Misty-voiced Canadian spectre-folk artist Devarrow opens up about his freshly-recorded, as-yet-untitled second album
Steven Kline
17:10 16th May 2018

Graham Ereaux wanders the globe with a devil in his pocket. A buzzing, vibrating, focus-eating devil he refers to in a song called ‘Home’ as “the pills”.

“It’s not about drugs,” he clarifies down the world’s least clear connection. “It’s a metaphor for the phone. Every time I pick up my phone I get distracted from the thing that I was trying to do. It’s this repetitive thing of always trying to get home, home being a place of balance, but always having a thing in the way – the phone ringing, a text coming in or things you have to do. It almost feels like we live in Brave New World. There’s so much information we’re presented with every day that detaches us from a sense of clarity that we feel when we’re not on our phones.”

The phone line flickers and dies. His personal pocket devil seems intent on silencing him. But that’s even beyond Siri’s powers; as Devarrow, Ereaux has forged two beautiful, haunting and intimate pastoral folk albums in the Fleet Foxes, Red House Painters and Bon Iver vein – his 2015 debut ‘The Great Escape’ and a freshly-recorded, as-yet-untitled second – driven to capture the essence of the 21st Century millennial malaise in the form of misty-voiced Canadian spectre-folk.

“This record is my response to what it feels to be someone in their mid-twenties,” he explains. “I’m living at a point in my life which a lot of my friends experience, we immerse ourselves into something that’s quite extreme. As much as I love touring, it’s completely all-consuming and the record is about the quest to find balance in a time and a world that feels incredibly unbalanced, whether we’re consumed by using our phones the whole time or by our jobs or, in my case, of being consumed by touring all the time. From talking with a lot of friends it feels quite common for people my age, that first leap into some kind of career and trying to find a way to live a lifestyle that’s balanced well, pursuing something that’s your passion.”

Graham returns to the idea of “life balance” again and again during our interview; for him it’s the missing cog in the millennial machine, as elusive as a Facebook quiz that isn’t secretly after your voting history and mother’s maiden name. Devoting himself to music as a high school loner, his first album celebrated his post-college traveling experiences, but after two years of solid touring his second, writing half-songs in soundchecks and snatched windows of spare time and recording back home over eighteen months, his second became “a bit more love-hate”. Here sings of dislocation and disorientation - “feel like I’m acting in a film/I can’t see how to tell what’s for real” – of on-the-road anxiety (‘Heart Attack’, ‘Cold Sweat’) and the eternal search for some sort of home.

“There’s this feeling of always travelling, always moving,” he says, “this feeling that you can be traveling so much that you’re no longer grounded.” And when he does stop moving, the world seems to be spinning out of control around him: hence lyrics about feeling “crazy”. “That’s the craziness a lot of us feel in times of our lives that feel unbalanced, overworked,” Graham says. “The craziness of how you navigate a world where there’s so much going on and so much we have to do.” Are there any political inferences? “In North America and Canada we spend a lot of time reading the news and learning about what’s going on with Trump. But it’s indirect, it’s more about living in the 21st Century as a millennial.”

Originally, Graham planned to filter these concerns through the lens of an album-wide narrative – a small town dreamer trying to break free of his repetitive nowhere life and fleeing to Hollywood. “‘Unwired’ was the track of him being in this small town setting and having the realisation working at a gas station that he was repeating himself over and over again,” Graham says. “He goes and looks in the mirror and sees himself getting older – it’s that realisation that if he doesn’t change something… that he needs to leave and move to Hollywood. But as I wrote the record and was touring I realised that a lot of the songs were quite personal and weren’t about someone else but maybe were about my own experiences in the world trying to make a meaningful life as a mid-20s-year-old. I like the fact that there are all these moments where it’s more third-person and there’s a bit more anonymity to it. Everyone I seem to know who has an adventurous sense and wants to be traveling and exploring, is having this same struggle in life. The narrative is all there in about three-quarters of the songs but they all blend nicely together. It feels like a story that’s somewhat universal.”

It certainly stole hearts at the recent Focus Wales showcase festival and will no doubt win over The Great Escape during Devarrow’s two shows there this weekend. Keep those devils in your pockets, though.

Devarrow plays The Great Escape on May 18 at 1.30pm (Green Door Store) and 12.15am (Latest Music Bar).

Photo: Press