If your mission for the coming week involves combining pop culture zeitgeist with pretty power pop, send everyone you know the following text message: "I want 2 [see the] divorce [with] u." This might have spelled the end for Britney and FedEx, but this could also be the beginning of a musical love affair.
The most delightful thing about Seattle foursome the Divorce is their utter lack of gimmickry. "I'd say we're just a straight-ahead rock 'n' roll band," says lead singer Shane Berry, who chatted with me while pacing around a parking lot in Kansas City. "We all have a lot of influences, but in the end, we're pretty much a melody-based pop band. We've had people totally miss the mark about us in the past; a poster for a show we just did said we sound like Sonic Youth, which couldn't be further from the truth. I've also had people tell me I sing like Glenn Danzig -- which I can't see, but I guess is pretty cool."
The Divorce has slowly and steadily built up a fan base since the band got together in 2001. They've gained notoriety by touring and working on radio airplay; they refuse to play the blog-buzz and Myspace game. "There is definitely a weird 15-minutes-of-fame culture these days, and it makes me kind of uncomfortable," says Berry. "A band can become huge without ever having played a gig. You can just write some songs, produce them with Garage Band on your computer, post them online, and be massive in almost no time. It's become really hard to figure out who is good anymore."
Compared to most of the Internet babies, however, the Divorce is an elder statesman. The band released its first record, There Will Be Blood Tonight, in 2003 on a now-defunct offshoot of Tooth and Nail, and then followed up with 2005's The Gifted Program, on Made in Mexico Records. Their sound clearly matured between albums, mostly due to the addition of guitarist Garrett Lunceford. Berry says the band is almost finished with a new album. "I'm going to go in the studio and finish the vocals after the tour. The instrumentals are already recorded, so we should be pretty close to having the demos ready to go," he says.
When asked if the record is similar to The Gifted Program, Berry responds affirmatively: "If anything, I think it's a continuation of the last record. Our sound is pretty set now, and we feel really comfortable with what we're doing."
If Berry is accurate and the new record is indeed similar to their last record, the Divorce should be in pretty good shape when it comes to critics and fans. "The Gifted Program" was a sugar-sweet throwback to the days of AM radio pop and bands like Squeeze. Songs like "Doctors and Friends" are totally huge and wildly catchy, and their melodies manage to snake their way in to your skull and stay there for weeks. Elsewhere the record showcases Berry's radio-friendly voice, making songs like "Be Quiet" sound like the coolest Top 40 hit ever. The lyrics are usually funny and pretty damn literal; songs like "Cash Machine" and "Houses in Hurricanes," are about, well, getting cash out of an ATM and a house that is about to be blown off its foundation. The record drew comparisons to Archers of Loaf and Jets to Brazil, earned them praise in Spin, and made them instant fixtures on the Seattle scene.
"The music community in Seattle is pretty amazing," says Berry of his adopted hometown. "It is really supportive, and there are tons of other bands and venues that are willing to help you out. We don't have any one band that we play with all the time, and we get put on some pretty diverse bills, but overall it's a nice, small scene, and I'm so thankful for what we have." There's another side to that, though, he says. "It can be pretty provincial at times, and it's hard when bands that are huge in Seattle go and tour the rest of the country and realize that no one really knows them."
The Divorce are hoping to break that curse, although they admit it hasn't been easy. "This tour has been a pretty weird experience," says Berry. "We've played a lot of colleges and odd venues, and while it's been fun, touring so long after our last record came out hasn't been ideal." Still, he's hopeful that people will come out and give the hard-working band a chance to wow them. Berry is definitely the type of guy who is willing to pull out all the stops to get a crowd out. "Our bass player [Jimmy Curran] is from Spokane," he tells me at the end of our conversation. "Maybe that will get a few more people in the door."
The Divorce with Seaweed Jack and Crosstide at Mootsy's on Friday, Nov. 17, at 9 pm. Tickets: $5. Call 838-1570.