SOBRIETY & SYNTHESIZERS
Devan’s music as Coyote 87: https://coyote87.bandcamp.com/
[abridged transcript of a phone interview]
Prove: Last time you spoke with us, your sobriety came up. How has that been going?
Devan: Oooh, invasive questioning, right out of the gate. I’m kidding. I knew this was going to be a topic ahead of time. I’m coming up on 600 days of no alcohol so it’s going well. I still have issues with depression and intrusive thoughts but I’ve never been as productive as I have been this year so I keep reminding myself that alcohol sobriety is my superpower. It keeps me on track with my goals.
I’m feeling more good than bad these days.
In the show Euphoria, actor Colman Domingo plays Ali, a sponsor to Rue. Rue complains about the inconsistency of her moods when she’s sober. Ali tells Rue, “You’ve got your issues, you’re going to be struggling with those issues the rest of your life. The problem is you look at sobriety as a weakness in the face of those issues, and what I’m saying is, sobriety is your greatest weapon.”
I’m paraphrasing but I’ve seen that episode a few times so I think I’m close. It’s the one where it all takes place in a diner. I think about it a lot.
Prove: Before the interview you mentioned you’re becoming active again in RAINN’s Speakers Bureau. https://www.rainn.org/
Devan: In a limited capacity so I don’t burn myself out but yes. I was inactive with RAINN for a long time but I want to be involved again. Speaking engagements, public readings on the topic of PTSD, that kind of stuff.
Prove: For readers, what does RAINN stand for?
Devan: It’s the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. It’s the United States’ largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline. 800-656-HOPE (4673). They also have an online chat. https://hotline.rainn.org/online
Prove: Queen City Nerve selected you [as Coyote 87] as the Music Critics’ Choice for Best Experimental Artist.
Devan: Yeah, that feels pretty great. Didn’t know I was being considered. Charlotte, NC has a great music scene so I’m honored to have been picked. I’m an insomniac making weirdness for earbud wearing doomers. It’s wild that people know me as Coyote 87 at all.
Prove: Since you don’t drink, what did you do to celebrate your win in the category?
Devan: Chicken wings. But I was going to eat them anyway, you know?
Prove: Who would be your pick for Charlotte’s best experimental artist?
Devan: Depression Quilt. I listened to Depression Quilt’s Overlapping Whispers album three times in a row this morning.
The Bandcamp page has an accurate description for the album. “Relaxation music for a crumbling happy place.” I love it. It’s droning music I can get writing done to.
Prove: What are you currently writing?
Devan: A memoir. I DREAM OF GOATS: LETTERS ON PTSD & VINYL. That’s the title, assuming I don’t change it again.
Prove: What would surprise people about your writing?
Devan: Well, if they don’t know me, I think they would be surprised by the amount of humor despite the subject matter being rooted in trauma. If someone has been around me in person long enough, they wouldn’t be surprised at all. It’s not David Sedaris level funny but I don’t want people not giving it a chance from thinking it’ll be relentlessly bleak.
Prove: So the memoir is a collection of letters.
Devan: Essays disguised as letters, yeah.
Prove: Who are the letters addressed to?
Prove: Camryn Bell. She co-wrote the Dreamcult album.
Prove: She’s also your dominatrix. Is that correct?
Devan: Yeah, it’s unconventional but great. We have a bond and that bond has helped my mental health substantially. It’s rooted in consent and respect. Don’t expect the writing to be kinky though if that’s where you’re going with your questions.
This memoir is not sexy.
They’re essay length letters that jump back and forth in time, reflecting how it feels to have PTSD flashbacks. But there is some levity in the writing, detailing how a love of movies, acting and music have helped me over the years. Eras in our lives are tied to films, albums, great character performances, you know?
Prove: You equate acting with music?
Devan: They’re different mediums but yeah, an actor’s performance can make me feel emotional peaks and valleys just like an album.
Maddie Hasson’s performance as a sexual assault survivor in the series Impulse makes me feel understood so I rewatch it when I wrestle with harsh memories. There’s an essay where I equate it to being the cinematic equivalent, for me, to Nirvana’s In Utero. It’s a dark show but it became comfort viewing.
And the film Girl, Interrupted feels like part of my DNA at this point but it belongs to a more chaotic and hazy era of my life. So it’s discussed in a different essay.
Prove: Why are the essays structured as letters?
Devan: It didn’t start that way. I kept hitting roadblocks. I would write for a few days, then nothing came out of me for weeks. Then I started psyching myself into pretending they are letters for Camryn’s eyes only. Which is a lie, obviously, since it will be published but if the essays are letters to her, leaning into the bond we have and our similar passion for music, I feel able to write every day. It also probably opened up the creative floodgates knowing she won’t judge me. In the past when writing something with the general public in mind, there’s a tendency to hold back or make it less extreme but fuck that. You can’t please everyone. So the irony is, for this memoir, if I write for an audience of one, it’ll be bolder prose for everyone.
I have a notebook where I wrote down a quote from one of my favorite poets, Savannah Brown, talking about the obtuse nature of getting people to spend time with your work. Hold on, I’ll flip to the quote.
“The attention economy is brutal. Making things is like deciding to spend your life playing a rigged, demented slot machine except instead of quarters you’re gambling everything that’s ever made you feel something … and your childhood trauma.”
- Savannah Brown
That quote felt relevant to share.
Prove: Does your book have a message?
Devan: Don’t bury your trauma within. That shit doesn’t work. Don’t suffer in silence. But I don’t get preachy. That’s just the obvious message of the book. Anything that feels preachy or heavy handed gets scrapped. This isn’t an after school special. I want it to be a gripping piece of literature. I’m not here to be anyone’s moral compass.
Prove: Changing gears, you posted on social media that there will be an extended version of the Dreamcult album. Let’s talk about that.
Devan: Yeah, an extended version is getting released in 2023. The additional tracks may change the tone album for those willing to listen to it from beginning to end. But the original album will still be there, obviously, for those who want a more concise experience. The extended Insomniac Edition will delve into ambience and orchestral noise a bit more.
I view it the same as how some people may prefer the pacing of a theatrical cut and others may like settling into a director cut of a movie. Album variations can be thought of similarly. I mean, why not?
Prove: What did you mean by orchestral noise?
Devan: Sometimes I spend a while trying to get synthesizers to mimic a string section. When the end result is close to what’s in my head, cool. But often fucked up attempts lead to ideas that become songs as well.
Prove: Who is inspiring you lately?
Devan: Other than Camryn? Robin Graham, an activist in Prince Edward Island. It’s a long fucking way from North Carolina but her authenticity inspires me to not tone myself down for others. Just being real can have an impact on someone hundreds of miles away. Also, she inspires me to get involved with my community more. She doesn’t take shit or back down. I need that Big Rob Energy.
Prove: Aside from Depression Quilt, who’s another artist you’re playing heavily lately?
Devan: The album Utility Music by composer Julian Brink and Alexa Melo’s Lotus Flower EP of Radiohead covers. 7 of Cups by Kadey Ballard. I’ve been playing those three albums on a loop lately while doing rewrites.
Prove: Are you still as obsessed with social media as the last time we talked?
Devan: I’m still obsessed with Twitter and Instagram but honestly I’ve grown to think that, for me, it’s not a bad thing. The pros outweigh the cons. It’s cool connecting with people I couldn’t talk to otherwise.
Prove: Who is the most fun for you to follow?
Devan: My Twitter friend April. It’s not even close. @bb_apes She has my favorite tweet of all time. “Masturbating on an airplane, call that complaining.”
Prove: You stay busy creatively. You work a day job right?
Devan: Of course. Most artists do. But if your day job isn’t in line with your goals, you have to make time outside of it to do your thing. Momentum is an internal fire and it’s important to keep it alive. Sarah Hasner — https://instagram.com/sarah.hasner — has this rule of finding at least an hour a day to do something that counts as working toward the life you want. If you can at least block out that amount of time, an hour minimum a day, then you’re not staying stagnant. If you skip a day, and then go two, and so on, it becomes easy to fall into complacency. Sarah said recently, “Life is so precious. It can be gone in the blink of an eye. I refuse to live a mediocre life where I am simply content.” A lot of people settle into that content stagnation.
Prove: You sound pretty gung-ho.
Devan: Yeah, but I should emphasize that I’m finding a balance. I used to burn myself the fuck out. People buy into a hustle culture mentality and can go off the fucking rails, you know? I used to have a habit of biting off more than I could chew. But now I’m spacing out my goals. They don’t have to all happen at once. I’m 35 and just now learning what patience is, is what I’m saying.