while I may be a little bit more on the poppy side, but that all just kind of works out.
Three Men With Three Women
– What are the immediate plans? Are you planning a tour?
– If you look at our album cover, one of the things we have printed in big and black is that it has been recorded independently. We don’t have a record label. We don’t have a manager. We don’t have people helping us out, other than people who are doing it for the love of music, like you. We are trying to do things internally until we can’t anymore. You are asking whether we can handle the fame and all that. We are going to handle everything as much as we can small until it’s so big it just blows up.
When you ask about a tour, yes, we’d love to tour. We’d love to come over. Andy (their publicist – Maximum Volume PR from Birmingham, UK) has different festivals he wants to get us on to. We would love to do it, but we just don’t know how to do that. We don’t have a manager, a tour booker or promoter. We are just three guys with three women who are our partners and are trying to get this done. We are doing it one at a time. We get about 60-70 new followers on Twitter every day – and that’s by us doing nothing other than my posts.
People are finding us now, which is cool. We need to hit Planet Rock, we need to hit celestial radio so there is a demand for us to come over. We can jump on the Black Stone Cherry tour when that comes through, which is very much something I’d love to do.
– I guess you just need to take one step at a time, and people like me can just try to help…
– You guys are planting the seeds. My job is to plant as many seeds in as many places. Some day all this is going to grow up and we can reap the rewards. Right?
P.S. Here is the full audio version of this interview: