“4 to Watch: Lightspeed Champion,” Paste, 2007
Hometown: Born in Houston, raised in Essex, England
Fun fact: Lightspeed Champion is 21-year-old Dev Hynes, former guitarist of short-lived, much-loved band Test Icicles. His debut full-length, however, is miles from the Icicles’ spiky post-punk sound, thanks in part to veteran Saddle Creek producer Mike Mogis.
Why he's worth watching: Hynes’ moping autobiographical lyrics are balanced by his truly unusual sense of humor. The goofy, puppet-filled video for his first single, “Galaxy of the Lost,” was inspired by an R.E.M. Sesame Street appearance.
For fans of: Bright Eyes, Shout Out Louds, Belle & Sebastian
Dev Hynes, a.k.a. Lightspeed Champion, has suffered from stomach ulcers since the age of 15, so he really should avoid stress. And yet stress always seems to ?nd him. When Paste rings Hynes in Dalston, the East London district where he lives, Hynes reveals that he’s lost the keys to his apartment and that his cellphone service has been restricted, so he can only receive calls, not make them. “I just don’t know what I’m gonna do,” he says.
And somehow, unintentionally, our questions to the amiable young musician only seem to ratchet up his anxiety. Why did he name Lightspeed Champion’s debut LP—a country-in?uenced, anti-folk set featuring lots of strings and pedal steel—Falling Off the Lavender Bridge? “God, it sounds like a Rush album,” he says, laughing anxiously. “I mean, there was a song called ‘Lavender,’ but I didn’t put it on the album, so now it doesn’t make any sense.” Hynes mentions that he’s creating the cover art himself, so we ask if the image contains allusions to the album’s title. “There’s actually none,” he says. “Yeah. Fuck.”
Okay, here’s an easy one: How did he ?nd Lavender Bridge guest singer Emmy the Great, whose euphonious vocalizing on “Galaxy of the Lost” could allay even the most fretful guy’s fears? “Oh, fuck, I need to call her! But I can’t call her. Shit.”
At least we didn’t prod him as to why his new music is so different from Test Icicles. He gets that question a lot, and he’s well aware that journalists are pathologically inclined to categorize artists. This is why he chooses not to record under his own name. “People get the misconception that that’s the real you,” he says. “But it’s like, ‘Why can’t there be a lot of real yous?’”