Bad Books’ debut album turns 10; Kevin Devine & Andy Hull discuss the music that influenced it
Kevin Devine and Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull have just given their 2010 debut as Bad Books an expanded reissue for its 10th anniversary, featuring the full album plus four songs from an APK session (including their cover of Built To Spill's "The Plan"), one recorded for Daytrotter, and two acoustic songs that were originally on a tour-only 7". You can pick up your copy at Bad Books' website and stream the full thing below.
In honor of the anniversary and the reissue, we spoke to Kevin and Andy about the music that influenced the writing of this album a decade ago. Both members chose (different) songs by Neil Young, Pixies, and Pavement, and Kevin also mentioned Wilco, Matthew Sweet, and Cat Power songs, while Andy included songs by Pink Floyd and Damien Jurado. They also spoke about the ways in which each song impacted them and influenced specific Bad Books songs. Read on for what they had to say...
SONGS THAT INFLUENCED BAD BOOKS - KEVIN DEVINE
Wilco - “Outtasite”
I think for me a song like “Holding Down The Laughter” comes from a lot of immersive time spent with pre-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Wilco. I’ve spent a ton of time with them since, too, but that time period specifically turns up here, where the experimental choices are more subtle and structural and the songs are immediate and approachable and ride that line between rootsy/rock n’ roll information and something a little weirder, more lyrically ambitious, more acknowledging of punk and “college rock” traditions or whatever. Songs, slightly skewed.
Neil Young - “Don’t Cry Your Tears”
Sorta overall there was an eye on the looseness of this moment in his catalogue -- Tonight’s The Night, Zuma, and On The Beach -- not worrying so much about hairs being out of place, but focusing more on how it all felt. Building songs around live performances where applicable. Shaggy but sturdy.
Matthew Sweet - “Sick Of Myself”
Just an all-time great sloppy energized power pop song from an absolute master of the form. Sorta directly responsible for whatever wing of my brain writes things like “You Wouldn’t Have To Ask” - joyful and buoyant sugar, but with rows of hidden teeth. I’m a sucker for that.
Cat Power - “I Don’t Blame You”
A song like “You’re A Mirror I Cannot Avoid” I wanted to feel almost like eavesdropping augmented with subtle, spooky but unobtrusive adornment - like you were hearing something through the confessional wall, from the apartment next door. I think she is a premiere exemplar of that, particularly earlier on, drawing you to the edge of your seat, leaning in, opening up.
Pavement - “Summer Babe” / Pixies - “Bone Machine”
I put these two together because Slanted & Enchanted era Pavement and Joey Santiago in general were my touchstones approach-wise as a lead guitar player on Andy’s songs. Curated noise, fitful bursts of color, Jackson Pollock, where there’s a picture and a purpose legible in the chaos.
SONGS THAT INFLUENCED BAD BOOKS - ANDY HULL
Neil Young - "Borrowed Tune"
This era of Neil Young [Tonight's The Night] was really inspiring to me at this time. So loose and in the moment. It really opened me up to the idea of being okay with a first or second take and leaning into the imperfections.
Pixies - "Debaser"
Wild guitars, reckless emotion in the vocals. I wouldn’t say we tried to sound like this but it certainly influenced the motivation to get weird.
Pink Floyd - "Breathe"
Pretty obvious choice but I was in the middle of a big Pink Floyd kick. The opening of the album “How This All Ends” was my idea of Dark Side>-era Pink Floyd but as a punky garage band.
Damien Jurado - "Medication"
One of the best to do it. The simplicity and story telling has always been a big influence on me, and a song like “Texas” doesn’t exist without Damien.
Pavement - "Stop Breathing"
I really fell in love with Kevin’s lead guitar abilities on this album and continually tried to push him into getting more and more reckless with his guitar playing. I would always site Pavement as an influence on his playing while we were recording.
For even more Bad Books, the duo launched the Bad Book Club podcast, "an audio commentary from Andy Hull and Kevin Devine on their lives, thoughts, and music through quarantine. Episode clips are available to the public. Full episodes are exclusive to Manchester Orchestra and Kevin Devine Patreon members. Join either Patreon account for access to full episodes!"
Kevin also released the No One’s Waiting Up For Me Tonight EP earlier this month and he says he has another EP and a full-length set to come out sometime between now and early 2022.
Andy also put out two albums of demos featuring unreleased songs from 2006-2010 this year, he's done some reissues for both Manchester and his Right Away, Great Captain! solo project, he released a Manchester Orchestra live album on the band's Patreon, and he's been working on new music. He's also been lending his talents to other bands. He contributed guest vocals to the just-released Touche Amore album and the just-announced Tigers Jaw album, and he's been working with Foxing on their TBA fourth album.