Division Day: The Indoor Fireworks Interview
Up until now, I can't really say that I've been privvy to witness the rise of an independent band as unique and amazing as Northern Caifornia's Division Day. From 2004's e.p. The Mean Way In to their recently released full length Beartrap Island, Division Day have cast a peculiar and enchanting spell over my stereo. Filling my house with an urgent, atmospheric, beat heavy sound, these four musicians have spent the last several years honing a sound that is equal parts Talking Heads/Brian Eno/The Church, yet still maintain their own brand of pop sensibilities. Make no mistake, the tracks on BI are eclectic and catchy as hell, characterized at times by dense harmonies and sultry simplicity all the while managing to stay within your subconcious long after the last strains of sound have left the room. I was fortunate enough to garner some quality time from guitarist Ryan Wilson, drummer Kevin Lenhart, and lead singer/keyboardist Rohner Segnitz while they were in the midst of preparing for a summer tour. For your reading and listening (dis)pleasure:
INDOOR FIREWORKS: You have a very specific sound/tone to your music--how much of that has to do with producer Scott Solter and recording at Tiny Telephone on all analog equipment?
ROHNER SEGNITZ: With this new record, of course, a whole lot of how it sounds has to do with Scott's expertise and sensibility as he was the guy that brought the sound from the air onto the tape. That being said, the process of arriving at the sonic palettes for each of the songs was pretty collaborative--I'd be behind the boards with Scott working to get a drum sound we liked, and Ryan would be fiddling with all sorts of weird gear to get guitar sounds that fit the mood. We all advised each other on different sounds, but what Scott did best was translate our abstract ideas into physical sounds, ie: "So, we want these drums to sound sort of like a Motown recording from the 60's, but with the roominess found on In Utero. And the guitar should sound like a dragon." Scott would help us bring a sound to life that actually approcahed our silly interior vision. He's awesome.
RYAN WILSON: Working entirely with analog equipment definetly created moments of "Wow, I actually have to DO this take," as opposed to fixing it later on during the over dubs. But I think that has a lot to do with how the recorded ended up sounding and feeling on the whole.
IF: How do you feel Division Day's sound translates from the studio to the stage?
KEVIN LENHART: I think our live show is much more raucous and unhinged than our recordings have turned out, which is not to say our albums are demure or reserved--I'm very happy with how Scott (Solter, producer) was able to help us bring the rock where it was needed. We like to play up the celebration vibe at shows-it's an occasion for joy and we try to make that happen for ourselves and the crowd. There's lots of clapping, tambourines being passed about, drinks getting tossed (generally on me), other people banging on my drums, screaming, dancing, all of it. The tour with Birdmonster sort of upped it all a notch after spending every show boogy-ing down onstage with each other. There is a certain boundary that can be broken when getting a crowd to participate, where the whole experience becomes much more personal for everyone involved and ups the awesomeness factor times a bazillion.
RS: I would say "well!" The shows are generally more frenetic than the studio recordings, because that's what playing for people brings out in us. We leave a fair amount of room in the arrangements for everyone to mess around. This helps keep things alive and moving, and surprising even to us.
IF: What can your fans expect from your shows this year?
RS: More of them! In drastically varied locales!
KL: We're getting a giant aquarium and water proof gear so we can do underwater shows!
RW: Backflips, sweat, trained monkeys, and probably some music.
IF: Rohner Segnitz has such a unique voice--has he always handled vocals for Division Day and how have you seen him mature over the years?
RW: About four years ago when I joined the band, Seb (Bailey, bassist) and Rohner were trading off, singing a couple of songs each. And before that even I think Seb was the singer, Rohner played drums, and Kevin played guitar. I am proud of Rohner-he has improved immensly over the last two years since we really started working on the band in earnest. I'm not saying he's bad or ever was to begin with, but it's one thing to sing in the studio and it's another to do it live in front of a crowd and be a "singer." That's a hard thing to do-I mean you look at people like Bowie and Mick Jagger who make it look so easy, but it's not. Rohner definetly brings it.
IF: I'm always very drawn to 80's influenced, atmpsheric music which makes up a large part of your sound and style. Who are your influences and how have they played a role in shaping Division Day's sound?
KL: We listen to a whole mess of different music. The 80's definetely had a big influence on the record, thanks in no small part to Scott's (Solter, producer) tutelage on Gary Neuman, Peter Gabriel, and David Sylvian among many, many others. Personally, I still listen to a lot of my favorite bands from the 90's like Polvo, Archers of Loaf, Drive Like Jehu, Unwound, and mainstream stuff like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Recently, I've been listening to a lot of older reggae and afro-beat music like Prince Far-I, African Head Charge--even old Lee "Scratch" Perry recordings of Bob Marley. I absolutely love the way those records sound.
RW: The Beatles made me fall in love with music but The Clash inspired me to pick up the guitar. Joe Strummer was a hero to a lot of people, myself included, just for the tenacity with which he approached life and the acts of making and playing great music. Over the last couple of years I've gotten into some of that 80's stuff you're talking about like O.M.D.'s Dazzle Ships, The Jesus and Mary Chain's Darklands and My Bloody Valentine.
IF: What is your earliest musical memory?
KL: Dancing with my Dad to Boz Scaggs records in my living room.
RS: Dancing to Born In The USA around the age of 4 with my Mom.
RW: Putting on Beach Boy concerts for my family.
IF: I know Rohner writes the majority of the lyrics--talk to me a little about how Division Day approach the rest of the songwriting process?
RW: Sometimes people will bring in bits and pieces of what they've been working on at home and we sort of pass it around and flesh it out. Sometimes things will happen...I'll be playing a riff on guitar and then we'll sort of (ack!) "jam it out" (:cringe:) until we've got a stew goin'!
IF: Finally, if you could put together your dream tour- who would Division Day play with?
RS: Talking Heads, Echo & The Bunnymen, Pink Floyd, Birdmonster, Xiu-Xiu, and The Primos.
KL: Kool Keith, Daft Punk, Lungfish, Beyonce, Deerhoof, Les Savvy Fav, Wu Tang, Radiohead, and Sabbath.
RW: I would ant to put together a travelling bio-dome with abig stage next to the beach. The Primos, Silverspun Pickups, Birdmonster, Sonic Youth, Black Dice, Doves, Deerhoof and Pavement and Jesus and mary Chain would be there. I think two of those bands would have to reform to be there, but I guess that's why it's a dream!
Check out tracks from Beartrap Island:
Division Day: Hurricane
Divison Day: Tap Tap, Click Click
Division Day: Colorguard
Division Day: Tigers
Check out tracks from 2004's The Mean Way In:
Division Day: Bad Black Moon
Division Day: There Is No Telling