Devo is an American rock group formed in Akron, Ohio, United States in 1972. The band split in 1991 and returned in 1996. The band currently consists of Gerald Casale (vocals, bass), Mark Mothersbaugh (vocals, synthesizer), Bob Mothersbaugh (guitar), Bob Casale (guitar, keyboards) and Josh Freese (drums). The band released their first album in 20 years, “Something for Everybody” on June 15, 2010.
Their style has been variously classified as punk, industrial and rock, but are most often considered to be the 70s/early 80s New Wave band that ushered in the synth pop of the 1980s, along with other acts such as Gary Numan and The B-52s.
Devo’s music and stage show mingle kitsch science fiction themes, deadpan surrealist humor, and mordantly satirical social commentary, often dealing with the concept of De-Evolution, in sometimes-discordant pop songs that often feature unusual synthetic instrumentation and time signatures.
The pivotal moment for the formation of Devo was the Kent State shootings of May 4 1970. Casale knew two of the murdered students, and even saw one student, Allison Krause, with exit wounds from the M1 Garand rifle. At this moment, Casale claims he changed the idea of Devolution into a serious concept.
The first form of Devo was the “Sextet Devo” which performed at the 1973 Kent State performing arts festival. It included Casale, Lewis and Mothersbaugh, as well as Gerald’s brother Bob Casale on guitar, and friends Rod Reisman and Fred Weber on drums and vocals, respectively. This performance was filmed and a part was included on the home video The Complete Truth About De-evolution. This lineup only performed once. Devo returned to perform in the Student Governance Center (featured prominently in the film) at the 1974 Creative Arts Festival with a line-up including the Casale brothers, Bob Lewis, Mark Mothersbaugh, and Jim Mothersbaugh on drums.
Devo later formed as a quartet focusing around Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale. They recruited Mark’s brothers Bob Mothersbaugh and Jim Mothersbaugh. Bob played electric guitar, and Jim provided percussion using a set of homemade electronic drums. This lineup of Devo lasted until 1976 when Jim left the band. The lineup was occasionally fluid, and Bob Lewis would sometimes play guitar during this period. In concert, Devo would often perform in the guise of theatrical characters, such as Booji Boy, and The Chinaman. Live concerts from this period were often confrontational, and would remain so until 1977. A recording of an early Devo performance from 1975 with the quartet lineup appears on DEVO Live: The Mongoloid Years, ending with the promoters unplugging Devo’s equipment.
Following Jim Motherbaugh’s departure, Bob Mothersbaugh found a new drummer in Alan Myers, who played a conventional, acoustic drum set with mechanical precision. Casale re-recruited his brother Bob Casale, and the popular line-up of Devo was formed. It would endure for nearly ten years.