Close this search box.

Devours: The Highbrow Behind the Eyebrows

Vancouver darkwave pop eccentric Jeff Cancade continues to evolve as the extravagant star at the core of their creations.

by Noémie Attia

Photos by Luke Beach Bown

For a decade now, Jeff Cancade has been making DIY, experimental, queer electronic music as Devours, imposing their unique style at a time when gender fluidity was not yet a common phrase. After the release of their fourth LP, Homecoming Queen, the Vancouver indie icon talks with RANGE about the constant reinvention of the self, their coming of age story, and the person behind the costume.

While on stage, Devours evokes out-of-this-world costumes and a dark, punk aesthetic while donning his signature exaggerated eyebrows. But today is a normal weekday for Cancade, who currently works as a freelance music editor. They have always had day jobs parallel to their musical project, although artistic expression remains part of their daily life. “I write a lot of my lyrics when I’m biking to the grocery store,” they say. “And if the lyrics are good enough, then I’ll remember them. And if they’re not that great then they’ll probably slip through my memory. That’s why it’s hard for me to not be a musician. I’m constantly coming up with stuff in my head.”

“That’s why it’s hard for me to not be a musician. I’m constantly coming up with stuff in my head.”

Devours is first and foremost a storytelling project. With their four albums, Cancade has been perfecting the art of recounting stories both whimsically real and poetically funny over an electronic backdrop. Escape From Planet Devours took the shape of a cosmic, action-filled musical, while Homecoming Queen is a full-on pop album. It came together as the musician moved back to their hometown of Nanaimo during the pandemic, a moment they describe as “having to press reset on your life.”

“I’ve noticed these trends in my life in writing,” they explain. “Where if I’m depressed then I need to write music that’s poppy to help get myself out of it. Whereas if I’m actually in a good headspace… then I tend to write dark, heavy material.” Embracing their ever-changing states of mind and incredible imagination, Cancade is always on the hunt for a new sound. “I’m starting to write demos for more material in the future” they say. “And they’re starting to sound a little bit crazier. And a little bit darker and heavier.” 

In their late thirties now, Cancade has a lot of experiences they desire to share. “A lot of my lyrics are about older experiences that I now have gained a bit of wisdom from,” they say. I ask them about their time in Montreal, which they reference in recent songs. Cancade lived in the city in their early twenties, and describes it as “a very humbling time in my life” working mediocre jobsthe only ones they could find as an anglophone in the predominantly french-speaking city.

All the same, Cancade’s time in Montreal also had some lasting positive effects. “It helped me come to terms with being gay,” they say. “That was a huge thing. I had spent so much of my youth repressing it and running away from who I was… Also Montreal is one of those cities where it’s like, the weirder you are, the cooler it is. I had never experienced something like that before.”

From Montreal, Cancade brought back a new acceptance for their queer and extravagant personality, one which they would later express as Devours in a mid-2010s Vancouver that was not yet fully ready for gender-queerness. “There was a lot of pressure in certain gay circles to seem really masculine,” they recall. “That was a huge moment for me when I put out my first album, leaving that community and dressing up with female identifying clothes… Because it was really scary, I considered it to be a punk statement of ‘This is actually who I am.’ It’s been really empowering to find my own path in Vancouver.”

Recently, however, Cancade has expressed disillusionment regarding the music industry. “It really focuses on young energy and young artists,” they say. “And I think that a lot of my music and my writing right now is about my own anxieties about aging and trying to figure out how to still be honest in my music—but also being able to connect with younger people.” To Cancade, this issue resonates most when it comes to their rapport with younger queer people. But now that multiple generations coexist, Devours’ goals of being an intergenerational communicator are more poignant than ever. “There isn’t a lot of understanding of how to be an aging gay man,” they say. “Due to a large number of the older generation succumbing to the AIDS epidemic, there are less older men to look up to in learning how to live a happy adult life.”

Devours is Cancade’s deepest form of expression, their way of navigating society, life, love, and gender. “I think that Devours, like the whole eyebrows and the colourful outfits and stuff, was me just trying to match the music,” they explain. “When I was in grade four I would be in plays, and I would be the girl wearing a dress and wearing a colorful outfit. So it traces back to who I was as a kid. That’s why the project, even though it feels fantastical, is actually authentically who I am. It’s not a character.” Devours is all eyebrows, dresses, and fantasy — and so is Cancade.