The Divorce w/Danko Jones, Tourist, DJ Curtis Fri Sept 9, Crocodile, 9 pm, $8, 21+.
Also w/ Mon Frere, DJ Curtis Sat Sept 10, Seattle Laser Dome, doors at 7:30pm, $10, all ages.
Whether you're a journalist, a radio DJ, a record-store employee, or simply a music fan, it's natural to have a handful of bands that you believe deserve mainstream success. But there's a distinct difference between the local bands people champion out of sheer admiration for their work and the ones truly about to blow up.
Most young rock bands have a friendly, playful banter, which the Divorce exhibit as they tease each other throughout practice on a recent Sunday evening. However, it's hardly all fun and games: They have an extremely diligent approach to their craft. Practice sessions can clock in at five hours, and their collective perfectionist tendencies mean that The Gifted Program (Made in Mexico) has been a very long time in the making. "We had most of the songs written in May of 2004," explains guitarist Shane Berry (also the band's vocalist, keyboardist, and de facto frontman), sounding somewhat incredulous about the time frame himself. After a few trial runs with other local producers, the band hooked up with Martin Feveyear, a choice that proved to be an ideal match.
"We went in there thinking we were going to just kick it out really fast," says Berry. "But Martin really wanted to take more time with it, which turned out to be really great."
Indeed, Feveyear has nothing but praise for the band's talents and work ethic. "I saw them live and I was just blown away," recalls Feveyear. "I love the way Shane writes something simple, makes it just a little acerbic and cocky, yet retains this great sense of humility. He sort of reminds me of [Pulp's] Jarvis Cocker in that way. They're not fussy and they're very open to new ideas, but they have strong ideas of their own, which made them a dream to work with."
Compatible working styles aside, Feveyear's audio aesthetic is particularly well-suited to the Divorce's sound. He has a tendency to focus on deeply outlining a band's dynamics and thoughtfully separating each instrument with a great deal of precision and clarity. With that as a base, the end result is a big, bright-toned sound that also retains noticeable texture and nuance—a technique that works particularly well for power-pop and hard-rock bands (such as Sunny Day Real Estate and the Ruby Doe, two recent clients). Since the Divorce's brand of melodic, angular rock with pop flourishes requires a delicate balance of swagger and restraint, the Feveyear-produced outcome is a document of a band firing on every cylinder. From the instant engagement of Berry's fluttery synth intro on opening track "Yes!," to Garrett Lunceford's antagonist, angular guitar work on "Fishing with the Party Sharks," the sarcastic, social-climber anthem that closes The Gifted Program is very much "all killer, no filler."
And then there's the undeniably dazzling appeal of "Birds = Magic," an infectious single anchored by Berry's heartbreaking melody (composed in its entirety while waiting for a friend in a bar), rocket-launched with Lunceford's authoritative opening riff, and driven heavenward by Kyle Risan's U2-like drumming. It floors listeners out of the gate and has all the hallmarks of a single that could propel them into the same place Modest Mouse found themselves this year.
God willing, power-pop rock fans will soon scratch past the candy-coated surface of bands the Killers or the Bravery and reach for the analogous, but ultimately more original and well-developed sounds the Divorce are offering. That said, Berry should brace himself for comparisons to Killers' frontman Brandon Flowers, as there are plenty of similarities between their impassioned, goth-tinged vocal deliveries (Berry's saving grace is his sense of humor and willingness to get sweaty and fall down, traits it's impossible to imagine Flowers possessing).
Pivotal local tastemaker and KEXP DJ John Richards, a longtime supporter of the band, also sees their untapped potential. "I think that ["Birds = Magic"] song, a few other new songs, and the entire last record from the Divorce show why they will be successful," he enthuses. "It's obvious to any music fan that the combo of all four of them is totally impressive, entertaining, charming, and better than a lot of music out there."firstname.lastname@example.org