|Toronto Maple Leafs center Boyd Devereaux and Jim Ward of the band Sparta.|
Music makes the world go round, right?
Devereaux seems to think so.
The 29-year-old center grew up in Seaforth, Ontario, listening to his father Ken, an amateur musician, play six-string guitar, and remembers watching him play songs by guitar greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton.
Today, Devereaux plays guitar himself and turns up the amplifiers any chance he gets. And though he readily admits he’ll stick to his day job, Devereaux prefers to listen to talented independent artists, rather than “hack away” in his own right.
“I like a lot of different genres,” Devereaux said, “but right now I’m really into the psych-rock and alt-country. But I’ll listen to anything if it’s good. Constantines are amazing and have a new record coming out shortly and I’ve had the chance to listen to that. It’s really good.”
Constantines, an independent band out of Toronto is a favorite on Devereaux’s play list, along with a bevy of other indie bands whose sounds stretch from melodic psych to fused county alt rock to the heaviest of drone doom, which blasts fast guitars and thundering bass lines. The latter, though, is a treat Devereaux saves for alone time, when he can throw on the headphones on the road or blast in his truck on the way to Air Canada Centre.
Other indie favorites include Black Mountain, the Sadies, Mastodon and Sparta.
His love for the independent music scene was the main catalyst when he was asked to co-brand a new record label, Elevation Recordings, which he co-owns with partner and Warner/Reprise promotions manager Joe Greenwald.
Devereaux first met Greenwald backstage at a Pearl Jam concert in 2000, during Devereaux’s first season with the Detroit Red Wings. Greenwald, a former member of Detroit-based band, the Dirtbombs, was then working for Virgin Records.
“We had a lot of the same musical tastes and we’ve been really good friends all these years,” Devereaux says. “He was going to start up a new label – a really low-key, limited-presence deal, and we talked a lot about it and the more we talked about it the more it made sense to me more and more that maybe I should join in on it. It’s been awesome and it’s really exciting for me to discuss bands. We’ve released three EPs so far and I think they’re all awesome.”
Elevation Recordings, established in Macomb, Mich., contacts musicians in hopes of releasing new material in an EP format for limited distribution. Only 2,000 copies are available for sale via the label’s Web site, www.elevationrecordings.net, or at local independent retailers.
Thus far, Elevation has produced and released EPs from the intense and hardcore Nadja, psych-rich Residual Echoes of Los Angeles, and a third release by Blood Meridian.
“The first release from Nadja is pretty heavy,” Devereaux says. “It’s kind of doom-drone, but it’s really awesome. Its head-phone-type, get-really-into-it loud. I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long time so that was pretty exciting. Our second release, by Residual Echoes, is psych-rock spastic guitar that is really great. Our third release, by Blood Meridian, is alt-country, kind of haunting folk that’s really awesome.
“We recognize that they aren’t a mainstream sound, but they are talented artists. I think a lot of record collectors get excited about the limited releases and makes it fun to get your hands on a copy.”
Black Mountain has been on Devereaux’s radar since he first checked out the Vancouver-based band while living in Phoenix during the 2004-05 lockout. The next thing you know, the band is staying at Devereaux’s home, enjoying beers on the back patio, all the while trying to figure out why this random fan has pictures of him hoisting the Stanley Cup, which he won with the Red Wings in 2002. With a common bond of hockey and music, a friendship was made, and remains today.
“They ended up crashing at my house after a show and that was good times,” recalls Devereaux. “And I’ve been friends with those dudes all these years. I’ve been lucky to meet so many great guys. Like Sparta, who I’ve also known for a long time and are really good guys. You meet these people along the way at various shows and they’re really great people and I really enjoy it when I get to see those guys because they’re so busy on the road.”
And with friends like Will Kidman and Dallas Wehrle from the Cons, Texas-based Sparta, Grammy-nominated Atlanta-based Mastodon, and Oshawa, Ontario’s Cuff the Duke -- a band Devereaux befriended after seeing their shows at Toronto venues like the Horse Shoe Tavern and the Opera House -- Devereaux has earned his indie cred.
|Black Mountain has been on Devereaux’s radar since he first checked out the Vancouver-based band while living in Phoenix during the 2004-05 lockout.|
First-hand knowledge only can help him determine which artist to add to Elevation Recordings. Along with reading the music press, Devereaux trusts his friends’ advice and input.
“I’ve been fortunate to have made really good friends along the years in various cities and a lot are musicians,” he said. “In turn, they know what I like and have turned me on to lots of great stuff, and once you’re led or get an idea of where to search out various types of music, a lot of it is people who I consider have great taste and (their) recommendations. I trust their taste.”
With more bands turning to independent labels -- like Radiohead, who recently left mainstream EMI Records and released their seventh album, In Rainbows, via their own Web site as a digital download and merged with an independent record label to sell their CDs – bands can be successful without major backing, as long as they’re being seen and heard.
Thanks to community Web sites like MySpace, indie bands have found a way to stay connected to fans while playing and selling their music. And most are partnered with online retailers like iTunes and Rhapsody.
Devereaux is thrilled to take part in the indie arrival.
“The big-label music industry is in a lot of upheaval because people aren’t buying as much music,” he explains. “Due to the Internet, people have much more access to music than ever before. I think that’s why you see lots of bands who once relied on a major label to get exposure, now have people checking them out on the Internet.
“There are a lot of talented bands that might have slipped through the cracks a little, and have gotten the chance for more people to catch their sound. I think it’s better for music in general and nice for these bands to get recognition.”
And after hockey, who knows where Devereaux will wind up? The sky is the limit for Elevation Recordings. But don’t call him a music mogul just yet.
“It’s a boutique label and I’m comfortable with the amount of time it takes up right now,” he says. “Certainly, when I’m done I’d love to jump head-first in and dig further into it because I’m enjoying the small taste of it so far. Limited time and high rewards. I love it.”