"I am not comfortable being the person that the attention is focused on in regards to the music," says Dev Hynes. "I've always been interested in how artists like Basement Jaxx, Gorillaz, Massive Attack and the Chemical Brothers operate."
Known as a chameleon for his ability to transform from a post-punk/hardcore brat in Test Icicles to a whimsical folkie as Lightspeed Champion to his current identity, as R&B crooner/producer Blood Orange, Dev Hynes is still reticent when it comes to his profession.
"On this record, there are a lot of songs where I'm really singing, and I'm aware that vocals are associated with being the face or being in charge of the music," he says. "I wanted to find a happy medium where I'm the lead but not necessarily the lead singer."
The new Blood Orange album won't help this setback. His follow-up to 2011's more skeletal debut Coastal Groove, which deserves more credit for kick-starting indie rock's new obsession with R&B, Cupid Deluxe is a maximalist effort. Inviting a number of collaborators — Caroline Polachek (Chairlift), Dave Longstreth (Dirty Projectors), Clams Casino, Adam Bainbridge (Kindness) and Samantha Urbani (Friends) — Hynes has created his generation's equivalent to Quincy Jones' Grammy-winning Back On the Block.
"[My music has] definitely expanded," he says. "It's a similar world, but it's a bit more open. If Coastal Grooves was some weird kid in school, then Cupid Deluxe is like he finally joins the chess team. And yeah, I actually was on the chess team."
Whether he likes it or not, Cupid Deluxe is Hynes' coming out party. After producing sublime hits for Solange, Sky Ferreira and MKS, more people knew his sound more than his name or face. However, Cupid Deluxe is arguably Hynes' crowning achievement, as a producer, songwriter and artist. Even when you tell him that, regardless of his appreciation, Hynes still isn't committed to a future as Blood Orange.
"I don't know if there is a next album," he admits. "I mean, there likely is, but just the way my brain works, it's kind of an accident that the album ends up forming. I just write and write, and then eventually the songs become a playlist, and then I fine-tune the playlist. Then it's an album. It is what it is. I don't really know what is going to happen next. It could sound the same or it could sound like Test Icicles or Zomby. I don't know."