All Barren is Divider’s debut full-length yet the Long Island, New York band has been making records since 2006 – a Kurt Ballou-recorded debut EP and a split with Bone Dance, among others. Through many changes in personnel, the band has persisted almost ten years, touring the nation alongside other standouts of the DIY circuit like Capsule and Khann.
All Barren is the sound of a band plowing forward after years of internal and external turmoil: lineup changes, lawsuits, and, most recently, the complete destruction of frontman Chris Tzompanakis’ home in Hurricane Sandy. Not unlike the relentless advance of that hurricane, All Barren is a campaign of mid-paced devastation that blankets the senses and dwarfs the will. From opener “Crow Eater” onward, this is music that barrels forth unstoppably with a life of its own, radiating power. All Barren was produced by Will Yip (Circa Survive, Blacklisted) and Vince Ratti (August Burns Red, Balance and Composure), and mastered by Bill Henderson (Enabler, Most Precious Blood).
You Indie recently caught up with Divider guitarist Anthony Fusco to discuss the record. This is what he told us about it.
When did you begin writing the material for the forthcoming album?
We started writing about two years ago. When we came home from Europe, we really focused on the material. We ended up with 11 songs for this LP, but we tossed about 15 songs after everything was said and done. We spent quite a while putting ideas together. However, as far as I am concerned, some of the best material on this record was written a week or so before we left to go record. The song “All Barren” was written the night before we left.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writingstage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
There is a song called “Ruin” on this LP that doesn’t really let up. From beginning to end, it is fairly intense. For some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to track this towards the end of one of the days designated for drums. We must have played it at least 30 times. After a few meltdowns and psychedelic freakouts, we were able bang it out. Otherwise, everything went very smoothly. All the music was recorded at Studio 4 in Philly. We got through everything in four days. All the vocals were recorded at my place in New York, so we were able to spend a lot of time on them and really get them where we wanted. Everything really just fell into place. Mixing and mastering only took a few passes each and that was about it.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changedthe face of the record?
Will Yip engineered and produced. He had a huge hand in shaping a lot of the drums parts. On top of being an extremely talented engineer and producer, Will is an equally talented drummer. He was really able put his spin on the drums and how they should sound. Which parts might be too much and which parts need a little extra. There are a lot of dynamics in these songs, so the way he was able to help mold the drums really pushed everything to the next level. The awesome thing about Studio 4 is you really don’t spend much time on getting sounds. Because of Will and that Neve console, you plug in and play. You hit the drums and go. So that gave us a lot of time to really make sure everything was where it needed to be.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your originalconcept for the song?
The track “Viscera” was totally different until the day before we recorded it. We had the song demoed and pretty set as far as the structure went. This was the last song we tracked on drums. The night before we planned on tracking it, I went through it and changed it all. The original version wasn’t bad at all, but after having a general feel of how this record was going to sound, it just didn’t really fit. It was kind of scary to do because we had everything scheduled pretty tightly as far as studio time. Will had a huge hand in shaping this song. The middle of the song was written between Will and me, and the ending just kind of came together naturally. The only thing that is the same between both versions is the five accents in the beginning. Otherwise, they sound like two different songs.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
We had our friend Tim sing on the last song that closes the record out called “Silently Marching”. He sang in that band Daytrader and currently in Some Stranger. This is a song that is meant to stick out. We had a lot of back and forth about how it should sound and where things should be. Ultimately, I am pretty happy with how it turned out. It is probably something we will never play live, but it definitely came together well. It is just about seven minutes. Tim sings on the first half, and Chris sings on the second half and ends it.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties therecord together?
Musically, everything is stripped down. If a riff sucked, we didn’t put a bunch of fluff over it to try and make it work. We threw it out and started over. So from the perspective of a guitar player, it is bare bones, and I think it carried out through the record and worked very well. Lyrically, a lot of terrible shit happened during the course of writing this record. There is an overt sense of hopelessness and emptiness. Our singer Chris lost everything in the Hurricane that hit Long Island. Actually lost everything. There was an empty lot where his house was for the majority of the last year and half. I was very happy to see him get through everything the way he did. You need to be strong to be able to handle that, but it will no doubt have an effect on you. All you have to do is read what he wrote, and you get direct insight into someone that was tested very hard by life.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicitedthe strongest reaction from your fans?
We have been playing a set of “Crow Eater,” “The Devouring,” “All Barren,” “Poisoned Arrows,” “Empty Beds,” “Salt and Bone,” and then one or two older songs. Those are the songs we all really enjoy playing. They are the most stripped down you could say. That is probably why they are so much fun to play. People seem to like them. I guess that’s supposed to be the point. We really like them though.
(Visit Divider here: http://facebook.com/dividerandconquer.)