Saturday, September 4, 2010

Concept band No# 1: DEVO

Initial concept to Devo was formed from two of the original band members collaborating with an artist. Together in these preconceiving stages they performed several art pieces based around the concept of 'de-evolution' - the idea that instead of continuing to evolve, mankind has actually begun to regress. This is an idea strongly upheld in many Devo videos as often, they take a very standard and conventional American ideal or household stereotype and deconstruct it using surrealist methods. Aesthitically, their overall output as a band uses this approach. Devo would often perform in the guises of theatrical characters such as Booji Boy and Chinaman. Booji boy (See Fig 1.) is a character intended to satire infantile regression in Western Culture, a quality Devo enjoyed expressing. It seems this character was a somewhat of a spokesperson for a whole world of characters crafted by the band. Ranging in alternative portrayals of music execs to exaggerated macho-ism, these characters both played by Devo themselves and outsider actors, all existed within a world named "Spudland". This alternate universe was a pastiche and parody of the real world, self-reflecting our reality in a surreal manner.

Fig 1. Booji Boy (pronounced Boogie boy)
- a monkey faced boy dressed typically in an orange radiation suit, represents mans backwards regression into boy-like, ape-like demeanor.

So aesthetically, this concept of parodying everything that is wrong in western culture was projected through themes in the lyrics of songs, recurring characters and the visual style the band placed themselves in as a whole.

Front man Mark Mothersbaugh notes:

We were constantly misunderstood by the record company, critics, and every1 around us. Our sense of humor was ironic humor, we were so far out and had such a vocabulary already put together by the time we became public. Becoz we worked for so many years in Akron, just coming up with our own choreography, mysic, philosophies, politics, wardrobe, the films, everything... our own slangs. Ppl kept trying to put us in categories & we didnt really fit in with the punks and we didnt fit in with the new wave. We didnt party with all the rock n roll ppl. We didnt take drugs. We didnt do anything that would have really made it easy to figure out what we were about, and the irony in our humor often threw ppl off from what the message was. They thought "oh, they're just kidding or, they don't take what theyre doing srsly". The record companies thought of us as just clowns and quirky & they'd put out press releases that would say "that quirky, zany band."

Fig 2.
An image from a music video intended to parody the primal characteristics of man.

One thing i've learnt through researching this particular band is that besides having a solid concept that they follow, as opposed to a band like Gorillaz having one for the sake of it, their concept actually has a deep and important message with a purpose. In that it portrays their idea of things that are weird or interesting about the western world, produced ironically and in a parody sense.

So with the band I'm branding I really nee to cast themes important to the band in order to output anything visually (thinking for live visuals here).

Fig 3.
Screen cap from a music vid of a band member working at a radio active power plant. This is from Devo's era during their progression into electronic-driven music that coincided with their persona's of being based in an industrial wasteland.

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