In the heart of a dimly lit pub in north London, Nottingham's alt-country newcomers, Divorce, are immersed in the warmth of creative camaraderie. Lead guitarist, Adam Peter-Smith, likens their music to the exhilaration of dressing up in opulence, only to roll down a sprawling grassy hill—a sentiment that resonates with the band's eccentric charm.
As autumn sunlight filters through the pub's windows, the trio of co-vocalists, Felix Mackenzie-Barrow, Tiger Cohen-Towell, and the spirited Smith, share a sticky table. Their banter reflects the unique chemistry that fuels their sound. Barrow chuckles, affirming Smith's analogy, "There's something very wonky about it."
The quartet, rounded out by the rhythmic prowess of Kasper Sandstrom on drums, is gearing up for a headline tour across the UK, followed by a coveted support slot for The Vaccines in February. Towell muses on the shift from relentless slog to tangible success, "We're used to slogging, and it's quite nice that it's actually doing something now."
Their latest single, "Scratch Your Metal," has catapulted them onto the BBC 6 Music A-list, surprising even seasoned listeners like Ezra Furman, who admitted, "I really thought the band was from America." Towell recalls the moment with amusement, "Oh God, are we cosplaying being American?" Smith interjects with a proud regional assertion, "But we're from the Midlands, duck!"
The band's vocal tapestry weaves nostalgic Americana-folk with bluesy riffs and sardonic British wit. The result is a rich tapestry of country-chamber-pop, adorned with satisfying harmonies reminiscent of The Magic Numbers. Drawing inspiration from an eclectic palette that includes The Carpenters, The Beatles, Fiona Apple, and Tom Waits, Divorce defies easy classification. Their music is a captivating patchwork of genres, mirroring the diverse tastes that fuel their collective creativity.
Divorce, the Nottingham-based musical alchemists, have always embraced the art of being a little left of center. In 2021, when they burst onto the scene, Tiger Cohen-Towell was a conspicuous figure, often adorned in a blonde wig that became an unwitting enigma for fans. The mystery of the wig's fate prompts laughter among the band members, with Towell playfully stating, "I’m here to say this on record: I didn’t mean for the wig to become an independent member of the band! We can only talk to the wig through a lawyer now," quips Barrow. Joking aside, Towell, who identifies as non-binary, reflects on the evolution of their personal expression, stating, “I think when we started this band, I was presenting very differently... I felt I couldn’t change because of the life I had at that time.” However, as the band matured both publicly and personally, the wig became increasingly irrelevant. Towell expresses a newfound sense of freedom, saying, “I wanted to be a bit more free than that... The more non-binary I’ve become, the more I feel like I can do all of those things without wearing a wig.”
The genesis of Divorce traces back to their serendipitous meeting at the age of 16 within Nottingham's close-knit music scene. The lineup, however, was a puzzle that took time to piece together. Adam Peter-Smith, once a solo artist, joined forces with Towell and Barrow, who were a duo, while Kasper Sandstrom remained an integral part of another Notts DIY band, Do Nothing. Their mutual admiration for each other's talents is palpable, especially in Sandstorm's absence, which becomes an opportunity for unabashed praise. “His musicality knows no bounds,” Towell exclaims as a Bob Dylan track provides a melodic backdrop.
In 2021, atop a hill in Nottingham, Divorce was born. The circumstances, according to Smith, sparked a unique and almost electric synergy. “I thought that they’d brought me up there to give me some sort of roasting or intervention,” he recalls with laughter. Describing the experience, Smith invokes an intriguing metaphor, "It was like creative sexual tension... It felt like we were kids again," a sentiment echoed by Barrow. Their collaborative spirit prompted a musical metamorphosis, challenging each member to master an instrument beyond their usual repertoire. Barrow reflects on the transformative period, stating, “We were all feeling like we were s***. We were right on the edge of what we could feasibly do.” Divorce, it seems, thrives on pushing boundaries, both musically and personally, creating a sound that is as eclectic and boundary-defying as the journey that brought them together.
Divorce's artistic prowess unfolds in their upcoming EP, "Heady Metal," a thematic exploration that delves into the complexities of identity and the inherent uncertainties that accompany it, according to Tiger Cohen-Towell. "It’s about life happening quicker than you can keep up," Towell reflects. The tracks, while relatable, exude a theatrical quality and abound with vivid imagery. The exact meanings are intentionally nebulous, leaving ample room for personal interpretation, yet the specificity of certain moments is illuminated, delivering a poignant impact.
Felix Mackenzie-Barrow's commitment to lyrical excellence sets a high standard, as noted by Towell, who describes the influence as both vigilant and self-critically brutal. Barrow, in turn, invokes Tom Waits, quoting, "‘A good song is like a Swiss army knife’ – I think that always stuck with me." Divorce's UK headline tour, which saw multiple sold-out nights, is a testament to the anticipation surrounding their EP.
For Barrow, "Heady Metal" confronts self-scrutiny head-on, as evidenced by the introspective lyrics in the bluesy and poignant track "Eat My Words." The song encapsulates moments of self-analysis within various situations, creating opportunities for questioning one's responses to life's challenges. Barrow explains, “It comes from frustrations about things that go unsaid; injustice or imbalances you feel – and not being able to address them in constructive ways.”
The group's creative process operates on instinct, allowing the subconscious to roam freely. Barrow reveals, “I’ll write a line because it feels right in my mouth, and then I’ll look back later and be like... holy s***, I was saying so many things I hadn’t even worked out.” Smith adds, “It’s like a letter to your future self.” While Towell and Barrow often write independently, their synergy is intuitive. Barrow notes, “When you’ve spent that long together, I think there are parts of your subconscious that are very closely linked; there’s a shorthand there.” Smith, with a smile, concurs, “I find it very easy to get on the Divorce train.”
"Heady Metal," released through Gravity/EMI, stands as a testament to Divorce's musical evolution, and tickets for their headline tour are in high demand, showcasing the undeniable allure of their distinctive sound.
In conclusion, Divorce's journey through the intricacies of "Heady Metal" is a testament to their musical and lyrical finesse. The EP, a nuanced exploration of identity and the rapid pace of life, showcases the band's ability to blend relatability with theatricality, leaving room for interpretation while delivering poignant moments of clarity. Felix Mackenzie-Barrow's commitment to lyrical excellence, coupled with the band's intuitive creative process, results in a collection of tracks that invite self-scrutiny and resonate with universal frustrations.
The success of their UK headline tour, marked by sold-out nights, affirms the anticipation surrounding Divorce's artistic endeavors. As they gear up to support The Vaccines on tour in February, the band's ability to navigate the complexities of their sound and themes stands out. "Heady Metal," released through Gravity/EMI, not only marks a significant chapter in Divorce's musical evolution but also underscores their distinctive approach to storytelling. With each lyric and melody, the band invites listeners to embark on a reflective journey, making it clear that Divorce is a musical force that continues to captivate and evolve.