The Long Arc of Historics


Most New York bands play their first show in unseemly warehouse spaces in the outer boroughs—not the smoky, red-lit den Le Baron, the latest from street-artist-turned-international-nightclub-impresario André Saraiva, of Beatrice Inn and Le Bain fame. And Mickey Madden, the bassist of Maroon 5 and a former member of the band in question, doesn’t DJ the show. But then, Historics aren’t new, exactly: they’ve already put out an album (Strategies for Apprehension, in 2009) and a series of remixes (in 2011). They’re just doing things out of the usual order.

Following that fateful first show last month, the now-three-piece ensemble, consisting of guitarist and singer Don DeVore, Jeff Knutsen on synth, and drummer David Daniels—who moonlights (or daylights?) as a copy editor for Interview—is returning to Le Baron on Monday night with their blustery but melodic rock. Interview chatted with the band this week about musical love connections, compulsive behaviors, and hating your bandmates.

JENNY AN: You’ve all been in a lot of projects, like Ink & Dagger, Icarus Line, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, Holly Miranda, etc. What were they not giving you?

DON DeVORE: Jeff and I have playing together for years, under the guise that we were working toward something.

JEFF KNUTSEN: But it’s been a very patient process.

DeVORE: We’ve all been in a million bands. I’ve played in 50 countries or something, but it has all been this weird work-up. It has literally been years since we’ve been playing together. We just haven’t done it live. We’ve done recordings. It has always been an elephant in our lives—a whale, even. In layman’s terms, nothing else was giving me a kind of soul.

DAVID DANIELS: For me, I knew Jeff from a different band and I’ve known about Don for quite a bit but have never played with him until recently, until this band. But the thing that was missing for me was just total power. Loudness, and quiet at the same time.

DeVORE: I like the idea of total power and dynamic. I think David Jack Daniels—which is his real name, by the way.

AN: It’s amazing, right?

DeVORE: And he’s from Tennessee or something [ed: Seneca, South Carolina]. But that’s not what he drinks. He’s not like, “I’ll have a Jack Daniels.” That’d be too good.

DANIELS: Yeah, but it wouldn’t work.

KNUTSEN: It’s kind of fortuitous how this all happened. I met Don when I was playing a show at Glasslands [Gallery, a venue in Brooklyn] with another band that I used to play the same synthesizer in. And Don came up to me, I was in the back room, and we began playing music together. David I’d met playing with Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, and we sort of instantly connected.

DeVORE: But they don’t date anymore. [laughs]

KNUTSEN: So Don and I got together, and he was all, “Let’s put something together and do something live, do you know any drummers?” And I instantly thought of David and gave him a call and he was like, “Yeah, I’ll be there in 20 minutes.” He just showed up and the rest is Historics, let’s say. [laughs]

AN: So what does a music connection feel like? How is it different from a love connection?

DeVORE: You don’t have to use a condom. [laughs] I don’t know. It’s one of those things that’s really odd to talk about. I’m really into the uncommunicative-communicative vibe, where things are unspoken. I don’t even like finishing sentences.

DANIELS: A nonverbal understanding.

DeVORE: You know, playing in bands for years, doing art for years, being in relationships for years. There’s a lot of psychology entwined. I’d rather skip most of it and find a situation—and I mean, we’re not perfect but we’re working on it—but there are people I’ve played with that I say, I literally don’t like them after dealing with them because of the way they play. It’s a fault I have. There are people I play with that I can’t even be friends with.

And you know, Jeff and I have been through a lot in the last few years and have stuck by each other in various configurations. Literally thousands of hours of work into creating whatever might be happening.

AN: So the projections you had at your first show at Le Baron, how did that come about? Where did you get the images?

DeVORE: Well, there’s this company called Georgia that do super-cool shit. We provided them with all the images and they were playing live with the images with us. They’re going to be doing the next few shows with us. It’s a very spirited, involved process.

Even sitting down doing an interview and talking about it, I don’t know. There’s a really important thing that’s happening, but there’s no plan.

DANIELS: It’s a compulsion. It’d happen anyway. It isn’t that we just made it up. It’d exist anyway, because we’re all compelled to keep playing music.

DeVORE: My real goal here is to sound as pretentious as possible, so if you could steer us.

AN: So the images you provided, where did they come from?

KNUTSEN: The boxed set, right?

DeVORE: A lot of it. We have a set of three boxes of remixes that came out on RVNG Records. And there’s an album, Strategies of Apprehension, that came out in 2009, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing.

AN: So touring, recordings, all of that. What are you looking at?

DeVORE: Yeah, hopefully all of that.

KNUTSEN: I mean, we’re doing it all backwards so far. Put out a record, boxed set of remixes, and then we play our first show more than two years later.

DeVORE: And we didn’t play anything from our record, either. This compulsion David Jack Daniels was talking about. We play one song from the record but everything else is different.

KNUTSEN: It’s a work in progress. It’s always a work in progress. If you got it to where you wanted to be, you’re done.

DeVORE: And who wants to do that? That’s boring.