Direct Divide the Act that Fuses the Elements of Music

Written by on May 22, 2014 in Gigs / Tours / Events, Interviews, May 22, 2014 - Comments Off on Direct Divide the Act that Fuses the Elements of Music

Direct DivideDirect Divide writes music that makes you feel. The band incorporates rock, progressive, and alternative elements from bands like Muse, Florence and the Machine, A Perfect Circle, Silversun Pickups, and 30 Seconds to Mars. Their lineup of guitar, electric violin, keyboards, bass and drums alongside front person female vocals produces cinematic and moving songs with an alternative rock edge. Thus they give you music that really means something and so much more it’s hard to resist. They discuss their latest album “Bridges” with all the juicy details embedded within.

All Access Magazine (AAM) What type of band are you?

We are an alternative rock band with cinematic influences. We focus on writing songs with emotionally driven lyrical and musical content. The band consists of instruments commonly seen in classical music, but mixed into a standard rock drums-bass-guitar band. Razz, the singer/violinist, has a foundation in singing opera and plays a 6 string electric violin called a Viper capable of playing 4 octaves of strings on one instrument. Kevin, Valdemar, and Gabe bring their experience of playing in alternative and heavy rock bands to create the power and space of the songs. Every member of the band embraces taking turns in the spotlight to make sure the lyrical message and emotion of the songs are at the forefront. We believe music is a gift and we are happy to maybe make a difference in someone’s day.

AAM Please tell us about the history of your band and its members.

Direct Divide started with Razz and Kevin, who had previously written and played together in San Francisco while Kevin was finishing his sound arts degree at Expression College. In June of 2012, Kevin and Razz moved to Seattle for Razz to attend graduate school and Kevin to pursue freelance audio engineering. Razz met Gabe, who had moved to Seattle from Brazil, in graduate school and knew he had played bass in rock bands before. Through playing with a Seattle singer/songwriter Jeff Ferrell, Razz met Valdemar. Three days before a big show at the now-closed Seattle staple the Comet, our former drummer was MIA so Razz and Kevin asked Valdemar and Gabe to learn an entire set in 3 days. The show went off smashingly and we decided to continue writing and performing together. As Razz and Gabe finished their degree we decided that LA had a lot more opportunities for the kinds of music and careers we wanted, so we made a group decision to head south.

AAM What makes you guys Direct Divide?

We promote non-traditional modern rock/pop instruments like cello, violin, and piano with a backdrop of traditional rock drums, bass, and guitars. We feel this gives the songs dimension. The in-your-face element of the band is the instrumentation and melody that supplement the message and emotion of the song. With a band with more mid-frequency melodic instruments (female vocals, piano, violin, guitar, organ/lap steel) than most, it is very important to carve out space for the vocals, which are always the most important element of the song. We definitely don’t forget to rock out though, and our energy on stage is just as important to us as how heavy and rocking a recording sounds.

AAM Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

Gabe (bassist)Musical: Dave Grohl Non musical: Micheal Jordan, Muhammed AliKevin (guitarist/keyboardist) Musical: Sweaty Ted Nugent and Alex Lifeson (Rush( as guitar idols, Rob Thomas/Matchbox 20, Adam Duritz/Counting Crows, Claudio Sanchez/Coheed and Cambria as professional performers and songwriting influences. Non Musical: Other engineers I’ve worked with and my parents Valdemar (drummer) Musical: Jimmy Chamberlain (Smashing Pumpkins), Chris Adler (Lamb of God), Thomas Emil Jacobsen (Animal Alpha), Non musical: Alexander Calder (artist), Razz (violinist/vocalist)Musical: Pointer Sisters, Aretha Franklin, Vivaldi, Bach, Amy Lee, Lzzy Hale, Mark WoodNon Musical: My big brother is a professional writer and huge inspiration for me.

AAM What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)

The entire album covers a common theme of the struggle to communicate in the modern world. Sometimes you get frustrated, sometimes you feel really isolated, but you can also have these perfect moments where you completely connect with another person. We tried to explore a lot of these ideas and it gives a wide array of moods from song to song. 6. Do you write your own songs? (Discuss the songwriting process in detail.)We do write our own songs and the process can vary a lot. Typically, we start with a bottle of wine and a musical idea often on guitar or piano. The lyrics start to form around that central idea and we listen hard for what the music feels like so we can make sure the lyrics support it. Then we record a basic acoustic demo and take it to the rest of the guys to flesh out on drums and bass. Since the songs focus is always on the vocal before everything else, we usually form the rest of the song around the peaks and emphasis of the vocal performance. Rhythmic scan is very important, since with so many melodic instruments, it is easy to step on one another’s toes musically. What is amazing about writing in Seattle is how much the weather affects your emotional state. The winters are bleak and dreary, and you can go for weeks without real sunlight. The anxious and harder material like Running, Writing on the Wall, and Break the cycle were written during the winter time. In the summer, it is absolutely beautiful and the sun stays out until 10 PM every night. We were often overwhelmed with happiness and wrote hopeful optimistic songs like Meteors and Persephone.

AAM Why did you want to go and call the band Direct Divide?

The band started out with a drummer that insisted on using an electronic drum kit for all rehearsals even though there was a full acoustic drum set in the practice space. To keep the sound balanced, the violin, guitar, and piano would plug directly into the board and play with headphones. At live shows, we were the Direct Box band, which was nice for the sound guy. The members of the band are all transplants to Seattle, with Kevin being from Las Vegas, Razz from San Francisco, Gabe from Brazil, and Valdemar being from northern Washington. We have divided origins, and decided that Direct Divide had an Opposites attract kind of appeal.

AAM How long did this CD take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?

The CD took 6 months to complete from start to finish. Initial drum/bass/acoustic guitar recording took place in September 2013 with the electric guitars/violin/acoustic guitars being recorded in December. Once recorded, the album was mixed in Kevin’s family cabin in Big Bear, CA from January to February of 2014. Mastering was by Dave Cooley (producer of Silversun Pickups) in March 2014.

AAM What kind of “sound” production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?

The approach during production was to emphasize the cinematic size and space of the songs. Drums where recorded in a very large room at Gossard Studio through a vintage Neve 8248 analog desk with room microphones to capture the ambience of the big wood room, while the bass was recorded in an isolation booth to provide separation in the mix. Valdemar and Gabe recorded all 8 songs on the album together in one 10 hour session. The second session at Gossard Studio focused on pedal/lap steel, organ, and acoustic guitar. We recorded together with multiple instruments whenever possible to maintain the feel of a band playing in a room. Vocals and electric guitar were recorded at Crackle N Pop Studios in Ballard, WA during two separate 8 hour sessions. We made an effort to not rely on any synthesized software instruments and recorded real B3 organs, lap-steel, and cellos with friends who are great musicians and kind enough to donate their time. We really worked on being overly prepared and practiced so that in the studio we would not feel nervous or pressured and could focus on recording great performances. We practiced as a band to a click track with headphones for at least 3 weeks prior to the sessions (very NOT rock star).

AAM. What kind of input did the producer have during the process?

We are a completely independent band so we produced ourselves with weeks and weeks of meticulous arrangement decisions and rehearsal prior to recording sessions. What we rehearsed is what we laid down, and we did not have the liberty to experiment with ton of song arrangements in the studio. The result was a pretty natural snapshot of how we play the tunes live.

AAM. And are you pleased with the final outcome? (sound – production wise).

We are very happy with the final outcome. The mastering engineer Dave Cooley did a phenomenal job of keeping the tracks powerful and musical while maintaining the lyrical message and focus of the songs. The final outcome sounds similar to our influences and favorite albums. A good sign is that we still want to listen to it even after its finished!

AAM. Did the producer use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording techniques?

We approached the recording of the album with pretty standard rock production techniques. The drums and bass were recorded with typical overhead/close/room mics and direct plus amped bass guitar. We recorded organ, acoustic guitar, lap/pedal steel, and piano with standard stereo mic techniques in the studio and tracked the actual Olive guitar sound in the studio. We finished producing the album in a cabin in Big Bear, CA and recorded most of the acoustic violins in a room with big high pointed wood ceilings and hardwood floors. The most unique recording was the acoustic violin solo for Meteors. The tune has an atmospheric floating vibe to it and we recorded the acoustic violin outside after a night of heavy snow. The chilly and humid weather made Razz’s 300 year old acoustic violin sound heavier and more mellow, which was great addition to the song. If you soloed the track, you could hear the faint sound of wind and the snow dripping off of the house and trees.

AAM. How did you go on about capturing your ‘live sound’ in the studio, or perhaps you didn’t?

The approach was completely Olive sound focused. Everyone played the instruments that they play live through their own amps including Razz’s Viper. In typical modern production, listeners are more accustomed to hearing an acoustic violin as opposed to electric violin, so we layered Razz’s performance on both instruments to create the unique tone of the violin in the recordings. Kevin did not do many layers of electric guitars and the mixes were very similar to the tone you would hear on stage. As the album recording process happened, we added parts into the recordings that we had not previously played live that we will be including in our stage performances.

AAM. Please inform us about your favorite songs and lyrical highlights and why?

Break the Cycle is a song that we are extremely proud of. The song was one that was the last to be written and we weren’t sure if it was going to make the album. The song ended up being our ripper song where we were all able to improvise and solo on our respective instruments and use the tons of melody we can produce to make an insane amount of sound. Persephone is a song that sums up all the unique elements of our band, making it a great showcase and opener of the album. Meteors is a standout lyrically as it is simple and open-ended enough for the listener to insert their own life experiences and make the story speak to them. Won’t Be Alone is a powerful song lyrically and tells the story of two people wanting to maintain their connection over a seemingly insurmountable distance.

AAM. Any overall theme of mood that you’re trying to capture while writing songs?

The theme for the album is focused on the longing and communication that we as individuals deal with in our personal lives. Our focus especially for this album was to change the mood of the tunes we play for emphasis or impact. Our song Liar for example begins as an atmospheric song and develops into a classically progressive type of song in the break and then explodes into straight up-tempo rock ending. We also push to use mood to reinforce the emotion of the songs or add tension wherever needed. The writing of the album was heavily influenced by the constant change of scenery, our personal lives, and revolving environment that Seattle had to offer. All these elements contributed to how the mood changed from song to song.

AAM. Does your vision for coming up with music get affected at all by time?

Our vision for the album was definitely affected by budgetary and time restraints. Due to the fact that our bass player was on a school Visa from Brazil, he had to move to San Diego to take a job and be able to stay in the States. We diligently practiced knowing that we were only going to have one day to record drums and bass together. We budgeted out for 3 more studio days and had to make sure that all the main tracks of guitars, vocals, pianos, and other supplemental instruments were completely done in that time. Once initial tracking was finished, we were able to experiment with mic techniques and instrument placement for the rest of the tracking since we did that part in our own home studio. We set a deadline for an April tour and then worked backwards to set deadlines for production, distribution, and artwork so we would have all of our material ready and could make a big impact for our debut independent release Bridges.

AAM. Did the record company interfere with anything on your “sound” and songs?

As a self produced and independently operated band, there was no interference from a record company in the recording process.

AAM. Are there any “crazy” behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share with us?

During the rehearsal process for the album, we finally started closing in on an arrangement for Break the Cycle. We were practicing late in the evening at our rehearsal studio in a very industrial part of town on a very rainy night in Seattle. We had apparently left the downstairs door to our practice space unlocked. Two people heard us playing from the street outside and invited themselves up to the practice room. They just stood in the doorway listened to us play. We didn’t notice them till halfway through the song but were so excited about the new arrangement that we finished the rest of the song. They stood and listened to us play for a good 5 minutes and when we finished, asked “Are you guys a band?” We heard your music outside and we wanted to come up to hear more We thought they were going to ask: “That’s a nice drum set, can I have it?” It was flattering but terrifying. #scaryseattlepeople.

AAM. How would you describe the sound of your new CD to any potential new fan?

The sound of our new CD Bridges is a blend of music you might hear in an epic uplifting movie, with a powerhouse female singer and a rocking up-tempo band behind it. The songs are all different just like life is always different. We hope that our music resonates with listeners, makes their day better, and allows them to relate their own life experiences to the music.

AAM. What are your dreams and goals?

Our goals are to expand our touring cycle to the east coast and abroad in the next two years. Joining the festival circuit is a major goal since we want to play to as many years as we possibly can. We believe our music would fit in well with movies and TV shows and are planning on licensing our material to those media outlets. Playing the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and the late night circuit would be a fantastic experience. Our dreams are to build our brand to a point where we can focus on playing music and nothing else. Razz intends on making the electric violin a standard rock and roll instrument and proving that it is just as awesome as an electric guitar. We want to be able to communicate openly with fans of our music to keep developing as artists. Giving back to the communities that support us is very important and we would love to be able to do that with music one day.

AAM. What are the plans that you guys have for the future, shows, and touring that we should know about?

Direct Divide has released their debut independent release Bridges via Bandcamp and iTunes. (directdivide.bandcamp.com) The album can be purchased as a digital download and physical CD with artwork created by Razz and Valdemar. We are booked for a west coast tour from Los Angeles to Seattle and back for the entire month of April. We intend on getting back into the studio in May to begin recording a follow up EP to Bridges. We intend on releasing new material and touring every year while building a local following in our home towns of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle. Be on the lookout for our next move via social media and our website www.directdivideband.com!

AAM. If there’s anything you’d like to add, say, please do.

Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of All Access Magazine. Thank for your time to do this interview and we look forward to seeing you on the road!-Kevin, Razz, Val, and Gabe of Direct Divide.