Sage Devault just celebrated his “golden birthday,” turning 23 on the April 23rd. It’s a milestone the electronic musician is using to proudly manifest a big year ahead, starting with the release of his new EP, JADE (out now).
But the four-song compilation is just one facet of the JADE movement Devault thrust on to us on Friday. Beyond the music, he worked with best friend and graphic designer Patrick Ryan to create a dark green and black backdrop for the project’s artwork, akin to an outdated computer's matrix. When the artwork was translated to his live performance in his hometown on EP release day, the result was "dark, intense" to make attendees feel like they were inside a haunting video game of his making.
I wanted it to be an experience, filling the grey area between audio and visual.
Knowing that Devault is barely legal to drink in the United States—and just signed with Geffen last year—one might wonder why he is so keen to move away from a sound that's quickly garnered hundreds of thousands of listens on streaming services. Well, a sort of fearlessness is the reason why he has been so successful thus far. After the Orange County, California native's brother got him turned on to a healthy diet of Depeche Mode, Joy Division and (later) New Order, Devault made the decision (following his first year of college) to make the same brand of music that moved him. “I just had this wave of inspiration where I saw a few documentaries and a few artists’ journeys and I was like, ‘I think I’m at a moment where I really need to apply myself,’” he recalls. “’I need to take a shot to tell my story.’” He took to Soundcloud to cultivate an organic buzz, and it wasn’t long before the world took notice.
His first big break came in 2016 when he produced what became the official remix to Rihanna’s “Sex With Me” and it skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard dance charts. “Things just started to really lift off from that, which activated me to push forward even more,” he says. “It was the first thing that really defined my sound a bit in the club sense.” Devault went on to craft remixes for acts like Lorde, Kehlani and Billie Ellish, taking his flair for self-taught musicology and applying it to existing pop vocals. “I don’t even use the original STEMS, I just use the acapella,” he explains of his atypical remixing process. “I love my own twist; it creates this cool clash. I treat it like it’s my record and I just got sent a great finished vocal from a great artist.”
There’s a vibrance to Devault’s sound that emits even from the darkest of basslines on JADE, perhaps hinting that the new dawn of electronic music is indirectly designed for him. “EDM is stuck on trends and gets oversaturated fairly quickly,” he says. “But there’s kind of this push coming, where there’s more of a raw sound, similar to early Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy. I think that’s what it’s coming back to and there’s an inner need within myself to be a part of that.”
Luckily, he has plenty of time and energy to keep the party going. “I feel super young in this industry and ideas are flowing almost every day. I’m in a good place,” he says. “As long as I push more of my genuine self, I can do more.”