Dev is best known for her involvement in Far East Movement’s “Like a G6,” which was built around the chorus of her original track, “Booty Bounce.” Her debut album, The Night the Sun Came Up, drops on September 20th. We caught up with her for a phone interview to discuss working with her childhood idols, her chance encounter with a San Francisco Giant, and how she distinguishes between Dev and Devin.
Thrillcall: A lot has been made of how you came onto the exploded onto the scene with “Like a G6,” but I’m curious to hear how much music you were making before that.
Dev: The Cataracts discovered me in 2008, because I was making music on my Macbook in Garage Band, literally like singing into my Macbook in my closet. I put music up on Myspace and they discovered me. We’ve been working together ever since, but it wasn’t until like 2010 that “G6” popped off. So while it seems like I was kind of just put on with this song, obviously, to the public, I had been working for a couple years really hard – every day I left my my town and my family, you know, sacrificed at finding success for myself.
Before that though, my whole life, yeah, I went to a bunch of shows, I studied music in school, I was in choirs and bands and stuff like that, so yeah, music was always just something I was into – it was always just sports and arts and music. Anything I could get my hands on to just express myself and feel liberated in some way.
Thrillcall: So you and The Cataracts have worked especially closely – it seems like a tight bond that you guys have together as a production team. We’re going to go ahead and get the promo out of the way – you’ve got an album coming out on September 20th, called The Night the Sun Came Up. How do you think that tight bond is going to come through on the album?
Dev: You know, it’s funny when vocalists or artists find producers, it’s kind of like – “hey, nice to meet you, yeah, nice to meet you too. Okay, well let’s try to make a hit record.” Fortunately for me, I had lived with The Cataracts for two years, I have known them for much longer now, like three and a half. They can finish my sentences and know what I’ll order for lunch. You know, they’re the closest friends I have – I speak to them almost every day and see them almost every day. I’m really fortunate to be an artist in the position where I’m making an album with my closest friends.
Thrillcall: Yeah, and finding success with it too.
Dev: Yeah, like I said we worked so hard, there was like, you know, I would perform 4 nights a week in LA just to get somebody to listen to me, and for a year I did that for free. And The Cataracts would just produce for anybody who would walk into our studio. And I think, along with all this hard work came really fucking cool success that I am so grateful for. But yeah, it’s great that I get to work with people who know me so well, because the production comes out perfectly, and the lyrics come out perfectly, and what I’m able to express vocally – it’s everything I wanted, it’s really personal to me and that’s exactly what I want to get across.
Thrillcall: You have parlayed that success into working with some other notable people, including people like Timbaland, so you must be developing a reputation as, you know, a “true professional” now. So are you going to use that as a bargaining chip to maybe track down other people that you want to work with that you haven’t yet?
Dev: I mean, I don’t really feel I have to be like, “yo, I worked with Timbo, so that means you have to work with me.” I kind of like working with people who want to work with me. And in a sense that’s kind of why I didn’t want any features [on my album], I wanted everybody to fucking hear what I have to say, you know? But it was beautiful, working with Timbaland was so rad, you don’t even know, he was like – he’s an amazing musician. It was a really great experience and I learned a lot from him, and you know, working with 50, and with David Guetta and Travis Barker. I got to literally work with artists that, you know, I grew up listening to. I toured with Usher and Akon – that was really cool, man.
Thrillcall: You’re starting to get the people who were in your CD player or whatever when you were young –
Dev: Exactly. Yeah, exactly.
Thrillcall: – and that must be a crazy feeling. Was there ever anyone who gave you a call, or you came into contact with, where you were like, “holy shit, I can’t believe I’m talking to this person?”
Dev: Well, all the artists that I just listed. 50 was really rad for me because you know, “Get Rich or Die Trying” was like the theme song to my high school career. So like, that was really cool. Working with Travis Barker was really cool too, because that was like the first concert I had ever gone to. I was like 9 or 10 years old and my parents took me to watch them for my birthday. So when I got back into the studio with Travis, it was like this full circle and it really felt good, you know?
Thrillcall: Definitely. Alright, I’m gonna switch gears a little bit. Like I said we’re based here in San Francisco –
Dev: Oh, sick, close to home!
Thrillcall: Yeah! So, I’ve heard you at many a Giants game, and I want to know what went into that, how all that went down.
Dev: That’s so funny. A DJ from Frisco got in touch with my A&R – he spins some of the records for the team – and said it would be cool to come up with a theme song for the team. And they were like, hey, the Cataracts and Dev are from Northern California. We were like, yo, we can make a spinoff of G6 that’ll be “Like a G-Man,” because obviously that’s who they are. So we just wrote something really cool for them. Dave from the Cataracts is a big sports junkie.
Thrillcall: And you were athletic as a kid too, so I figured that had something to do with it.
Dev: Yeah, totally. I totally grew up going to Giants games and playing sports. It was so rad. And actually, I forget that they play it…
Thrillcall: Yeah, they bump it before every game!
Dev: Yeah, it’s like a little theme song, it’s really tight. Actually, I was in Tommaso’s in June for my boyfriend’s birthday, and in walks Cody Ross. They had just played a home game – I’m like, what the hell, they were just playing! And my sister’s boyfriend is freaking out cause he’s a neurotic Giants fan – and a pitcher – so he’s freaking out, and I was like, “you guys want to go meet him?”
Thrillcall: (Laughing) You were like, “what’s up, I got this, hold on.”
Dev: They were like “shut up, shut up,” and I’m like, “come on.” So I was like, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt you, I don’t want to be rude, but you know, we’re fans of yours and you’re really cool, and I sing the ‘Like a G-Man’ song…” And he was like, “No, I’m a fan of yours! Can we take a picture together?” It was so rad – he was really cool.
Thrillcall: It’s always crazy, probably, when you collide with people who have some notoriety in completely different worlds, and then you sort of have that mutual respect.
Dev: Yeah, you know, I’ve never really had that before, because usually people I see and meet are always musicians. So it was cool, yeah.
Thrillcall: You can still kind of get starstruck in different industries, yeah. Actually, speaking of that, you’ve now reached this certain crazy level of fame where you have tons of people know who you are when you don’t know who they are – you know, in addition to the real person that you are, you become more of a “name” or a “brand” as well. How do you react to that – how have you handled it?
Dev: That’s a great question. Sometimes it fucks with my head. People will think they can sum me up in two words because they hear “Bass Down Low” on the internet or something. But other times I think that…I mean, of course, you know? I make music for the public to listen to. I make music for myself, but I give it to the public, and hopefully they can enjoy it too. So of course people are going to attach different ideas to it…I almost give them the freedom – they have the freedom to do so. So I kind of can’t get too caught up in that. Yeah, it’s strange. But in the same sentence, if I can really make a brand out of myself, as weird as that is, it’s really cool, actually.
Thrillcall: It’s probably almost empowering.
Dev: Yeah, it really makes me feel good that I can do stuff like that, both personally and business-wise. I remember as a kid I always bought band merch, I would collect buttons and t-shirts, and at the time I really didn’t understand what I was doing except appreciating what I thought was like, this movement. And now being on the other end is sort of interesting – it’s actually really cool.
Thrillcall: You’ve said you’re a big fan of Karen O, from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, right?
Dev: Yeah, I love her.
Thrillcall: She’s mentioned that “Karen O” is kind of the stage name or the stage persona, whereas Karen Orzolek is her real name, and that sort of represents a more personal or private side. But neither of those two people or personas are less valid, they’re just different sides of her. Does that resonate with you at all – having a public stage persona that is sort of separate?
Dev: When I started doing this, Dev was…I was who I was. I performed – I still do, I perform in bands in jeans sometimes, you know? I say what the fuck I want, I’m given a microphone every day. And it’s like, “oh, who am I to have the right to say whatever I want,” but I do it, you know. So I’m very fortunate in the fact that who I am on and off camera, onstage and offstage, is really who I am. And I’m proud of that, I really am proud of that, and I hope people can relate to that. I hope that they feel that. Because I’m really being honest with people. But in the same sentence you always need to have a separation, because it gets exhausting. It gets a little bit too much, you know, like – where’s the line between personal and public? But now I’ve sort of learned to separate Dev from Devin, not in the sense of I’m sugarcoating anything or hiding anything from my fans. But when I go home, I turn off the switch, and I lay barefoot in my boxers and watch SportsCenter, and that’s okay to do that.
Thrillcall: It seems like that’s probably necessary.
Dev: Exactly. It’s weird that there’s sort of a separation, but at the same time, it is, it’s necessary.
Thrillcall: Yeah. So this is one of the things that impresses me about you, is that you’re really keen on personal growth and growth as an artist – just like, keep learning, keep inhaling new things and all that –
Dev: Thank you!
Thrillcall: – I know it might be a little early to talk about album number two, but do you think you’re going to grow into something totally different? Do you have plans, or are you just going to let it happen?
Dev: (Laughs) Yeah, I want to start working on the second album as soon as possible. I just spoke to my manager about it yesterday actually, which is really cool, because I’m really stoked for it. Going into this album I really wanted it to be personal, and I wanted it to be pretty, and honest, and have its sad points, but I still wanted it to be refreshing and youthful. Because I’m in such – the past three years of my life have been me learning and me growing, you know? But now, for the next one, I hope it matures even more. I want to do more production wise, live instrumentation. It can only sound better, and lyrically I can get better, and even vocally. And I would love to be able to perform onstage with full bands, and strings, and you know…I definitely will grow. As I grow, my music will grow – I’m not trying to rush anything, I definitely want to fit in the moment and enjoy it. So yeah, the second album, I can’t wait.
Thrillcall: Sounds good. I think that’s a positive note to end on. Thanks for talking with us, it’s been fantastic.
Dev: Thanks so much.