Needle in the Hay

by Cortney Harding & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & D & lt;/span & ivision Day's backstory is certainly different from the typical "four buddies from high school" narrative. The band was formed when lead singer Rohner Segnitz took a risk and moved a group of his friends from high school and college, none of whom had previously met, into a house in Santa Cruz, Calif., to record an EP. While that risk paid off pretty handsomely (the band members are still together and releasing new material four years later), some of their other gambles were markedly less successful. Take, for example, an ill-fated plan to play a show in Canada that wound up with them banned from entering the Great White North for a year.

"We booked a show in Vancouver and they told us to write a fake letter stating that we were playing a benefit," says guitarist Ryan Wilson. "We got pulled over and the first question they asked us was: How many people are in the van? I knew we were in trouble when our driver said 'Four, no, wait... five?'" Long story short, the band was detained at customs, their fake note was deemed to be, you know, fake, and they were banned from entering the country for a year. "We have a countdown on our Web site now that tracks how many days are left until we can go back," says Wilson, who also admits, "In retrospect, ... it wasn't the best plan."

Luckily for these musicians, the plans regarding their musical career have proved to be better laid. Division Day took its name from an Elliott Smith track, although the band's music has little in common with Smith's gentle folk sounds. "One thing Elliott was really good at was the art of the pop song," says Wilson. "Our lyrics are pretty heartfelt and intense. Our sound is a little harder to describe ... I'd say it's a collision between something caustic and something sweet." Then he laughs. "That's kind of vague, I know."

Division Day's official bio isn't much help either. It offers an absurd laundry list of acts ranging from Leonard Cohen to Fugazi to Wilco, and comes across as reminiscent of a WFMU radio parody where a nu-metal blowhard describes his Creed-like band as a cross between "Zeppelin, the Clash, and Nirvana." Luckily for Division Day, a spin of their latest record, Beartrap Island, proves that while they may not have risen to the level of the bands they name-drop, they are a solid and pleasant indie rock act. Songs like "Littleblood" are more upbeat and feature solid drums, while "Tap Tap, Click Click" is mellower and keyboard-driven. While Division Day is well-trained and quite good at what they do, the record makes it clear they haven't really developed much of an identity yet. When a track came up on my iPod, I assumed it was Death Cab for Cutie until I looked at the screen.

The members of Division Day are well versed in musical history and have audacity and ambition to spare. With some more work on developing their own unique sound, they might just hit it big. Once Division Day has become famous, hopefully the Mounties will be a little more forgiving.

& r & Division Day with Birdmonster, Seaweed Jack and Danny Webber at CenterStage on Thursday, Sept. 21, at 8 pm. Tickets: $5. Call 747-8243.