Personal Faves: The Man Behind the Music, Dev Hynes

Instead of ending the year with a slew of Best Of lists, BlackBook asked our contributors to share the most important moments in art, music, film, television, and fashion that took place in 2012. Here, Natalie Alcala writes of the big year for multi-hyphenate wunderkind, Dev Hynes.

One rainy September night during London Fashion Week, a who’s who of style influencers swarmed the Liberty of London boutique for a Kenzo fête hosted by the Parisian label’s new creative directors, Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon and Carol Lim. Just as open bar debauchery began to form, gravitating guitar sounds beckoned partygoers to the stage, where an exceedingly stylish fella in a red suit and a black leather baseball cap held their eardrums captive for the rest of the night. Meet Devonté "Dev" Hynes.

Although the Texas born, British bred multi-hyphenate musician performed as Blood Orange that night—and most nights these days—he’s also been known as Lightspeed Champion. "It’s all the same shit really," says Hynes of his various guises. "I just use different names to help aid people’s minds." Mind aiding is necessary for those not accustomed to the 26-year-old’s mad scientist-style skills, which include wizardry on the bass, guitar, cello, drums and violin, writing and producing songs for the likes of The Chemical Brothers, Diana Vickers, and Theophilus London, and working with celebrities like former Saturday Night Live funny lady Kristen Wiig (who could forget that "Rock My Body" duet from the MacGruber soundtrack?).

But even virgin ears at the LFW party that were unfamiliar with the wunderkind and his impressive body of work, were instantly hooked to Hynes’ retro-infused rock, funk, folk and soul vibe—a sound that’s impossible to pigeonhole. "I only care about melodies and chords, which is why my music is all over the place," Hynes explains. "But if you listen carefully, nothing is really changing too much, aside from aesthetic." His delightfully scattered sounds led to a host of opportunities this year, including a tour with Florence + The Machine and a hot-ticket gig composing the soundtrack to Kenzo’s Paris Fashion Week show.

The Blood Orange takeover didn’t stop there. Hynes is also the mastermind behind Sky Ferreira’s single "Everything is Embarassing," which was recently named "Song Of The Year" in the culture issue of New York Magazine. "I wrote it at my piano only thinking about Sky singing it," Hynes reveals. "The song is about what I was imagining my girlfriend, who I was going through a break up with at the time, was thinking of me. I love Sky’s voice so I was definitely writing imagining her and only her singing it." The result? An infectiously melancholy ’80s-inspired pop ballad that’s the new anthem for the brokenhearted: "Maybe if you let me be your lover/Maybe if you tried then I would not bother." (Bonus: Watch Hynes performing the song himself at the Grimes show a few weeks ago here.)

Of all of the artist’s personal, professional, and recreational highlights this year, which also include attending a screening of Spike Lee’s Bad 25 documentary ("I didn’t think in 2012 it was possible for Michael Jackson to change my life again") and the Knicks’ knock-out opening run ("It’s crazy!"), Hynes considers his work on Solange Knowles’ new 7-track EP, True, his finest accomplishment. "Finishing the Solange record felt great," says Hynes of Beyoncé’s little sister’s hypnotic third record. "We’re both people that have a hard time knowing when something is finished because we could tweak it away forever. But realizing that it was done, and how happy we felt about it, was a great feeling." Since its release on November 27, True has received tons of buzz for its funky first single, "Losing You," which Knowles and Hynes recently performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, complete with badass choreographed dance moves. (Yes, Hynes can dance, too.)

While Dev Hynes, Blood Orange, Lightspeed Champion, and whatever clever name he dreams up next will certainly continue to slay the music game through 2013 and beyond, I can’t help but wonder what the multi-talented dude would have done if he didn’t have this gift. "I always wanted to be a biographer when I was younger," he says. "But in reality, I’d either be playing football [Ed note: or "soccer" for the Americans folks] still, or tennis." Yes, tennis. And although he’s worked with just about every established and emerging artist under the sun—who might he be interested in collaborating with next, either in real life or fantasy form? "It would have to be the late avant-garde dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham." Of course. And if all this—the music, the fame, the fun, the recognition, the world—suddenly ends today, what does Hynes want to be remembered for? "A grand ol’ laugh!"

Today’s Three New Releases From Blood Orange

 It’s hard not to fall for Blood Orange, former Lightspeed Champion mastermind Dev Hynes’ R&B-tinged latest project. Indeed, in-the-know indie types have been rocking his debut, Coastal Grooves, since it dropped last summer.

Today Hynes released not one but three new treats for fans, including a new video for the Coastal Grooves track “I’m Sorry We Lied,” a remix of “Never Let Me Go” for his current Australian tour mates Florence and the Machine (listen here) and a remix of “Blue Jeans,” a song by a woman we once knew named Lana Del Rey (listen here)

Check out all three and, if you don’t have one already, develop a taste for Blood Orange.

Lightspeed Champion Remixes & Remasters Denim

Should we open up a window, yeah?” Devonté Hynes asks, giggling. Known to music fans by his stagename, Lightspeed Champion, the 24-year-old Brooklyn-based Brit aims a loaded spray-paint can squarely at a pair of cutoff jeans. Once part of the short-lived dance-punk trio Test Icicles,Hynes went solo in 2006. (He said of the split, “We were never, ever that keen on the music.”) Since his 2008 debut as Lightspeed, a high-concept baroque pop album titled Falling off the Lavender Bridge (a project he is rather keen on), Hynes has collaborated with the Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx, Florence + The Machine, the British Film Institute and even an X-Factor finalist.

This month’s Life is Sweet! Nice To Meet You is a 15-track rock opus filled with complex orchestral arrangements. It’s an ambitious, sweeping album, as engrossing as it is bittersweet. That’s all well and good, but Hynes is already on to the next thing. “I just recorded a demo for another song in my bathroom last night until my friends made me leave the apartment to go out,” Hynes says, laughing. “I just can’t seem to get away from making music. I suppose there are worse problems to have.”


Life is Sweet! Nice To Meet You is out now on Domino.

Photography by Alexander Wagner. Kayla Michelle.