Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased tracks, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “True Lies” by The New Division from the 2011 album Shadows on Division 87 Records.
If you listen to even a few seconds of Riverside, California, four-piece The New Division‘s music, it’s not hard to figure out where their name came from: front man John Kunkel simply combined the names of his two principal influences, New Order and Joy Division. While this simple amalgam of monikers almost suggests some bizarre, hybrid cover band, The New Division are not simply trying to mimic their post-punk fore-bearers. Though their music is unabashedly indebted to the classic, darkened 80s synth-pop, The New Division also infuse a good deal of trance and house, which they also cite as influences. The result sounds like an unusually thump-y version of Depeche Mode that is meant to be danced to just as much as it is meant to elicit angst-y longing and sadness. As synth player Michael Janz puts it, their music “touches on a lot of serious themes, but not in an incredibly serious way.”
The New Division released their debut EP, The Rookie, in 2010, and have followed it up in 2011 with their first full-length, Shadows. The 14 tracks of Shadows are admittedly much darker and ballad-y than the material from The Rookie, and the band seems almost almost counter to their own personalities (just watch the first video on their website). For being so heavily inspired by the likes of Joy Division, New Order, and Depeche Mode, the members of The New Division are incredibly upbeat, light-hearted, and strikingly normal, clean-cut looking dudes (in the aforementioned promo video for Shadows, guitarist Brock Woolsey shows up to practice looking like he just got back from the beach, wearing shorts, flip-flops, and a white tee-shirt). It almost seems as if Shadows turned out to be as dark as it is by accident, and Kunkel admits that their next album is going to have “a lot of happy, major chord songs,” going on to say that they “want people to be happy… we don’t want our fans to be depressed.” Regardless of their intent, and whether you find their music to be more dance-y or downtrodden, it’s a catchy album that is deservedly in heavy rotation at KEXP. Besides, with the amount of material they were able to produce (they claim to have over 300 songs in their “demo roster”), another album with another vibe should be coming sooner rather than later.
The New Division don’t seem to have much brewing tour-wise, and if you look at their touring schedule, it appears they have yet to play a show outside California in 2011. That is surely to change once Shadows has a little more time to circulate (it was released September 27), so check back for updates. In the meantime, here’s the video for today’s featured song, “True Lies:”