Devours’ Homecoming Queen celebrates the softness of being human underneath an otherworldly exterior

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      Homecoming can mean a lot of things. For Jeff Cancade, the experimental artist behind the electro-pop act Devours, it quite literally meant moving back in with their parents and attending a 20 year high school reunion in their Nanaimo hometown. 

      Mixed emotions can accompany either events, let alone when it’s compounded with the onset of a pandemic, the subsequent slew of cancelled shows (including a coveted slot at South by Southwest), and increasing frustration with the music industry. Cancade had reached a point where it felt like maybe they’d gone as far as they could with Devours and were seriously considering ending the project.

      But music is something inherent for Cancade—something that they’ve been compelled to do since childhood. So they began writing: about time, life transitions, and reflecting on the past, present, and future. It culminated on Homecoming Queen, a sparkling new Devours album and the fourth chapter in the intergalactic journey of Cancade’s “gaylien” alter-ego.

      “My first three albums were kind of about the rise and fall of my youth ending, and this idea of me trying to make it as a musician,” Cancade tells the Straight, on Zoom from Vancouver. “And I think that this new album is just about what comes after that disappointment: ‘Okay, what do I do now?’”  

      Like everything Devours, the mythology behind the character—who has created a gay utopia called Planet Devours—reflects Cancade’s real life in certain ways. The last record, Escape from Planet Devours, dealt with hopeful youthful ambition versus brutal reality. Homecoming Queen takes it a step further, contemplating what it means to be an aging gay man in a city like Vancouver, where surviving as a musician—and an entirely DIY one, at that—feels impossible. Artistically, it sees Cancade continue to blaze forward through the innovative path they’ve carved out with Devours, ignoring industry noise to remain true to their singular artistic vision—even when it can be a scary thing to do as a musician and business person. 

      “I feel like I'm at a point where I can't really appeal to young person trends anymore—and I don't want to,” Cancade says, adding that, “I'm sure I'll sing a lot more about aging, because that's something that's on my mind, but also, I don't really know how to be a gay artist in a big city.” 

      “And I think that's what a lot of my music will probably be like, moving forward,” they continue. “Just trying to find my purpose and place, and feeling like I don't belong in my own community.”

      Photo courtesy of Jeff Cancade

      Cancade’s approach is refreshing. While in some ways, they feel more confident and self-assured than ever—“Especially since I was in denial about my sexuality for so many years, and it's been a real journey to just own who I am”—but the intention with Devours, since the beginning, was to keep it real. 

      “I wanted to make the project a little bit more vulnerable and be like, ‘You know what? That is me sometimes, but also I have a lot of insecurities,’” Cancade explains. ”And I'd like to think that people embrace the project because I'm willing to open up about body image in the gay world and masculinity and what that means, and narcissism and [the] aimlessness of not having a kid. I want to see the darker side of queer existence.” 

      It cuts through Homecoming Queen’s effervescent soundscape as Cancade sings lines like, “Despite all I have/I feel emptier now/I would give it all up/To go back/Back to the longing” on “37up (the Longing)”; and “I want so badly to look strong now/But I’m still that awkward teen in your thoughts/But when I came home/All the anger from my youth was gone” on the title track. 

      Cancade—a self-described pop culture kid who grew up on MuchMusic—is also playfully acerbic as they mix nostalgic references (“10 Things I Crave About You”) with political themes (“Jacuzzi My Stonewall”) on song titles and in lyrics—like on the latter track, especially, which comments both on gay culture and survivor’s guilt: “Corporate is the new punk/Let's have a rave at Shoppers Drug Mart after hours/It pays to be gay."

      But the pairing of more serious subject matter with what is Devours’ poppiest work to-date—a wistful and rhythmic cocktail of ‘90s dance beats, gothic melodies, and Janet Jackson-inspired snares—is no coincidence. 

      “It's kind of a funny thing,” Cancade says. “When I'm in a good headspace, I tend to write darker sounding stuff—I've always liked horror movies and dark themes. But when I'm genuinely going through a terrible time, then I try to write music that lifts me out of it. And when I made this album, I was going through the worst time in my life, for sure.” 

      It’s a contrast that reflects the heart of Homecoming Queen, and of Cancade’s work as Devours in general—a celebration of the very softness of being human, underneath an otherworldly exterior. 

      “I do feel like what I have to say is worth hearing,” they posit. 

      “Just being gay isn't as much of a political statement as it used to be, but it doesn't mean that our story ends here. There's so many more to tell about gay sex and adulthood and confusion and narcissism and hedonism and, like, the gay world's crazy,” Cancade laughs. “And I'm here to tell the story.” 

      Homecoming Queen is available now. Devours celebrates the album’s release at the Biltmore Cabaret on May 18. Tickets are available via AdmitOne.