Q&A: Paul Anderson of DIVIDES

Divides

Poised for success from the get-go, Portland quintet DIVIDES will amaze listeners and audiences alike. The group radiates passion in every project they tackle, and show no signs of slowing down; with their new album, Brokentoothout on August 11th, a performance at the Portland date of Warped Tour this year, and a performance at the Slaves album release show, DIVIDES is the gift that just keeps on giving. After the release of their debut EP, the then-Anchorage-based band shook up their local scene, encouraging a move to Portland, where they’ve been making waves ever since.

I spoke with DIVIDES guitarist Paul Anderson about the new album, their upcoming Warped Tour performance, and, of course, the band’s amazing music videos.

 

Planet Stereo: Hey, what’s going on?

Paul Anderson: Oh, not much at all. Kind of in the middle of the work day…I kind of found a little space away from everybody, so… [laughs].

PS: Well I just wanted to talk to you because I know that you’ve got the album coming out, the mini tour, you’ve got everything going on right now, and it sounds like you guys are insanely busy!

PA: [laughs] Yeah, things are kind of getting a little…moving with a little speed here.

PS: All exciting stuff. The mini tour kicks off on Aug. 5th, right?

PA: Yeah, August 5th in Bremington at the Schultz.

PS: And then the Portland date of the Warped Tour?

PA: Yup, that’s right. We are pretty much over the moon [about it] at this point. We’ve been kind of involved in the Mic Thrasher battles and the Ernie Ball Battles online, and got notified that we had actually been included on that, and we all kind of lost our minds for a moment. It was great!

PS: I can imagine! Do you normally go to Warped as a fan?

PA: I have in the past couple of years and a couple of years before. Things have gotten a little crazier in my life, which has kind of cut into me going, but the others guys still go. They used to go in Alaska, and yeah, they’ve been going down here since they moved.

PS: As a Warped Tour band, technically, I have to play a game of Warped Tour Would You Rather… I play this with every Warped band I interview, and so my first question to you is…If you could be in a real-life version of The Walking Dead or Jurassic Park, which would you choose?

PA: Jurassic Park.

PS: Just for the dinosaurs?

PA: Yeah…although I’m pretty sure the rest of the band would say the Walking Dead.

 

PS: Okay, so if you had to listen to one song for the rest of your life, would you rather it be Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” or Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire?”

PA: Um…probably “Bohemian Rhapsody” because there’s a bit more to it, but Johnny Cash’s attitude is pretty…universal. But yeah, I’ll go with “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

PS: Would you rather drunk-text the entire Warped Tour crew or eat an entire stick of butter to yourself in one sitting?

PA: [laughs] Okay…I’ll drunk-text, because that may or may not happen…[laughs]. I think I would actually die if I ate a stick of butter.

PS: [Laughs] So those are sent in by fans, and we play it every year, and we get a couple of good ones, like that one. But now I also have to ask, since Warped Tour’s theme this year is zoo animals, what animal would you be and why?

PA: Oh my god, that might be the most difficult question anyone’s ever asked me ever…Um…[laughs]…what kind of animal would I be? A kiwi…Yeah, a kiwi bird.

PS: That’s a really unusual answer. I’ve never had that answer before.

PA: Well, I think I’d be a kiwi because I would have evolved to take the place of and do all the things a normal land animal would do in a place where there are no indigenous land animals.

PS: Not bad. That’s actually a really well-thought out answer… [laughs]

PA: [Laughs] I’ve never been asked that before, so it might sound insanely pretentious, [laughs] but I don’t know. Plus, kiwis are cool and they’re nocturnal.

PS: I’ve just…honestly, I got like sloth, fish, gorilla, lion, tiger, and that’s it.

PA: [Laughs] Well, I was in New Zealand and I got to see a kiwi and I didn’t actually know that there were no indigenous mammals and that’s why the kiwi evolved to be this flightless bird. It evolved to do all of the things that a normal land mammal would do.

PS: That’s really cool. Fun fact of the day!

PA: Yeah, I’m glad I could help!

PS: And we got you to figure out one of life’s hardest questions!

PA: I feel so accomplished today, if I don’t do anything else today, I’ll know I did that.

 

PS: So you’re also going to be performing at the Slaves’ album release show, getting back on track.

PA: Oh yeah, we just picked that up and that’s going to be pretty awesome. I think we just got put on the bill like…two days ago. It’s kind of funny, because we communicate a lot via messenger, so these things will come up, and we’ll all be privately dancing to ourselves and these message threads will get like, hundreds of entries long [laughs]. Basically, everyone goes, “Oh, this is the greatest thing ever! We’re so stoked!” Everybody gets really excited about playing with bands that we love, and I believe that the video premiere is that day as well…for “Supersymmetry,” which we just finished last Sunday…I think they’re doing all of the editing right now.

PS: Wow. You guys are just churning out videos left and right, because I was actually going to ask you about your video for “Echoes Fade.” You guys are pretty fast with all of these things!

PA: Yeah, so, what kind of happened with that was when we did our first video for “Love Is a Funny Thing,” we had contacted a few directors, and we were trying to procure someone that could work with our vision and basically translate the music into a visual format that we felt supported our vision. We found a couple of people, but we could never make a schedule, so CJ was like, “You know what? F-it. I’m gonna get a camera, I’m gonna learn how to use the editing software, we’re just gonna do it ourselves.” And with the help of Scotty Fisher, who’s with the Fight Design, he does the cinematography, and is a great photographer, so we started putting videos together, completely in-house. If you see the first video to the current one, the learning curve has been pretty dramatic, like, how they’ve increased in quality.

PS: Well even from “Drag The River” to “Echoes Fade,” you can see a total difference.

PA: Yeah! When I saw the first cut of that, I was just floored at how good the cinematography was. I was like, “Oh my god! I know those people!” They’re pretty good at what they do.

 

PS: Do you enjoy working on that aspect as well as the music?

PA: I don’t think I’m as adept at it as they are. My realm is a lot more audio and engineering and what-not, but I kind of like the pitch meetings we have for the development of the videos, where we’re just bouncing ideas off of each other. I’ve been getting slightly more involved with it, but I don’t know…I tend not to like to be on camera a whole lot [laughs], so it’s a sort of double-edged sword for me. I mean, I appreciate performing in the video, but I just like to be on stage and in-studio. I think Bryan is with me on that one. I think CJ and Joe are definitely more of the camera-ready of us, I believe [laughs].

 

PS: Do you prefer to just be alluded to in the video?

PA: Yeah, but you know, I’m happy with whatever screen time I’m given, as long as it fits the narrative, and moves the plot forward, by all means, cut me out. I’m not terribly precious with my personal screen time, but I think the way CJ does her editing, she represents each member of the band really well, and gives us all a moment to shine, which I think we all want secretly, if not overtly.

PS: Speaking of all these amazing videos, these are all songs coming from your new album, Brokentooth, out August 11th. You guys are gearing up for that big release. Are you excited?

PA: Oh yeah, I am completely stoked. I’ve never been this proud of anything I’ve performed on ever. I can’t stop loving the record that we’ve made, so I can’t wait for people to listen to it all the way through.

PS: What are you hoping that people will come away with from the album?

PA: Um…I think we’ve poured a lot of ourselves into it individually as well as collectively, and I really hope that people take this ride with us. It’s a rollercoaster of an album that goes so many different emotional places, so many different moods are represented, and so much subject matter is covered, but it’s all deeply, deeply personal. I hope that people can really identify and take a piece of that album and sort of assimilate into their own lives. You know, at least resonate with it, and that it makes their day better, they’re not alone, or that they’re not struggling in vain. There’s always a bright tomorrow, no matter how crazy or difficult things get, you can always push through and be a better you.

PS: That’s probably one of the nicest answers I’ve had to the question.

PA: Well the alternative was, “I really hope they rock out to this album, and you know, just crank it in their cars, and you know, go crazy on the roof of whatever building they live in.” [laughs]

 

PS: Why the title Brokentooth?

PA: [laughs] Well, from what I understand, Brokentooth is a reference to a brewing company and something else back in Alaska. I’m actually originally from Germany, but through whatever craziness, I ended up in Portland, which is where I joined the band. So I’m the only one that didn’t migrate down from Alaska, but [the title] kind of goes back to Anchorage; it’s a reference one of the places they kind of frequented. Originally, “Drag The River” was named, “Brokentooth.” It’s one of those things when you’re working on songs, you just give it a quick title to refer to it as. We were stalled on what to name the album, so we were all sitting around a table at Pyramid Brewing, and we were, you know, getting as bands do when they’re discussing these things, fairly heated, and people were like, “Oh no, that’s a terrible idea!” So we were being sarcastic, but we all liked the name “Brokentooth” for an album, so we just decided to name the song something else. It’s easier to name a song than it is an album, and we didn’t necessarily want to have a title track, so that’s where it kind of came from. When you get through that album, it feels almost like you’ve been through a fight, and when you come out at the other end, especially at the end of “Fragments,” which is such a…I don’t wanna use the word “cathartic” because it’s completely hacky, but that’s what it feels like. You know, it’s this moment of catharsis at the end of this just brutal opponent of an album. You feel like you’ve been bloodied, but in this really good kind of way. It just felt right for the album.

If life is a struggle, you don’t come out of it without any scars, you know, be it physical, emotional, something has to change you, literally or figuratively, existentially, in order for you to grow. For a lot of people, it’s making a huge transition, you know, basically destroying your life so you can move somewhere and chase your dream. And you’re gonna get really worked over when you do that, but I think it means a lot to the other four members, and it means a lot to me. I’ve gone through a lot these past few years. We all dumped all of our baggage into this record, and gave it to the world, [laughs] like, “Here, you guys deal with it now! We’re done with it!”

PS: Sounds like good therapy to me.

PA: It is, but it’s not all negativity. It’s more of just the build-up of actual living of life, not always negative. Some struggles are positive in the end.

PS: What was the recording like? Did you guys go in all mapped out or just going in and letting your creativity take over?

PA: We’re pretty prolific writers, so we had worked out all of the stuff ahead of time. We demoed everything at Hip Stew studios in Portland with Charles Neal before we recorded, and we sent all of those up to Casey Bates, who is one of the most spectacular producers I’ve ever worked with. He can get a great performance out of anyone. I’ve never seen anyone manipulate a performance out of an instrumentalist the way he does. He gets exactly what he needs to hear. We went through and tempo-mapped everything, and then sent everything up to Casey to set the sessions up. Then we went in…It was really systematic. We layed drums down in one day, we layed bass down in one day, rhythm guitar in one day, and spent the good majority of the rest of the time working on vocals, so CJ and Joe were up there, and I think Bryan at the same time, but we were never really recording in the same room at the same time. It was the easiest recording process I’ve ever gone to. We rehearsed the living hell out everything. When the demos went through, Casey trimmed a lot of the fat…we tend to get a little long-winded in our arrangements and it as great to have that sort of objective third party to ask, “Is this really necessary? Do you have to have this to move the album forward?” It gave us a sense of efficiency and quality in terms of arrangements. He didn’t really change any of the songs, he just made them more compact and powerful.

PS: I imagine collaborating on songs comes naturally to all of you.

PA: Strangely, it doesn’t [laughs]. It’s weird. I’ve never been a collaborative songwriter, and I don’t think Bryan is either. For Brokentooth, we collaborated quite extensively. For me, we kind of described it earlier, Bryan is like the spaceman and I’m ground control, so when he throws a part down, a lot of times, I’ll be like, “Okay, let’s bring that into this particular rhythm or time signature,” and try to make it fit something the whole band can play. I collaborate easily with him. I’ve never been able to collaborate with anyone in terms of songwriting, but we both have our strengths and our weaknesses, and they just happen to be complimentary. And CJ is the primary the lyricist, and Joe contributes lyrics, but they’re amazing. CJ just blows me away with some of the stuff she brings in.

 

 

PS: Oh, definitely. Do you know how relieved I was to turn on your music and not be able to come up with an accurate-enough comparison?

PA: I’m actually glad you said that. The way we’re set up as a band, we get a lot of comparisons because of our line-up, like immediately. But people do always need a reference point, so if that carrier wave is Paramore or Bjork or whatever, you almost need the safety of that, which I’m fine with.

PS: At least you’re with good company! Speaking of, who is your musical influencers?

PA: Personally, probably just Weird Al. No, totally kidding. Well, not really. But I’m a classical bassist so Charles Mingus in terms of composition. In terms of modern music, the Deftones are huge for me and Steph Carpenter, who’s one of the most brilliant soundscape masters. My list of influences are so extensive, you’d need a separate interview. And that’s the same for everyone in the band. We tend to genre-hop. While we have the parameters of being a heavy band, our kind of ethos is, “Let’s do whatever we want, as long as its still DIVIDES.” And for some reason, we can pretty much throw oddball things in there. Like, “Sails & Anchors” is pretty out there for being on a “heavy” album, but the ending of that song is one of my favorite parts on the entire record. I think it hits harder than any sort of super-distorted guitar, any double-bass blast, anything like that. Just that last chorus on that song is one of the heaviest moment I’ve ever personally heard. I mean, CJ is just shredding her voice trying to get through the speakers to the listeners. The first time I heard the first mix, I almost cried, I was so excited for this. But don’t take my word for it, give it a listen!

PS: So you’ve also got your Warped Tour performance coming up. How are you feeling about it?

PA: I’m on pins and needles about Warped Tour. It’s one of my bucket list moments.

PS: Did you plan your outfit ahead of time?

PA: Oh my god! No! I should be doing that! Shit! I have to go shopping right after we get off the phone!

PS: Other than outfit planning, what advice do you wish someone had given you before you became a musician?

PA: In all honesty, I wish someone would have said, “Just stick to your path of being an engineer, that’s gonna be way more lucrative and a lot more stable.” But I mean, I think everyone who’s been in my life, especially my musical life have always been supportive. I think the best advice I ever got was from the director of my music ed department in college, and he asked, “Okay, who’s here to be a teacher?” and most of them raised their hands, and “Who’s here to be a performer, but wants to fall back on education?” A few of us raised our hands, and he said, “My advice to you right now is to quit school and go home and practice. It is rough out there. Just be as good as you can possibly be.” I stayed in school, but I practiced a lot. I wanted to be as good as I possibly could.

PS: My last question, and I have to add a disclaimer, this is not a threat on your life, no reason to panic, it’s just a philosophical question.

PA: Okay…

PS: I hear the fear.

PA: It’s there.

PS: If this was your last interview or your last conversation with another human being, what would you choose your last words to be and why?

PA: [laughs] Um…my last words would probably be, “Not in the face,” only because I want to have an open casket.

PS: [Laughs] Oh my god! I’ve never had an answer like that before! [laughs] I’m sorry!

PA: [Laughs] Well, I’m assuming that the last person that’s gonna hear my last words is going to be the person who will have killed me! So I want to be safe!

 

Brokentooth will be out on August 11th. Pre-orders are available on iTunes.

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