Devo, four decades of absurd adventure.
Inevitably Devo have undergone significant line-up changes in their long history. The classic core of the band, however, comprises two sets of brothers, Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh, and Gerald and Bob Casale, along with Alan Myers. Their music can loosely be described as new wave and synth pop, with the band being one of the first to make prominent use of synthesizers and electronics in pop music. Early in their career, Devo received backing from the likes of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, support which saw them sign to Warner Bros. for the release of their 1978 debut album ‘Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!’, produced by Brian Eno. They were early pioneers of music videos, most notably with their most popular single, 1980’s ‘Whip It’.
Rejuvenated in the 1970s
By 2007 Devo was a continuing potent force, one which was still winning over new audiences and touring regularly. They’d been on a temporary hiatus between 1991 and 1996, but by the mid-2000s were in one of the most active phases of their career and continuing to break new ground. In 2006 they had collaborated with Disney on a project known as Devo 2.0, which saw a number of their hits covered by child performers.
34 years after their origins in Akron, Ohio, they continued to stick to their founding concept – the idea that humanity was regressing, rather than progressing. This manifested itself in their outlandish stage shows – the band dressed in uniforms of yellow jumpsuits and red, dome-shaped hats. Playing a number of high profile concerts and festivals that year, 2007 marked the culmination of a reunion which had seen them drastically increase their cult following.
2007 was also a landmark for Devo because they released their first new music since 1990. Their new single, ‘Watch Us Work It’, was a surprise hit. Getting used in a Dell advert, it saw one of the USA’s strangest ever bands getting broadcast on mainstream TV. Just as significantly, interviews in 2007 revealed that Devo had commenced working on a new album.
The following year, they embarked on a heavy touring schedule, playing shows in North America, Asia and Europe, while in 2009 they were standout performers at the hugely influential SXSW festival in Austin. In 2010, they finally released ‘Something For Everybody’, the first Devo album in 20 years.
The Grim Reaper Strikes but Life Goes On
Since then, tragedy has struck the band. Alan Myers passed away in 2013, and Bob Casale died in 2014. Nevertheless, Devo remain active, still playing live concerts and releasing their own unique brand of merchandise, such as their own emoji packs for use on social media.
Devo’s aesthetic and sound have remained remarkably consistent, a kitsch blend of absurd theatrics and unusual pop music. Through persistent innovation, however, they’ve managed to present themselves in constantly new ways. Whether it’s the complex video projections in their live shows or the creation of a video game, Devo are a band that always seem to be operating outside the box.