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Q&A: Rising synth-pop band Nation of Language talks new album and upcoming tour

Nation of Language is transforming the indie-pop music scene with genre-bending pieces. The Brooklyn-based band is led by Ian Richard Devaney with his wife, Aidan Devaney, on synth and Michael Sue-Poi on bass. Their newest album, “A Way Forward,” inspired by the experimental Krautrock of the 1970s will be released Nov. 5.  

Having put out their first album amid a global pandemic, Nation of Language is excited to make their way to the stage and meet many of their fans for the first time. The Chronicle sat down with the band’s lead singer, Ian Devaney, for an interview. 

The Chronicle: So great to hear you’re coming to North Carolina Oct. 30! Let’s get started with a short introduction to your band. How would you describe your sound? 

Ian Devaney: I would describe our sound as new wave and post-punk inspired synth music that draws a lot from the late 1970s and early 1980s electronic music as well as 2000s indies. 

TC: I read a bit about the process of making your first album, “Introduction, Presence.” Incredible how it all came together in a pandemic. I would love to hear a bit more on the process for your upcoming album, “A Way Forward.” What did that look like, creating another album in a pandemic? 

ID: The process for recording the two albums was very different. The first album was assembled over a much longer period of time. We had a few singles recorded and then when our synth player, Aidan, and I got married, we asked people, instead of things from a registry, for money, which we then used to finish the album. Whereas during the pandemic, it was confined to a much smaller time frame but also felt much freer and relaxed. 

TC: How does it feel to be able to go on tour again?

ID: [Live performance] means everything to us. It’s really why we felt so doom and gloom about the first album, since we weren’t able to tour it. Traditionally, this is what has brought the most people into the world of our band. Now, being able to [tour], it is like every night is a celebration. People come up and tell us this is their first show back since the pandemic and being able to be that for someone is a real honor. 

TC: When discussing this album, Ian, you say that you wanted this album to be “looking further backward to find a way forward,” as you reinterpreted your influences in a modern context. Could you talk a bit more on that?

ID: Something I’ve been appreciating is when I encounter other bands that exist today that share our influences and how we each seem to pull slightly different things. What I see in New Order might not be the same thing my friend sees in New Order. I was curious to look at the first album’s influences’ influences. Where there is a lot of Human League or Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark on the first album, [those bands] really loved Kraftwork. So, what if I looked deeply at Kraftwork, and see if I come out with something different than they did. 

TC: Are there any songs on this newest album that you are particularly attached to?

ID: The opening song and the last song; they are not in the mix of singles being released in the lead up to the album but they both hold this special place of going into the studio with just a faint sketch of what the song was and allowing ourselves to follow every instinct. Most of the first album was defined by us needing things to be very precise and planned. So, with this one, we wanted to leave a little room for exploration.

TC: I have to say, my favorite song from the album is “This Fractured Mind.” It reminds me of something from the Pet Shop Boys, OMD or Soft Cell. Could you tell me a little about that particular song? 

ID: That one is interesting because a lot of the music for it was from years ago. It was one of the first things I wrote for the band before the band really was a band, when it was just an exercise in writing music that wasn’t guitar music. And, I just rediscovered it while we were in the recording process. It felt like it hit certain marks that really spoke to what I was trying to make the second album into. 

TC: What’s coming next for you all? 

ID: Right now, we are mid-way through this tour. I think, for now, it’s just to be out on the road as much as possible to celebrate the fact that we can do it at all. 

Nation of Language will be at Cat’s Cradle Oct. 30. Tickets can be purchased online.


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