INTERVIEW

“Some metal bands like Mastadon, so they sound like Mastadon, but being a copycat is pointless. We just wanted to make a noise.”

…and we thought metal belonged in biker bars and Camden chambers

“Some metal bands like Mastadon, so they sound like Mastadon,” says Andy, explaining how Divorce formed without any one style of music in mind “but being a copycat is pointless. We just wanted to make a noise.” The Glasgow five-piece – Andy (Browntown) [drums] is joined by Sinead Youth [vocals], Hillary Van Scoy [guitar and vocals], VSO [bass] and Vickie MacDonald [guitar] – have been doing things their own way since 2008. They mix ferocious vocals discovered by accident on their sixth practice, with the scathing sound of Jesus Lizard, Shellac or Drive Like Jehu. “Yeah, we all bring our own tastes to the group,” adds bassist VSO. “Man, I just wanted to be Fleetwood Mac.”

Fast forward a couple of hours and they’re being just that, slamming their way through a high energy, suped-up version of ‘The Chain’. The London crowd – arguably the band’s home away from home – go crazy. There’s a dedicated circle pit getting sweaty and pogoing while a few onlookers dance on chairs. Stuffed onto the venue’s box-like stage (we’re at The Stag’s Head, Dalston… again!), Divorce don’t care that the lights have broken, half the sound has cut and somebody has started waving candles. After all, they’ve seen it all before, especially since starting 2010 with a sold out show at their home city’s famous Optimo club night.

“Argh, that Optimo show was weird,” laughs Sinead. “We were surrounded by loads of crazy electronic and bass shit and there were loads of people just off their face on pills, walking by and going, ‘what the fuck is this?’.” Just hearing them speak – they cut each other off, jump on the end of sentences, dissolve into laughter as they recall weirder and weirder moments – makes it easy to imagine. “They were asking us questions while we were playing!” Sinead continues. “And there were these bemused and eckied punters everywhere. The security guards lined up along the front because folk were losing their shit. Then a bit of the roof fell in and there was a total moshpit.”

It turns out even the DJ’s aren’t safe when Divorce decide to let loose. “Ha Ha, yeah, a couple of people got given time-outs and they had to go and stand in the corner because it’s a council run building and all ‘Health and Safety’. One guy, Johnny Wilkes, got thrown out of his own night for moshing too hard.”

The show was played alongside dance-dub producer Hudson Mohawke, dancefloor creep The Niallist and one-man freak band Drums of Death, known to his friends as Colin. “He played just before us,” they explain “so there was this guy wearing skull make-up just jumping around in the crowd. From my vantage point it was freaking me out,” remembers Sinead. “It was really scary.” They were scared? Divorce, for all their sweetness in person, get vicious on stage. “Well, we were kind of expecting it to fall on deaf ears,” reasons Andy.

They’re more likely to be the ones doing the deafening. The band are a core part of the country’s increasingly diverse and very noisy music community, having released tracks with warehouse-based tape label Club Milk and Scotland’s independent Optimo Records earlier this year. But the latter label has announced they’ll be stopping operation this summer, marking the end of an era in Glaswegian DIY. The band, who say that all change is positive, see it as the next logical step. “For ages in Glasgow it was a little bit shit and everyone was being boring at gigs,” explains VSO “but in the last four years or so there have been new DIY promoters, kids putting on parties, cool collectives and other stuff like that. You’ll see folk that turn up to most gigs. We’ve got a really good support network.”

And like that Optimo Hogmany, Divorce pride themselves on playing shows with bands of any genre. The “kids putting on parties” aren’t just hammering guitars – Ultimate Thrush’s calculated hardcore, Kode9’s dark dub and Mohawke’s glittering production slot in alongside Chemikal Underground, Rock Action and, of course, the city’s two indie pop giants. “The biggest bands in Glasgow are still Belle and Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand,” says Andy “so there were a lot of bands trying to follow their lead. But that died a death after a while and now there are a lot of people doing what they want. It’s refreshing…”

Sinead interrupts. “You’ll play with your friends’ bands but you’ll sound different and nobody will care as long as you’re good,” she says.

“As long as you’re not a fanny!” concludes Andy.

Perhaps geographical location isn’t important to Divorce anyway. They’ve found kindred spirits in LA zoot-horn enthusiasts HEALTH and London’s Comanechi, with whom they’ll soon release a split record with via Merok. They jokingly created their own genre, ‘Nae Wave’, to escape any strict labelling, even if the near all-female line up has them thrown in with the riot grrls and their punk rock ethos has had them lazily labelled as just that.

“It’s nice to get out of that thing where there is a bill of four bands sounding exactly the same. I like to go to a show and hear something I didn’t expect to,” says Sinead, explaining why she thinks the shift towards more liberal booking policies at venues is helping a band like Divorce find an audience. “But there is definitely a common thread,” adds Andy. “Artistically they’re all really independently minded and stick to their guns. We might not sound like these people musically but definitely ethically, you know…”

But why do they think that is? If their lineage isn’t geographic, and isn’t stylistic, what is it? Are they really about just breaking stuff?

“No!” says Andy. “When I start talking to my sisters about what I’m doing or why we’re doing it, I feel like I have to do back-story and back-story and back-story, and it almost gets to the point where you have to start at the start of music itself to try and explain to get to the point that we’re making. You can see their eyes glazing over and a faint smile of disinterest…”

Guitarist Hillary has an idea. “We’re from a lineage of…bands who try to please themselves,” she says “who don’t want to make ‘accepted’ things. And I think it’s good that we’re not setting down any kind of stones in history. It’s just up for grabs whatever happens.”

What’s happening sounds pretty exciting. They’ve been making friends and winning fans quickly, evident in the number of shows they get asked to play. Next month they’ll visit Belgium to play a festival curated by San Francisco-born Deerhoof who fell in love with their music after playing with them in Edinburgh last December. Nathan Howdeshell, of The Gossip wanders over to berate them (“He’s got the Heroin!” they say “Put that in!”), a friend since meeting when his band were in London. After the tour they’ll record a full length record at a friends analogue studio, The Green Door. It’s Do it Yourself music on a grander scale than just posting zines and tapes. “Aye, everyone has a friend who can sort stuff out for them now,” says VSO.

“I guess it’s because everybody is hooking up a bit more because of ‘social networking’,” adds Sinead.

So they’re iAlbini?  Fleetwood Mac 2.0? “Or, we’re just noisy dorks,” says Andy. “But it’s cool to be a music dork…. isn’t it? Or are we completely unacceptable?”

By Sian Rowe

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Originally published in issue 16 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. April 2010

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