Devastations’ Yes, U is one of our favorites of this young year. They released decent work in the past — including 2006’s Coal — but the Australian trio’s third album is light (and dark) years ahead of anything they’ve done before. There were a bunch of comparisons to the National when they first hit (perhaps due in part to their affiliation with Brassland, who put out the last album). There are a couple songs on Yes, U that might make you think “Berninger,” but for the most their shooting into a different, noisier and more noirish direction — more space, darkness, elegance, chilly pianos, icy drum machines, etc. Maybe their relocation to Berlin did something? (That’s how Thom would explain it.) Or maybe it’s the added noises from HTRK’s Nigel Yang? Whatever the case, the label’s comparisons to Suicide and Scott Walker actually make sense. “Rosa,” though, is more Cave-style exorcism.
Devastations – “Rosa” (MP3)
It’s such a great song, and we were curious about the storyline, so we asked vocalist/bassist Conrad Standish a few questions. Something we rarely do. He provided us with just enough info to deepen the understanding, but not enough to erase the mystery…
[Photo by Joe Dilworth]
STEREOGUM:The obvious question: Who’s Rosa? Invented or a real person?
CONRAD STANDISH: Rosa is a real person, though that’s not her real name. A certain amount of ‘poetic license’ has been used within the framework of the song. She’s a friend of ours from Melbourne who we’ve known for quite a while.
STEREOGUM: The song’s one of the more intense tracks on the album. Why the urgency? What’s the story behind the speaker’s reassurances to Rosa that they’re best friends/he won’t leave, etc.? What’s the sound she’s making? So, yeah, the particulars.
CS: The song really came to life a couple of years ago, in Berlin, when we were jamming it out with Nigel Yang of HTRK, who was playing keyboards with us at that time. Up until that point it had been a bit directionless. Or maybe not directionless, but Nigel really lent it a lot of intensity – fucking around with horrible synthesized noise and stuff. We quickly added it into the live set and it dawned on us that it was an incredibly fun, and intense, song to play. The version on ‘Yes, U’ is pretty much exactly how it’s performed live. As far as the particulars go, the reassurances to ‘Rosa’ are basically due to the fact that she is a girl who sometimes, even in the face of a sea of positivity and possibilities, can only see the worst in things. It’s as much a reminder to ourselves to not to lose touch with her as well, as she is quite dear to all of us. One part of me prefers to keep these things ambiguous though. Sometimes I think if too much is revealed about a song, the listener can lose their own connection with it. Most of our songs are intended to be quite ambiguous in that way. There’s always exceptions of course, but generally we like to keep our cards held close to our chests when it comes to that stuff. With ‘Rosa’ we really just wanted to create something positive for a friend who, despite all evidence to the contrary, couldn’t see a way out.
Now that you know some extra info, check them do “Rosa” live. This is from a NIN opening slot.
Hopefully Trent’s fans were kind.
Yes, U is out on Beggars Banquet.