Advertise with The Big Takeover
The Big Takeover Issue #93
Interviews
MORE Interviews >>
Subscribe to The Big Takeover

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Shop our Big Takeover store for back issues, t-shirts & CDs


Follow us on Instagram

Follow The Big Takeover

Interview: Devon Ross

28 February 2024

At the youthful age of 23, Devon Ross exhibits echoes of revered underground indie rock icons of yesteryear on her effortlessly stylish debut EP, Oxford Gardens, which my friend Joe Lekkas of Palm Ghosts aptly describes as reminiscent of “Kim Gordon fronting Television.” Heralded as “the coolest model currently climbing up the ranks” by British Vogue and co-starring on HBO’s Irma Vep, Ross embarks on her music journey, ingrained with rock and roll heritage thanks to her father, Craig, who has been Lenny Kravitz’s guitarist since the early ’90s.

Bouncing back and forth between homes in LA and London, Ross joined me from Austin, Texas where she was hanging out with her boyfriend shortly before Oxford Gardens release.

You’ve got a background in acting and modeling. Are you excited to start the next chapter, music?

DEVON: Yeah, so excited. I love acting, I love movies, but I’m probably most knowledgeable about music because I kind of just spent my life doing that. It’s really fun for me.

What is your earliest music memory?

DEVON: My dad is still like this but he had music playing in the house 24/7, from when we woke up to when we went to sleep. We had all the Beatles films on VHS. I always watched The Magical Mystery Tour. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I still think it’s the coolest thing ever. I feel like the Beatles are probably my earliest music memory. They were the first band where I knew all the members’ names.

Has there ever been anything that you’d played around your dad where he’s said, “Turn this off” or just didn’t understand it?

DEVON: I remember one time when I was a teenager and my friends had gotten into The Smiths. I put on their music and my dad was like, “Ah, no. I don’t listen to The Smiths.” Everyone has their opinion. God bless The Smiths.

When did you figure out that you had something that people would want to hear?

DEVON: Not that long ago. I used to write songs with my friends. I’ve record an album with one of my friends, but this is the first time I actually wrote music for myself and what I would want my music to sound like.

Have you been playing a guitar since you were old enough to walk?

DEVON: Actually, no. It’s weird. I kind of rebelled against it for a little bit. I started taking it really seriously when I was 14. I was pretty late compared to a lot of people, but I’d always pick it up. I was familiar with it. It wasn’t a totally foreign object to me.

My dad was a pilot and I never had any urge to follow in his footsteps. When you were growing up, were you like, ‘I want to grow up and do what dad does’?

DEVON: In my childhood, that wasn’t on my agenda. I wanted to be a ballerina. Whenever people would ask me if I play guitar, I was like, “No, I don’t play guitar. I do ballet.” I wanted to be different, But, it’s just something I love to do and something that I’m so comfortable around. It’s just meant to be really.

Did it take you a while to find your sound or is the music on the EP the type of music you’ve always written?

DEVON: I’ve done so many different styles, even the things I’ve done with friends before was so different. The way I learned guitar was learning Freddie King songs and old blues songs, which is not what my music sounds like at all. I love that stuff and I listen to it all the time. My sound just sort of happened. I got into a certain type of music at the time and it really inspired me. I was like, “That’s literally what I’ve been looking for” and that kind of set me off.

What was that music that you heard that set you off?

DEVON: Having a musician dad, there’s a lot of stuff that if he listened to it, I thought it was good to listen to which I’m so grateful for because I’ve learned so much about music. But there was a whole window of music I’d never heard before, like ‘90s stuff, like Sonic Youth and The Breeders and Pavement. I had heard about them but that’s not what was played in my house. When I got into that era of music, it was discovering something for the first time, like hearing a Beatles song that you had never heard before. You’re like, “Oh my God, I didn’t know this existed.” I knew it was there and it was so close. It just resonated with me.

You’ve of a generation that grew up with iTunes and digital music but you enjoy going thrifting and buying CDs. What’s your favorite way to listen to music?

DEVON: I use Apple Music and I love it. I make playlists all the time. It’s one of my favorite activities. I’ve been collecting vinyl for a long time, since I was a teenager and when I’m at home I mostly play vinyl because I’ve collected so many records at this point that I have everything I really need. I’m also trying to buy more but I have a pretty good little catalog.

For bands like Pavement, Built to Spill, Dinosaur Jr, Superchuck, I find that the first album that I heard of theirs, which might not be the first album they put out, tends to be my favorite because that’s how I was introduced to their music. Are you the same way?

DEVON: I feel like I’m finding new stuff all the time or I’ll listen to a record that I haven’t listened to all the way through and then find a song and be like, “Oh my God!” I was listening to the song “Black Out” on Pavement’s Wowee Zowee album. I’d never heard that song before and I was like, “This song is fucking great.” I feel like I’m finding new stuff all the time or songs that I’ve heard before. Something just happens and I become obsessed with the song.

Have you always liked the same bands or did you follow trends or listen to things that were popular?

DEVON: I’m pretty consistent. There’s certain things that are set in stone. I’ve been obsessed with the Beatles my whole life and The Stones but other things will filter in like the 90s stuff. When we were teenagers, Courtney Love was the coolest, Hole was so badass. So was The Runaways. I’m pretty consistent but also open-minded to a certain degree.

The EP is four songs, 14 minutes long. Do you have other songs up your sleeve and is there a plan for those songs?

DEVON: All of the songs on the EP were written and recorded really close to each other. I had other songs, but these were done in such a time where I’d gone through a really big change and I wrote them pretty quick. I don’t want to say it’s a concept, but they were all cohesive with each other subject wise, sound wise, they were like each other and it felt right to put these songs out first.

It seems like singles and EPs are the way to go. So many bands are taking that approach right now.

DEVON: It’s super normal. People’s attention spans are so fucked up, especially people around my age. Singles and EPs might even be an easier thing to consume for people my age. But, I’m a huge fan of full-length records. I’m not saying having a short attention span is something I relate to but that could be what’s happening.

How did you get Thurston Moore’s attention?

DEVON: He did the music for this HBO show I did a few years ago called Irma Vep. When I found out he was doing the music, I thought that was really cool. We met at the Cannes Film Festival, at the premiere for the show. I met him and his wife. They’re really cool and sweet. And I was like, “You know, I do music.” I wasn’t in a band or anything. I was just playing for other people. They were living in London at the time and I was living in London. When we got home, we started hanging out and going to shows. I became close with them. When I made these songs, I sent them to Thurston and I was like, “What do you think?” They were demos at the time. He said, “We’d love to put them out on our label.” I was like, “Whoa. I just wanted your opinion, but that’s awesome.” It was perfect, it all lined up beautifully.

You mentioned you’ve played in other people’s bands. Was the show that you did recently opening for Thurston the first time you’ve played out on your own?

DEVON: Yeah. That’s the first time I sang in front of a crowd. It was crazy. I actually wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was going to. It was just really fun. I really enjoyed it. And that was such a dream first gig to do.

As an actor and a model, you’ve performed in front of people before, typically people with cameras. When you’re preparing for your first musical performance, what was it like 5 minutes before you hit the stage? What was the scene like?

DEVON: My boyfriend was there and my best friend was there. A lot of my friends were in the crowd. It’s kind of the same as when I do movies. It’s like, “I gotta do this.” I was telling myself, “You gotta go on, you gotta do it, and you gotta do it good.” I’m not going to go do this and be nervous or shy. You’ve got to entertain people. People pay to come see you. Playing live was something that I knew was going to happen one day. When I was making the music, I was telling myself, “I’m going to have to play shows. That’s really scary. I’ve never sang in front of people before.” I was scared, but you do soundcheck, and you’re like, “Okay, that’s what my voice sounds like in a club.” You get familiar with it and then you just go on stage and do it.

Were there any surprises, anything that you hadn’t planned for or expected?

DEVON: I’ve done soundchecks and played guitar, I’ve just never sang before. It was surprising to me how it wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be.

Were you looking at people in the audience? Were you making eye contact? Or, did you get into a zone and just close your eyes or look out into the back of the club and not look anybody in the eye?

DEVON: It’s funny because when I play guitar, I’m just looking at my shoes. I don’t really have to make eye contact with the people. But as a singer, you have to make contact with the people in some way. You can’t be fully mute and mysterious or you’ll be kind of boring. I mean, there are people that do that and it’s awesome but you have to at least say, “Hello.” You have to say things like, “This is my last song,” which I was nervous about. I was like, “I don’t want to say anything.” And everyone was like, “You have to say something to the crowd.” I like making eye contact. It was fun to see people, like Bobby Gillespe (Primal Scream) was there.. My friends were in the front. It was fun.

Did you come off the stage and think that it had gone by really fast? Did you think to yourself, “Did I play everything that I wanted to play?” Or, were you just in the moment the entire time you were performing and aware of everything?

DEVON: I was so in the moment the whole time. There was a pedal that I really wanted to use and I was really in the moment and I didn’t even end up using it. But, it’s the same thing as the first fashion show I did. I was like, “Well, that was quick. I was really nervous for that and I don’t remember anything.” Thankfully for this concert, I did make it a point to be really present because it was my first show.

Having a rock star dad, you’ve seen a certain side of the music industry. Were there things that you saw that you thought to yourself, “That’s cool. I hope I can do that someday”? And, on the other hand, were there things you saw that made you say, “I don’t want to make those mistakes or get into that kind of situation”?

DEVON: To a certain degree. I’m so lucky to have grown up around all of that. I’ve seen so much shit. I’ve seen really good things and stressful things. I just know what happens, what other people don’t see. It’s cool to experience. I’m thankful that I was around for so much of the music thing and tours and recording process and all of that. As normal as it is to me now, I look back and think how grateful I am to have gotten to grow up around that.

Did it ever feel weird that your dad was a rock star while your friends’ dads were bankers and dentists and lawyers and stuff like that?

DEVON: I thought it was completely normal until my dad would come to the parent-teacher conference in black velvet pants and everyone would be like, “Who is that?” And I’m like, “That’s my dad.” And they’d say, “Your dad is weird” and I’d think, “Maybe he is kind of weird.” Obviously, everyone thought it was cool later on but at the time I was thinking, “This isn’t normal, is it?”

But you could have been like, “Oh, turn on MTV. You’ll see my dad. I don’t see your dad on TV.”

DEVON: Exactly. There was a time where I was like, “Why isn’t my dad a lawyer? I wish he were.” Now I’m like, “Thank God, this worked out great.”

You were born after your dad had started playing with Lenny Kravitz. Were you aware of anything he had done prior to you being born? Did you know about Broken Homes when you were growing up?

DEVON: He was in Broken Homes in the ‘80s, way before I was even thought about. I didn’t even know who the Broken Homes were. It was just something like, “That’s my dad’s old band,” it wasn’t a fixed thing in my life. I forget where I was, maybe at Amoeba, and they had one of his records in the $1 bin. I took it home and listened to it. I’d never listened to it before because I didn’t even know where to find it. It’s funny because it’s just so different from what he does now and he was my age when he did it so that’s pretty sweet.

Have you ever taken advantage of your dad’s name to get you into a show or meet somebody? Have you ever pulled the ‘Do you know who my dad is?” card?

DEVON: I don’t think it works that way. My dad’s awesome and I’ve been lucky to have seen so many shows as a teenager and to travel so much and meet really cool people but that’s just an extra cool thing that comes with it.

Will you be able to focus on music full time this year or do you have other things lined up?

DEVON: I don’t model anymore really but I have a few movies coming out this year. I really would love to do a record and play more shows. I just played a show at Zebulon LA and that was super fun. I totally have the bug. I want to keep going. It’s so fun.

Is there any artist that, if they called you today and said, “We’re getting ready to go out on tour and we’d like you to open,” you’d drop everything you were doing and go?

DEVON: That’s such a good question. I mean Pavement would be awesome. I love to go on tour with The Strokes. Obviously playing more shows with Thurston would be cool. There’s so many options. I just want to play. I would love to go on tour with The Breeders.