The approach naturally forced Warner to adjust its mind frame regarding the practical elements of an album release. According to Warner Bros. senior VP of new media Jeremy Welt, early conversations were less about an album and more "about Devo and what they believed in, how they wanted to make a statement and come back." Such questions as when the first song would come out were unanswerable, because "the focus group wasn't done yet," Welt says. "Fresh" became the de facto first single after Devo played it at the Vancouver Olympics in February, but could only be confirmed for release after the Song Study wrapped last month. "Other partners would say, 'Movie companies need the CD six months in advance,' and we're like, 'We don't know what's on it yet!' " Welt says. "We don't even know what color Devo's going to use for their hats."
What ultimately eased Warner's mind were the results. Welt says the first survey, the Color Study, attracted 100,000 votes, spreading online because respondents could share their results on Facebook and Twitter. "It worked on two levels," Welt says. "One, we were actually getting all this real information about what people wanted. Two, it sent a signal like, 'Whoa, Devo wants everyone's opinion about everything!' It started to create a buzz that we could see on blogs and in the site stats."
Welt says that Devo's tour last year also helped, since it proved that "these guys could still play. It sounded as fresh and energetic as ever. It sounded contemporary again."
All the tracks on "Something for Everybody" were written within the past two years, and they carry Devo's unmistakable hybrid of synth-and-guitar jolts, hyper-catchy riffs and winking commentary. The major updates are in the production, which, fitting the theme, Casale and Mothersbaugh opened up to real collaboration for the first time.
"When we used to do records all those years ago, we were very protective and always fearing nobody understood what we were trying to do," Mothersbaugh says. "Now we realize, people do have a better idea of what we were talking about-they have references now. And there's a lot Devo stands to benefit from the added brainpower of people who are better sound mixers than us." Primarily produced by Greg Kurstin (the Bird & the Bee), the album also includes contributions from John Hill and Santi "Santigold" White, John King of the Dust Brothers and the Teddybears. The band still includes Casale and Mothersbaugh's brothers, both named Bob, and has added drummer Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails, Weezer).
Casale says that the Song Study results and the band's preferences among the 16 candidate songs overlapped "about 88%." The biggest disappointment, he says, is that the one ballad, "No Place Like Home," didn't make the cut. "It was kind of sad," he says. "I thought if anything, Devo, being 'mature' now, would be allowed to take off the tongue-in-cheek pose and do a really sad power ballad."
Despite the grass-roots success of the Internet campaign, Devo, as a fringe band with a long commercial absence, faces long odds in turning curiosity into sales. It will still employ such old-school promotion as a summer tour that includes a stop at Lollapalooza in August, and as pre-MTV pioneers of music video, is working on clips for "Fresh" and "What We Do." "Fresh" has also been added to alternative radio, including KROQ Los Angeles, KVGS Las Vegas and WWCD Columbus, Ohio.