One of the joys of seeking out new music is the sheer variety of ways it can manifest, some bands arrive raw and unpolished, sparkling gems on their way to something special, and then sometimes, like Nottingham’s Divorce, they seem to appear fully formed, a butterfly emerging from a caterpillar you never even knew existed.
Back in February, the band shared their debut single Services, a compelling blend of alt-country’s shimmer and grunge’s raw intensity, it was at once playful and intense, a reflection of fizzing teenage unease playing out in the mundane setting of a motorway service station. It was a song about coming of age, the excess of youthful exploration and the weight of pressure that comes with early adulthood in an increasingly uncertain world. It was also a damn good song, the fuzzy prominence of the bass, cut through by the searing electric guitar line which St Vincent would be proud of and Tiger Cohen-Towell’s lead vocal which seem to go from airy indifference to seething exasperation at the drop of a hat.
Services was recently followed up by the equally compelling Pretty, which finds Felix Mackenzie-Barrow taking the lead vocal on a track that goes from an Arab Strap-like talk intro to a soaring clatter of a chorus, which walks the unusual middle-ground of The Wave Pictures and Blondie. Lyrically, it’s a delicious mess, as Felix explains, “it’s a portrait of two tortured people set inside a makeshift ballad about preserving one pure thing in an insane world”. The song hangs onto devotion against all sense, two people desperately hanging onto something they’re not even that keen on in the first place, “I met the love of my life, he ain’t pretty but he’s fine, I met the love of my life, he ain’t pretty but he’s alright”.
With exciting plans and big ambitions, Divorce feel like a band ready for whatever acclaim comes their way, this week I spoke to the band about live plans, shared influences and why their debut album, “will grow itself”.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are Divorce?
We’re a 4-piece alt-country/grunge(ish) band from Nottingham, UK and none of us have ever been divorced.
FTR: You recently released your new single Pretty, what can you tell me about recording the track?
We recorded it in Nottingham at our old rehearsal space, which is also a studio run by Gavin Poole (who also engineered and co-produced the track). We just spent a couple of days being studio goblins and living off of meal deals with Gav in that basement, and we worked our way through the track bit by bit. We already felt it was one of the more solid numbers in a live context, but over those two days we really had the chance to experiment and grit the track up into what you hear today.
FTR: Have you already started thinking about your debut album?
Definitely! Because Felix and I (Tiger) both write separately and together, we’ve managed to create a fairly prolific body of work and we’ve been trying to make sense of an album from the 30-odd songs we have ready. It’s always been important to us all though that we continue to write and develop, because although we have a lot of material to play with, the next thing you write could be the best song you’ve got. I honestly think if we just stick to that ethos the album will grow itself. Recording it is gonna be the challenge!
FTR: The single came out on Hand In Hive, how did that come about? Do you think record labels are still important?
So at the end of last summer when we were a newborn band, we decided that the best thing we could do to make connections within the industry was by emailing as many people as we could. Hand in Hive are a label that had a roster we’d admired for a while, we pitched our single to them and kind of didn’t expect to hear anything back. But they liked it and here we are on single two with them as our label! Worked out pretty well for us. I actually do value labels a lot, having a supportive team behind us championing our music has made all the difference to our reach as a band, and along with our lovely manager Ryan, Hand in Hive have given us a platform to present ourselves authentically, they trust our abilities as artists and give us the space to focus on delivering our hot wet beats.
FTR: You’re going to be heading out on the road this October, what can people expect from the Divorce live show?
It’s funny actually, I think we had a very vague idea of what vibe our live shows give off, and some things people have said totally juxtapose each other. One of our favourite interpretations was that Felix and I looked like we were playing dress-up in our mum and dad’s clothes and that we were the children of a couple divorcing, which sounds so tragic. I guess everything was a bit ill-fitting that day and luckily it was taken as intentional! I enjoy looking a bit cheap on stage, and I know Felix is the same, we both have an acting background so our outfits and physical performances tend to be subtly theatre; the drama lends itself well to our more dramatic lyrics. We do have a murder ballad in our set!
FTR: How’s the music scene in Nottingham at the minute? Are there any other bands people should be listening out for?
The Nottingham scene is pretty teeny, everyone knows everyone and The Bodega is the coronary centre of it. A band called Champyun Clouds supported us at our headline show, they’re awesome, also Victory Lap are ones to look out for. No music out yet but it’s over for all of us when they drop something, I’m sure.
FTR: Who are your influences as a band?
We all love Wilco, The Felice Brothers, Mitski, Tom Waits, the song Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus, Chocomels, our family dynamics, Eastenders, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, The Beatles, the smell of freshly baked bread, the Lidl middle aisle, buying a ginger shot from a service station on tour in a desperate attempt to not die of malnourishment, Blackpool Leisure Beach, and more.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
From a lyrical standpoint, song-writing really feels like it has the least fixed set of rules. You can air your darkest secrets, or you can talk about what you had for lunch. Either song could be a banger. The vulnerability of it drives people to all write about the same things, which I actually love and proves that even in the highest art-forms accessibility is everything, even when your subject matter is convoluted and personal. We are all obsessed with other people and relationships and they drive us to create such beautiful things, and it’s such strong human instinct to convey that massive emotional weight through song. If that’s too corny, none of us were cool enough to do visuals.
FTR: What are your aspirations as a band? Do you see music as a viable career?
We want to hopefully piss as few people off as possible with our silly name, play loads of shows, put out loads of records and hopefully not bankrupt ourselves in the process? When they say Divorce is expensive, boy we know it! We definitely see music as a viable career, although nothing about the industry offers financially stability immediately (we all have other jobs and so do most musicians) we know of those who are making it work. The response to us so far has been so heartening, we know we’re only at the very beginning of our journey as a band
FTR: What’s next for Divorce?
Keep a keen eye on our socials if you want to know about releases, but you won’t be waiting too long for more music. We have a tour booked in Autumn, mostly UK but a couple of Netherlands dates at Left of The Dial festival in Rotterdam, we’re so stoked for that. Hopefully a massive financial scandal at some point soon, we’ve always wanted to be white-collar criminals, but I think you have to have money before you can be that? Fingers crossed anyway!