Divorce on their recent EP 'Heady Metal' and having Self Esteem as a fan

Interview Class of 2024: Divorce

Penning evocative indie-country-punk-whatever explorations on the human condition, the Nottingham quartet have already got Self Esteem in their corner - it’s probably time to join her.

Not many buzzy guitar bands would choose to spend their celebratory EP release day gamely pretending to punch each other in the face for two hours, but since pricking up ears with last year’s breakthrough single ‘Checking Out’, Divorce have been doing things a bit differently. For a start off, no one has thrown themselves into this issue’s photoshoots with quite as much vigour as the Nottingham quartet… “We come from an acting background, so we’re not strangers to making ourselves look a bit silly,” says co-frontperson Felix MacKenzie-Barrow as his vocal foil Tiger Cohen-Towell nods: “We’re cringe but we’re free.”

At the start of the band’s journey, coming out of lockdown, Divorce explain they felt the pressure to try and bend themselves to fit a certain industry shape; “I think we wanted to work out what people would want to hear so we could get a foot in, which felt almost impossible when you’re from a provincial place,” notes Tiger. But as time’s gone on, so the band - completed by guitarist Adam Peter Smith, and drummer Kasper Sandstrøm (also of Do Nothing) - have shaken off the shackles of expectation and learnt to trust their innate selves.

The EP they’re toasting today, ‘Heady Metal’, represents a notable leap forward from 2022’s debut ‘Get Mean’. Where, around that period, the band were often labelled as ‘country-punk’, from swelling centrepiece ‘Right On Time’ to the synthy ‘Scratch Your Metal’, their latest is far less categorisable. Rather than genre, the throughline is in the feeling: a collection of songs that look inward and process change with a poetic, sometimes yearning, often dryly humorous turn of phrase. “Oh, it’s the year of me! I’m fixing all of my devices,” goes opener ‘Sex & the Millenium Bridge’; “I wanna be beautiful / I wanna be good to myself,” cries the cathartic chorus of ‘Birds’.

Talking about the tracks, Tiger references the idea of an “emotional zeitgeist”. “It’s the flare up of feeling when you’re going through big changes,” they say. “A zeitgeist is usually used on a more societal level, but the way that, as people, we just commit to eras emotionally and then come out and look back on them feeling really different…” “And then bring that reflection into the present with the new light it throws on it,” picks up Felix. “There was a lot of self-examination.”

Divorce on their recent EP 'Heady Metal' and having Self Esteem as a fan Divorce on their recent EP 'Heady Metal' and having Self Esteem as a fan Divorce on their recent EP 'Heady Metal' and having Self Esteem as a fan

The aesthetics of this band are very emotionally driven instead of what looks cool.” - Tiger Cohen-Towell

Though Divorce is still a fairly new project, Felix and Tiger have been writing together for the best part of a decade, from when they were just 16. “Back when we were little rascals, running around Nottingham,” Tiger laughs. It’s an evidently close-knit bond that comes through in the increasing nuance of their music. “It feels like there’s a lot of songs coming out and we just have to work out which ones hold hands,” says Felix. “We’re finding subtler and subtler ways of connecting.”

Though they joke about the lingering effects of their previous theatrical forays (“I think we’re quite annoying people; acting kind of inherently requires you to be a bit annoying,” laughs Felix), there’s a lack of inhibition and pretension to the band that allows them to put their feelings out there, warts and all. “The aesthetics of this band are very emotionally-driven instead of what looks cool, and if what’s right for the song means making ourselves look silly or being theatrical then that’s how we’ll do it,” says Tiger. “That lack of worrying about what your body or face looks like and just worrying about the emotional intensity of it, that’s something we’ve got from acting.” “I’ve never found a successful way of looking cool,” Felix sighs as Adam affirms: “But that’s why you ARE cool…”

One person who certainly agrees with him is Rebecca Lucy Taylor, aka Self Esteem, who’s been shouting about the band on Instagram at every opportunity. “She will NOT leave us alone…” jokes Tiger. Earlier this year, when Divorce were very much still in their infancy, she handpicked them to support on a smattering of shows. “She’s so supportive. To bring us on the shows we did with her… it’s not every day someone takes you to the prom,” Felix smiles.

Next up, alongside a Spring 2024 support tour with Everything Everything, is a move towards a coyly-described “larger amount of music”. Whatever form that takes, they’ll have to top ‘Heady Metal’’s anarchic cover shoot day, for which they shipped in a room full of dogs to join them. “For half an hour it was the best, and then the other half an hour it was like… OK, now they’re pissing,” recalls Kaspar. “I was the only one who got pissed on!” retorts Felix. “It was a 4D scratch and sniff kind of experience, except I didn't even have to scratch. The owners would throw treats at us, so not only were we covered in piss, we were covered in treats, and then covered in dogs.”

Fun, messy, sweet and silly, it’s an image that suits Divorce well. Their music might come firmly from the tangled depths of the heart, but they’re also relishing every win they can whilst putting it all out there. “It feels like the last six months have been pretty mental in terms of the snowballing we’ve been doing,” says Kaspar, as Felix continues: “People are giving us the chance to do the thing we’ve wanted to do for ages.” Tiger nods: “We’re THIS close to the chance.”

Divorce play DIY’s Class of 2024 launch party at Colours, Hoxton on 14th December.

Tags: Divorce, Class of 2024, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews

As featured in the December 2023 / January 2024 issue of DIY, out now.

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