Q&A With Boston Dream Pop Outfit Divine Sweater

An image of the band Divine Sweater mid-performance

Hi pals! The world is one great big mechanical bullride right now and we all know it – but I missed y’all very much. I just had to take a minute to figure out how to sustain 3.5 jobs while having a small quarter-life crisis. But now?

We back baby. And what better way to come back than with an interview from February? ‘Twas the golden month before Twitter: Completely Aflame Edition, #cancelled, and ubiquitous grocery store daggers-for-eyes. I miss it so.

I feel pretty lucky, though, to have spent my first live show of 2020 with indie dream pop legends Divine Sweater on February 7. The show’s vibe was pretty high – a great and typical Friday night at O’Brien’s in Rat City. I remember really noticing that the band members of all three acts were super supportive of each other, which means a lot to me as a fan. The jams and the beers flowed and the scene kids milled about happily. I bought myself a sweater, which is indeed very divine, and made my way home to write up some questions for the band.

Hi! Who’s there? Can you give us a little intro to Divine Sweater? 

SS: Hello folks, I’m Sean and I play guitar and handle production for Divine Sweater.

AG: Hi! I’m Alex (Al) and I play bass for Divine Sweater.

SL: Hey, I’m Steve and I play the keys and dabble on the drums.

MK: Hi there! I’m Meghan. I sing, write, and make art for the band.

CS: Yo! I’m Chris and I play drums in the band.

How did you all meet and decide to go for it as a band?

SS: Chris and I have been in bands together since high school. Divine Sweater is the latest one. Hopefully the last one too because we’re running out of band names. We started playing with Meghan in college and Alex & Steve soon afterwards. 

CS: Sean and I have been playing music together since High School and Divine Sweater has been the most complete project we’ve worked on together.

MK: Sean and I ran a music club in college together (Boston College Music Guild). I joined his band (called Small Talk at the time) for a battle of the bands and have been around ever since. 

AG: I got started with Divine Sweater back when they were still Small Talk. I met Sean at the law firm we both used to work at and found a kindred spirit. We bonded over music and hating our jobs, and eventually he recruited me to jam with him, Chris, and Meghan. After getting Steve on board we were ready to go. 

SL: Al and I played together in your typical high school Red Hot Chili Peppers/Arctic Monkeys/Strokes cover-band. When I moved back to Boston, he told me to come by and jam with his friends (then Small Talk). The rest is history. 

How would you describe your sound? What makes the sweater sooo divine?

SS: Dream pop or indie pop. Ethereal & catchy. 

MK: I would say our music is dreamy as well. Our songs have many layers and we rely heavily on reverb and harmonies. 

SL: Sean uses a ton of different Juno-synth settings in the recordings and we also utilize a lot of other instrumentations such as marimba, bells, saxophone, and strings so it’s kind of hard to recreate that experience in a live setting. Admittedly, I also tend to play a very different genre than the typical Divine Sweater sound, but I enjoy the challenge of contributing an equally full sound with my own blueprint. 

AG: A lot of our sound also comes from building around Meghan’s voice. We definitely have clear sonic influences from The Cranberries and Fleetwood Mac as well as some more contemporary bands. But what I think makes our sound unique is that we all bring different musical influences to the table, from the Strokes to Steely Dan to everything in between.

CS: Groove city. My musical background is in jazz, funk, and R&B, so it’s been a fulfilling challenge to keep everything as danceable as possible in a genre that’s not always associated with that. I think that’s really what sets us apart from other indie pop bands.

Speaking of your sound – you guys put out a great full-length, Human Love, in November. Can you tell us a little about what it was like to make and release that?

MK: Many of those songs were years in the making and we were excited to finally share them after working on them for so long. Sean and I collaborate to write the lyrics of every song. Lyrically, this album captures the emotions, events, and sentiments from the past few years of our life transitioning out of college and into “adult” life. One of my favorite parts of making this album was creating all the visual art that went with it (single artworks and the album cover). I tried to capture the dreamy vibe by creating colorful, abstract pieces of art.

SS: Human Love was pretty much all recorded in 2018, finished by early 2019 and then released in November 2019. It was actually the second album we wrote together, (the other being Aquarium which we released as Small Talk in April 2018) so the recording dynamic was already mostly there. I had also purchased a Roland Juno-106 at the start of writing, so that heavily influenced the sound of the record. Recording it was fun; everyone would come to my apartment on different days over a 6-8 month period to lay down parts and to experiment new ideas. Releasing an album is always pretty nerve wracking, but I’m glad the songs have performed decently on the internet. It’s a fun album to play live, too.

CS: Human Love has really felt like a snapshot in time for me. Since we’ve transitioned from Small Talk to Divine Sweater our writing dynamic became really efficient and allowed us to capture a lot of the things we were all feeling in that period of time. I think that’s what allowed this record to be so dense emotionally.

I’m in love with ‘Red Weather.’ 7/4 is the best and most perfect time signature of all. Any notes on that track?

MK: Thank you! The musical component was written before I took a stab at the melody and lyrics. I always thought it sounded really sad, so I wanted to amplify that mood lyrically. The concept [of] ‘Red Weather’ comes from one of my favorite poems: ‘Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock’ by Wallace Stevens, which is a pretty devastating poem about a lack of creativity in adult life.

SS: The guitar part for that song actually comes from an interlude off the first Small Talk EP.

I always felt like there was more to the song, so Chris and I would jam on it from time to time. I remember one night at my apartment playing it on the staircase and getting the idea of phrasing the riff in 7/4. The piano part was initially inspired by Vince Guaraldi Trio’s ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas,’ but changed a little when the bassline was added. It’s cool to listen back to both songs (‘Something’ and ‘Red Weather’) now, because while the original idea morphed into something more complete and groovy, it’s clear they came from the same place..

CS: After I heard Sean messing around with that interlude in 7/4 it brought some new life to the song and inspired a lot of the piano melodies I wrote on that track.

My other favorite off the album is ‘Pretty Blue.’ But what about you? Are you partial to any of the tracks?

AG: I love ‘Free as a Fisherman,’ the sound is very uncomplicated and clean. It’s got a kind of 80’s new wave feel to it that I really like. 

SS: ‘2×2’ because it’s the oldest one and has a lot of memories inherent in it. ‘Free As a Fisherman’ because I think it’s the catchiest.

MK: I think my favorite part of the album is the second half of ‘Human Love.’ It feels raw, emotional, and still a little dancy. 

CS: It’s between ‘Free as a Fisherman’ and ‘Human Love.’ ‘Free as a Fisherman’ has always felt simple, clean, and catchy. ‘Human Love’ builds into a banger. Full stop.

During your live set there’s quite a bit of instrument-switching going on. Are you all multi-talented?

AG: Just Bass for me, but I’m talented in all sorts of other areas 🙂 . 

MK: I’m always pretty in awe of my bandmates’ abilities to play multiple instruments period, nevermind multiple instruments in one show. Chris, Steve, and Sean can switch pretty seamlessly from one instrument to the next. They also write on multiple instruments. As you could probably tell from the live show, Steve also has some pretty incredible dance moves (which is why we call him “Electric Steve”). I’ll echo Alex’s comment above: he makes a mean hummus, does flawless impressions of celebrities, and brings more passion to the basketball court than most NBA players. I dabble with piano and guitar, but mostly for writing purposes and not performance purposes because I’m bad at focusing on multiple things at once.

CS: Switching instruments is easy when Electric Steve has my back.

And MK does the art, too. So can you share some thoughts on creativity – where it comes from for you, what role it has for you in life, or associated challenges/delights?

MK: I have always been pretty invested in visual art. I took a lot of art classes in high school, but have learned a lot from experimenting on my own since then. For this album, I wanted to combine paint with other 3-D textures because I thought it created a strange, surreal effect. I’m really interested in capturing the visuals embedded in the mood and lyrics of our songs and trying to recreate them on a canvas. This is a challenge that I usually fail at about 15 times before actually creating a product I’m proud of. As for the merch, I wanted to capture our vibe in a subtle way on a sweater, so I thought bold, colorful flowers would do the trick. Our t-shirts showcase an angsty photograph of me running away from home as a small child (to show our *edgy* side). 

Gotta keep it edgy, always. Did I see that y’all were recording cello for some mysterious new thing? Does this mean you’re on the *edge* of releasing some new stuff?!

SS: We’re 89.25% done with our next album. Going to start rolling that out in the Late Spring/Early Summer. It’s much better than Human Love. Lots of strings. No 7/4 bops though and for that I am sorry.

MK: I’m also looking forward to our next album, especially moving the songs into our live set. 

Wow, I’m deeply sad that seven gets no love this round. But strings are rad so we’ll keep our ears out. How can we keep up with y’all?

[This is where the lovely band members would’ve told you about their top-secret house show and other gigs they had planned, but everything is #cancelled, so this part is just me.]

Divine Sweater has a NEW single coming out next Thursday, April 30 called ‘Looking for You.’ I, for one, can’t wait to hear it in anticipation of their next album. Find it where you find music. Duh!

[Okay, back to the actually important people talking.]

LP is all about music recommendations – what have you been obsessed with lately?

AG: The new Tame Impala album is hot. We also played a show recently with a band called Forever Honey and they just dropped a terrific new single ‘Christian’ that is worth checking out. 

SS: I’ve been on a James Brown kick lately. Joanna Newsom too. Both their discographies are pretty much flawless so can’t really go wrong with either. The new Car Seat Headrest song is a bop too.

MK: I’m really into Big Thief, Crumb, and Porches currently. By some miracle, after listening to the albums 7 millions times since they came out, I’m still not sick of CTRL by SZA, Blonde by Frank Ocean, IGOR by Tyler the Creator, and Rocket by (Sandy) Alex G and listen to all of them frequently.

CS: Kassa Overall is my new favorite artist right now.

What’s the very next song you’d want someone to throw on right now?

AG: ‘Return of the Mack’ by Mark Morrison

SS: ‘Return of the Mack’ by Mark Morrison

CS: ‘Return of the Mack’ by Mark Morrison

MK: ‘This Must Be The Place’ by Talking Heads

LP is also all about that community vibe. What bands or artists in our local scene would you recommend?

SL: Shoutout to Plumes; Alright, Thanks; Mint Green; and Midnight Harvest. Always a good time playing with those folks.

SS: Alright, Thanks gives me life. Forever Honey is also great. Lip Service is wild. All the bands we’ve played with are great.

AG: In addition to all of the great bands that Steve listed, gonna use this to plug my girlfriend’s photography. She’s very very good at it, you can check out her work at Anabel Rios Photography. Please hit her up if you need pics, she does band photography! 

MK: Also, Phil & the Flying Leap is one of my favorite artists period, not just in Boston. 

CS: If you like having fun and/or being happy go check out Soulsha.

Thank you lovely humans!! Let’s leave the people with some info on how to find & follow you on the web. Cheers 💖

Follow on Instagram: @divinesweater

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