Kevin Devine is a quiet singer-songwriter. Manchester Orchestra is a loud rock band. The two acts have toured together extensively, and earlier this year, they actually began working on music together.
Together, Devine and members of Manchester Orchestra are known as Bad Books, and they have a new self-titled album out. It makes Bad Books something of a union of opposites, though there are common elements.
"I don't know if it's quite as polarized as 'opposites,' " Devine says. "Andy Hull, who writes the songs for Manchester Orchestra — he has a softer side and does a project that's kind of his acoustic songs. I definitely do have a number of songs that skew toward that kind of — you know, I love Elliott Smith and Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan and Neil Young. But actually, all those people except for Leonard Cohen also have a part that is more loud and more bombastic."
In an interview with Weekend All Things Considered guest host Audie Cornish, Devine describes the process of working with Hull and the other members of Manchester Orchestra. He describes the struggle to finish one song in particular — "You Wouldn't Have to Ask" — as the crux of the collaboration.
"As a songwriter, you want your thing to be fully formed and perfect when people hear it," he says. "There is that part of the ego that doesn't want to take suggestion. But collaborating is definitively all about taking suggestion. And the bridge that [Hull] came up with was better, and it made the song better, and it straightened it out. He did with that part what I couldn't do. And in that moment, it was like ... I think for both of us, it was the kind of realization, 'Well, that's why we're doing this.' "