A miniature figure of Jesus Christ stands stoically at the head of the table at the Uptown Bar. His plastic wheels--yes, this Jesus has wheels beneath his feet--wade in the sweat dripping from a half-empty glass of Summit. Never mind that by the end of the evening the plastic deity--recently purchased at Urban Outfitters by the local pop band Divorcee--will be baptized with soy sauce over late-night sushi and then ride shotgun through the streets of Minneapolis in a Volkswagen Jetta. For now his opposable arms offer Camels to the chain-smoking members of Divorcee.
Little J.C. makes a lovely conversation piece for passersby, igniting a religious discussion or two among the usual barroom commotion. There's no barrier soundproofing the band from the remarks of rowdy baseball fans who crowd the bar's big-screen television. Amid the chatter, Divorcee are spearheading a conversation on earning legitimacy in popular music. Divorcee's lanky vocalist Ryan Seitz leans into his bandmates, asking, "How long have the Backstreet Boys been together, five years?"
"I liked them better when they were New Kids on the Block," jokes guitarist Chris Pavlich.
"I liked them when they were called Menudo," adds drummer Sean Hoffman.
As the conversation ticks on at a staccato tempo, it becomes apparent how comfortable the members of Divorcee are together, both in and out of the rehearsal space. They've braved the ebb and flow of local music for a number of years: Members of the band have performed in the bands Velma, American Paint, and Spring Collection. The original lineup of Divorcee included defectors from the aforementioned groups and Shawn "Grinder" Grider (ex-Steel Shank) on drums. Grider quit shortly after the band unveiled their self-released debut, Lovesick. John Schrei joined to play bass, and Hoffman slid over to the drum set. Divorcee has certainly survived enough drama to live up to its name.
While Lovesick lyrically navigates the coarse terrain of a relationship, Seitz's boyish inflection cannot disguise the complexity of his narratives. Seitz constructs his tales with the trained eye of a short-story writer, fusing them with his band's soulful melodies, sequencing, and classic Brit-pop guitar hooks. His heartfelt coo stands impervious beside the vigorous guitar of "Jennifer." The playful "Back Row" eyes the object of his affection: "Smoking in the back row, flying solo/You can see what you want to see." And the more reflective "Carousel" segues into the tightly wound "Careful," which, peppered by a furious bassline, mercilessly describes a tempestuous young band hanging out at a bar.
About his songwriting, Seitz admits, "It's got to be understandable. I want people to relate to what I'm saying, cut and dried." As if on cue, a young bar hopper exits the Uptown, flashing her copy of Lovesick at the band members, who enjoy a good laugh. It appears that their attempts to communicate have already reached the ears of the public. Not bad for a group that's been together for merely a year. What began as a demo project between friends is now a quartet with name recognition. Now, Divorcee have begun demos for a wider sophomore release.
According to Seitz, "I don't think we want to be an indie band."
Pavlich jokes, "We're not that cool."
They have nothing to worry about. Sensitivity is always in style.
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