Let us be clear: Blood Orange is a man, not a fruit. He has the coolest sound in NYC. And pretty much everywhere else. Dev Hynes started out in Test Icicles and then developed a habit of performing under names other than his own. Before Blood Orange he had a fair amount of success as Lightspeed Champion.
Hynes made his first appearance as Blood Orange in 2009 and then decided in 2011 to switch up his name and sound full time and created an electronica mélange closer to the dirty funk of Prince than the Americana of his early Lightspeed Champion releases. And he’s had no small success as Blood Orange either. As well as releasing two albums and about to drop his third, he’s also become a Producer of some note. He recently wrote and produced an album for Beyonce’s little sister, Solange.
I’d never heard of Blood Orange until a couple of months ago when I became a rabid fan at a gig in the backyard of a shoe store called Alife Rivington in the Lower East Side. I’d recently met a true NYC character by the name of Ramos, who creates after parties for the likes of Kanye, Jay-Z and Beyonce. He invited me out one night to a show but didn’t tell me anything about it. When I got there I was semi expecting a hip hop show by the prevalence of big sneakers, big T-Shirts, big shorts and big baseball caps with baby towels to catch the sweat. It was damn hot in that little courtyard. And the drinks were free. And then the place started to fill up with hipsters.
DJ Mikel Banks played the awesome ‘Looking Out My Window’ by Tom Jones. I was seriously impressed. Various hipsters and tastemakers around town started to appear in the audience and I figured they were there for a reason. It was shaping up to be a good night.
Some cool dude wearing a baseball cap and big grin climbed onto the stage, plugged in his guitar and proceeded to lead this ridiculously tight band down the yellow brick road. In the process he turned the audience into a heaving mass of manically dancing legs and pumping arms. I’m sure he hates the comparisons, but back when Prince was (to paraphrase an NME Award) a God Like Genius (everything up to Purple Rain and then some good patches after that), he used to sound like this. A seriously dirty funk and ‘70’s r&b funk groove overlaid with post punk guitars and keyboards. With killer songs.
I was completely and totally blown away, which hasn’t happened to me for a while. Any of you who actually know me in real life know that as the possessor of some 130,000 songs in a hard drive I can be deeply critical and its extremely rare for me to gush to an artist. To my immense embarrassment, upon completion of the show I walked up to Dev and proceeded to do just that. I could see Dev eyeing me in the same way multiple famous friends of mine have eyed rabid fans – with a mixture of gratitude and concern. I extricated myself as graciously as possible after pressing my card into his hand and telling him that I would love to work with him at some point in the future when he needs pictures taken.
As soon as I got home I downloaded everything I could get my hands on and discovered to my joy that I hadn’t been suffering heat stroke, but had been right in my assessment of the genius like talent of Mr Hynes. I also discovered that he had previously been known as Lightspeed Champion, which immediately rang bells. I’d photographed him at Union Pool, a tiny venue over on the edge of Hipsterburg in Brooklyn back in 2007. I remembered the show being cool and intimate with great songs and a laid back character on stage talking about his fascination with Star Wars. As well as shooting the show I also did a quick session with him afterwards in the backstage area.
Whilst researching the magnificent Mr. Hynes, I also discovered on his Wikipedia page that in December 2008, he was asked by the British Film Institute to perform the soundtrack of the classic cult 1971 Hal Ashby movie ‘Harold And Maude’ after a screening of the movie. I was even more impressed than I had been before.
I saw this movie for the first time when I was about eighteen and cannot over emphasize enough how important it was in the development of my world view. By that time I’d lived on the streets in England and Paris and considered myself a lot older than I really was. The first time I saw it I couldn’t stop laughing at the black humor. The second time I cried at the sadness hidden in the heart of this killer movie about a relationship between an eighteen year old boy and an eighty year old woman. Who lives in a rail carriage and has a zest for life unknown to angst ridden pimply teenage boys. And for the second half of the movie, the angst ridden pimply teenage boy drives the coolest car ever made.
About three years ago I met Bud Cort, who played the young Harold and even though I was surrounded by more A Listers at that Beatle birthday party than I had been at any other time in my life, I was completely star struck by the now somewhat portly Bud Cort. It was obvious that he had suffered Harold and Maude fans for the entirety of his adult life, but he was very sweet and gracious and gave me his email address and asked me to get in touch if I’m ever out in LA..
A month ago I bumped into Dev again at Niagara Bar in the East Village and instead of coming across cool and laidback, I once again stumbled and am sure I came across as a bumbling fool. Such is life. There are times when we meet people we actually want to work with we can find ourselves with both feet planted firmly in mouth and when we meet people we want to have nothing to do with they think we are cool as fuck. Doesn’t always work that way but I suspect it did on this occasion.
Anyway, enough about me. Go get everything by the incredibly talented Mr Hynes. You won’t regret it. And if you get one of those rare opportunities to see Blood Orange perform live, walk a thousand miles if required and beat down the doors to the venue as this band tears down the walls of heartache and when they unleash that sound, your feet will move involuntarily. And you will start laughing. Guaranteed.
And this is the stunning Champagne Coast from the last Blood Orange album: