A new chapter for The Divorcees

Now three records deep into their career, things are continuing to move in the right direction for Moncton country honky-tonk band The Divorcees.

In fact, in the time since their 2006 debut record You Ain’t Gettin’ My County, The Divorcees have done pretty darn well for themselves.

They are the proud recipients of two East Coast Music Awards (one for their debut record, the second award for their 2009 sophomore record Last Of The Free Men) and have earned a loyal and dedicated following not only here in Metro Moncton but right across this fine country of ours.

In spite of a somewhat roller-coaster ride over the past three years, their brilliant new album Four Chapters couldn’t have arrived at a better time. As “modern” country music strays further and further from its roots, The Divorcees are here to remind all that the spirit of country pioneers like Johnny Cash is alive and well. Their new record is arguably the group’s most ambitious undertaking yet, bringing together the group’s time-honoured sound with instrumental passages and narratives.

On Thursday evening, The Divorcees, comprised of guitarist-vocalist Alex Madsen, bassist Denis “Turtle” Arsenault, drummer Brock Gallant and guitarist Jason Nicholson, will perform at Moncton’s Plan B Lounge as the special guests of Toronto roots-rock band The Skydiggers.

The seven-plus year journey leading up to Four Chapters has not always been a smooth ride for the band. While they have avoided many fatal pitfalls that befall other groups, the Divorcees have undergone line-up changes, and have also seen their former record label close up shop. Undeterred, the band has soldiered on, earning a reputation as a dynamic live act while continuing to refine their sound and their mission. You might say they are well on their way to fulfilling that mission.

“Life and the ups and downs of being in a band have definitely changed us over the years. I think it shows on this record,” The Divorcees’ Alex Madsen starts.

“We are excited about The Divorcees again,” drummer Brock Gallant says. “We haven’t exactly had a picture perfect ascent to local celebrity status but we are finally seeing a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Seeing other people excited about the band again helps us feel as though we may finally have a chance to reach our potential as a band.”

Though it is clear that the band members remain very proud of their first two records, you can’t help but get a sense that both Madsen and Gallant feel the band is truly starting to come into their own with Four Chapters. Although the task of making an independent record can prove to be overwhelming, Madsen says that the group chose to embrace the freedom associated with making a record on their terms.

“Because this album was completely a do-it-yourself project, I think it affected our approach to creating the album,” Madsen says. “We weren’t on any kind of deadlines or time restrictions and because of that, I believe that we felt comfortable pushing things a little further than we might have in the past. It really was amazing to see how not feeling constricted in terms of time can open up so many other possibilities. That being said, we are all glad that we waited to do a concept record like Four Chapters until this point in our career. It really was the right time to do it, whether we were expecting to or not.

“Our long friendships with each other definitely factored into us taking more chances with this record also,” he continues. “We are like brothers in this band so we were able to be tough and honest with each other about this recording. That in turn helped us go to a whole new place in terms of being creative. It isn’t always easy but we are the type of people who enjoy being challenged. We felt like Four Chapters was going to be our chance and that all bets were off, so we went for it.”

This burst of creative life and passion back into the Divorcees camp is refreshing considering, as Gallant says, the band had essentially stalled for an almost two-year period following the release of 2009’s Last Of The Free Men.

“I feel as though Last Of The Free Men did not achieve its full potential,” Gallant says. “Our record label at the time folded, I became a father…The band simply stalled for almost two years.”

Having creative control over Four Chapters in addition to recording the entire album in New Brunswick were both factors that Gallant says helped to rejuvenate the band. Though many bands will typically say their latest effort is “the best one,” there is certainly a significant degree of fact to this statement when speaking of Four Corners.

This past Spring, The Divorcees ran a successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign to help offset some of the mammoth costs associated with getting their newest record released. Not only did the band meet their goal of $8,500, but they actually exceeded it by a few hundred dollars. The support shown to the band by friends, fans and complete strangers was a humbling experience to say the very least, Madsen says.

“We were very happy with how people came through for us. It really is a testament to the kind of fans we have. Their support made us feel incredibly validated, grateful and proud to do what we do.”

“You can never hope to achieve great things if you don’t truly believe in what you are doing,” Gallant says. “The great things never come easy though.”

Article published in June 19, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript