Delivering some much needed fun and excitement to the music scene, The Devyl Nellys, a funk-pop group from New York, are hard to ignore. With their previous track "Rodeo Qween" having featured KC & The Sunshine Band, and following on from the recent premiere of their new single "Bloody Merry", they inject every ounce of their passion for their craft into what they do, and it's evident for all to see. Now, with tour plans already extending into next year and encouraged and motivated by their musical influences including The White Stripes, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles to name but three, they kindly agreed to this interview to chat dream shows, social media and ultimate ambitions.
PW: How do you know each other/how did you meet?
Nelly Levon and Ben Scott: Maxwell & Rock are musicians and partners at their Business Factory Studios in Hoboken since 2008; Ben, Jake & Will have been making music together from York College, Healing Powers Studios, WXPN Studios in Philadelphia since 2006; Nelly worked with both units, made introductions and glued up the line-up. The band has taken many shapes and sizes over the past few years but has finally assembled to a point of professionalism and quality creativity.
PW: How would you sum up the band and your music in a couple of sentences?
BS and Max Feinstein: The band is a good time. The music is fun and interesting. We're all about making one another laugh and dance and making those around us laugh and dance too. Groove Pop/Phunk Pop of the modern radio soul. Meshing sounds of old school funk with today’s jam bands, and modern radio pop. A jambalaya of booty shaking music.
PW: Which bands and artists did you grow up listening to and how did they influence you? Have such influences changed over the years?
MF: Maxwell mentioned we grew up listening to a lot of RHCP and alternative rock like The Strokes and White Stripes, but also CD’s like this old Return to Forever. From there we broadened our scope deeper into funk and pop and progressive music. We always had an interest in things driving and noisy with their own sense of flair and showmanship.
BS: In my early years I grew up on classic rock influences from my parents/siblings such as Three Dog Night, The Beatles, Kansas, Led Zeppelin, etc. As I started to investigate music of my own I begin with a punk/pop punk phase - NOFX, Less Than Jake, Good Charlotte, MXPX, The Ramones- and slowly gravitated towards other rock artists such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Sabbath, Radiohead, The Eagles, The Who and Sublime. In high school, the influences pushed more towards the realm of indie rock - Sufjan Stevens, The Shins, Matt Pond PA, The Appleseed Cast, Citizen Cope, Death Cab For Cutie - and that’s what really opened the door to discovering new music and different styles for me such as jazz, soul, pop, funk, basically anything but country, ANYTHING BUT COUNTRY. Over the years, it eventually morphed into playing what is fun for me and providing an experience for people to have a good time, which is FUNK. Today my main influences look something like Lettuce, Snarky Puppy, The New Master Sounds, Johnny Showcase, The Greyboy Allstars, P Funk and Charles Bradley.
NL: I was raised on Pennsylvania and New Jersey radio in the 80s / 90s. I have appreciation for the pop universe, from Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellencamp, Jon Bon Jovi, Guns & Roses, Michael Jackson, to Hall & Oates, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, Sublime, Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl, Red Hot Chili Peppers, to Prince, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Queen, Mic Fleetwood, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, The White Stripes, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Meatloaf.
PW: When did you first realize you wanted to be part of the music industry? Was there an album you listened to or concert you attended that made you think 'yeah, I want to do that'?
MF: When I was 12 and saw the cute girls look at the guys with guitars differently. I was too weird for that to help me out, but the ambition stuck. I saw a Chili Peppers concert in 2003 and that was the day that really cemented it for me.
NL: One bad, long day in my teens, I was sitting on stage at a rehearsal and felt the solace of it. I realized I had spent more awake hours performing than doing anything else. The stage is home, warm and familiar. That's uncommon and I started to consider that as I journeyed on.
BS: It’s just something I gravitated to. I picked up my first bass when I was 12yrs old because I didn't want to be just another guitar player, sorry Max! My brother was already playing guitar and I wanted to be different. That’s something I feel like all musicians naturally seek - being different.
PW: Is there a band or artist out there you might say you're similar to or do you make a determined effort to be something completely fresh?
MF: While we draw a lot from established work I would say that we make a concentrated effort once we hit the stage to make you forget any other band exists. When I perform it helps me to imagine that I'm showing the crowd the first electric guitar they've ever seen.
NL: Of course we're disciples and descendants of various established artists but when we step on stage, we are The Devyl Nellys. We haven't created any new instruments, but we have invented plenty of new sounds with our gear, our pipes and our imaginations.
BS: The Devyls have always dabbled in multiple genres and I think we will continue to do so with the "groove pop" as an underlying foundation. And because of that, I think we can be related to multiple artists or none at all at the same time... if that makes sense?
PW: Tell me about your track "Rodeo Qween." Is there a story behind it?
NL: We're aiming to loosen people up and help them live a little. The muse of the story of a Rodeo Qween is a fun directive on how to do just that, loosen people up, help them live, not just be robots going thru the motions.
PW: How did it come about that you teamed up with KC & The Sunshine Band?
NL: It’s one of the perks of working at the fabulous Retrophonics Studios in Augustine Beach FL.
BS: Because Nelly is a boss and works our asses off to make the most of every opportunity that comes our way, basically.
PW: The track is taken from your new album Delicious Business. Without giving too much away, what can you tell me about it?
MF: It’s kind of an homage and an expansion. It feels like we've managed to combine some familiar ideas in a cool and fresh way.
PW: Do you have a favorite track on the collection and if so which is it and why?
MF: For me it'd have to be a song called “Funk Is Free”. It's a very joyous song and a guitar showcase to boot!
NL: “Bloody Merry” is a unique collection of attractive elements.
BS: I’ve been digging hard on “Baad Seed” lately. It’s one of the older of the bunch but it just has this raw element to it that gets you moving.
PW: How easy/hard do you find the song-writing process and who/what most inspires you?
MF: It can be very easy to stockpile ideas. Finding the ones that stick to you or stick out can be hard, but it's very rewarding especially with the right people in your corner. When I'm looking for inspiration musically I tend to look to the audacious people like Prince or Steve Vai and see where to go from that perspective. I'm also drawn to ideas that make me laugh or make me feel clever. Bonus points if you can get both going at once!
NL: As long as you are alive, a living, breathing and feeling person, you can write a song. If you are actually alive, you can write a song. When the feeling leaves, so tends the process, the life and any inspiration.
BS: It depends on the foundation of what started the writing process…and it’s different depending on who inspired the commencement of the song. There are difficult times and somewhat thoughtless times during the process. At the end of the day you have to main respectful to other people’s opinions and collaborate in a healthy way. Collaboration is the key to success in my mind. You need people. You need a family. This is part of the foundation that propels the process.
PW: Which song, in your opinion, is the greatest ever written and why?
MF: I keep a list of what I call "perfect songs" which are usually songs that are standout examples of craft and ability. Right now my favorite greatest song ever written would be “Seaside Rendezvous” by Queen. It's such a good tune to listen to because it has such elegantly entertaining and clever arrangements within such a tight running time.
PW: If you could play one venue anywhere in the world, which would it be and why?
MF: The Apollo. I hear it's a tough crowd.
BS: Red Rocks... it’s always been a dream. Beautiful environment and what appears to be an incredible stage.
NL: Anywhere we can get to with people, a warm sunset, cold beer and no technology for a few hours.
PW: If you could share a stage with five other bands or artists, who can be living or dead, who would they be and why?
MF: The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Queen, Prince and Stevie Wonder because who the hell wouldn't want to see that lineup?
BS: Snarky Puppy, Lettuce, Lotus, Phish and Snoop Dogg.
PW: What are your touring/performance plans for the rest of the year?
NL: The north east, mid-west, south and east coast... looping that three times, with festivals. In 2017, we’re doing a few national loops.
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and do you agree that it's necessary for bands and artists today? How has it helped you establish yourselves as a group?
BS: I think it’s one of the most important aspects of creating a career in any industry today. The common public is so attached to social media and any band would be ignorant to not fully immerse themselves. If you want to play music professionally and put food on the table for your family then it’s not just a band, it’s a business. Therefore you need to operate like a business.
PW: What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
BS: Grinding like a damn New Yorker.
NL: Hustling. We wrote a song about it!
PW: Finally then, what's your ultimate ambition as a group and what would you have to achieve in order for you to call it a day?
BS: Success…and some people’s level of success are different. We want to be able to live our lives comfortably and play music. It’s that simple. We want to push forward until it doesn't make sense to push anymore. That drive and mentality has taken us down a lot of roads but at the end of the day, we are getting more successful. One piece at a time. Our music is sounding better. We are opening doors that were slammed shut years ago. Now it’s just a matter of pushing through the doors that are still shut.