Cities #5 – Brooklyn (Kevin Devine)

devine 4Wer könnte Brooklyn besser vorstellen als Kevin Devine? Spätestens durch den Song “Brooklyn Boy” und dem zugehörigen Musikvideo ist klar, dass der Singer/Songwriter sich dem New Yorker Stadtteil sehr verbunden fühlt. Mit “Bubblegum” (gemeinsam mit seiner Stamm-Band The Goddamn Band) und “Bulldozer” (solo) veröffentlichte er im vergangenen Jahr zeitgleich Album Nr. 7 und Album Nr. 8 und knüpft damit an Vorgänger wie “Brother’s Blood” an. Vor seinem Konzert in dem münsteraner Club Eule hat sich Kevin für uns etwas Zeit genommen um uns von seinem Leben in Brooklyn zu erzählen.


Since when do you live in Brooklyn?
I grew up in Brooklyn and moved back there when I was 20. So I lived there for like 25 or 24 years.

What should everyone know about Brooklyn?
It’s probably worth saying that Brooklyn is more than just the three neighborhoods everybody hears about all the time. That is a very small piece of Brooklyn. Williamsburg and Greenpoint, where all these bands are, Bushwick and all that. There are literary like 2 million people in Brooklyn that have no idea about any of that, don’t care about it at all, live their life everyday totally disinterested in hip music culture. So that Brooklyn that became like a brand globally is really like three neighborhoods in one small two mile radius.

devine 5

Is there a thing that totally annoys you about the city?
Maybe when I was like a few years younger. I’ve been growing up there and I’ve been playing music there since I was 12 or 13 or something. I’ve never felt especially connected to the Brooklyn scene. I think that watching these neighborhoods change so dramatically – even though I like some of it, I like the bars and clubs and cafés and record shops and interesting people – it’s also like not the greatest thing in the world to watch those neighborhoods change so dramatically and people that live there for so long not really be able to continue to live there and everybody kind of moving from the whole world to these neighborhoods because it’s a cool place to live. That would be if there’s something that is troubling. That’s troubling. Because I think it actually ended up making the neighborhood a lot less cool. But I am not annoyed by it. I have no control over it. I just have to kind of roll with it. So…

What is the greatest thing about living in Brooklyn?
I really love that from neighborhood to neighborhood, it still feels like distinct personalities, like very different places. When you go from Bayridge to Sunset Park to Park Slope to like over by the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway to those hip neighborhoods. But then there are place like East New York. These are not cool. But they’re really cool. But no one’s playing like indie rock music or whatever and I think the food, the food is really amazing. There are so many different cultures. I’ve lived there most of my life and there’s still places that I don’t know of because your neighborhood kind of gives you everything you need. It’s so self-sustaining in that way. So I think the best thing about it is diversity and the cultural breath.


How does the city reflect itself in your music? Does it influence you in any way?
I think it’s not necessarily in the way i sound. I think the kind of music I play, people play all over the world. Maybe it’s in the observational quality of the lyrics. I feel like living in a place like New York, every place you go, there is a story. Everyone has a story. Every place has a story. So I think that being from a place like that, you’re always watching. Any you are kind of filling in the blanks. And I think songwriting is very much observing and then imagining and I think that comes from there.

Whats your favourite venue to play in Brooklyn?
I love to play this place called The Music Hall of Williamsburg – used to be called Northsix. It’s a real beautiful sort of large club / small theater. There’s like a little balcony. It’s run by the people that run the Bowery Ballroom. It’s a big club in New York. It’s a beautiful place and sounds great and it’s great to see shows there, too. There’s another great place by my apartment called Union Hall that I like a lot. And there’s one I like and it’s the one that’s closest to where I live…and I always forget the name – The Bellhouse, which is on 7th street and 3rd avenue. That’s a really interesting and cool space. North six might be my all-time favorite venue but that’s become the Music Hall. It’s no more.


What’s your favourite place in the city?
I live near Prospect Park. I really like that. It’s just a big park. It’s not as big as Central Park, but I guess it’s probably, maybe the second biggest park. Maybe there are some on Staten Island that are bigger. But there is a big like 4 mile radius track where people ride bikes or run. There’s all these ball fields and this hidden alleys and there’s a little water fall. It’s just a really beautiful place. Multi-purpose, lots of activities, barbecues, stuff like that. And they have concerts there in summer. I think it’s a cool place. And you can do like a million different things there. I also like a couple of coffee places near my house I like to spend a lot of time at. Southside Coffee and Cafe Grumpy. I’m sort of more about people than places, you know. But those ones stick out. 

Do you have a favourite song or movie about Brooklyn?
There is a song and it’s not very flattering. It’s called „New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down“ by LCD Soundsystem. I think that captures a very specific moment in Brooklyn very well. I really like „Rockaway Beach“ by The Ramones. But that might be more Queens, kind of Queens/Brooklyn border. Movies? I really like „Do The Right Thing“, the Spike Lee movie that takes place in Brooklyn. That’s twenty-something years old now, so some of it’s different. But I feel like they got something right about the way it feels.

If you would not live in Brooklyn, which city would be your favourite to live in? Why?
I sometime think about like Portland, Oregon or Austin, Texas or Athens, Georgia. Maybe Boston, Massachusetts, maybe. But I have a feeling that I’m gonna end up in New York for most of my life, because I go away so much for this (touring) that it’s nice to come home and have that be home. But it’s expensive and it’s getting more expensive. That’s the one thing that I could see forcing your hand, making you move. But for now I think it’s gonna be Brooklyn. 

What would be a perfect slogan for Brooklyn?
„Brooklyn it’s a great place to visit and an expensive place to live.“