By Divine Right CD launch party, the Church on Berkeley (310 Queen East), tonight (October 11). $15. 416-361-9666. Rating: NNNNN
it's hard to believe that the new incarnation of By Divine Right has been playing together for less than six months. Frontman José Contreras's new bandmates, a motley crew of vintage-clad post-hippies including guitarist Colleen Hixenbaugh, The Dill (aka Dylan Hudecki) on bass, drummer John Hall and "newest Beatle" Brian Borcherdt on "instruments never before heard by humankind," riff off each other like lifelong pals.
By Divine Right have become notorious for a constantly changing roster of the coolest kids in CanRock, but the newest concoction seems built to last. The new group share Contreras's unique philosophy, a fusion of musical passion and stoneresque spirituality. Hanging out with them in their record company's (Linus) super-slick downtown digs is an experience somewhere between a house party and a chakra cleansing. For his part, Contreras is ecstatic about the new band.
"I haven't felt so not cozy -- cozy could indicate complacency -- so supported and so unencumbered by a lineup," he effuses. "It's been five or six years since By Divine Right was a real band, and I'd love it to last."
The Andy Magoffin-produced new album, Good Morning Beautiful (Linus), is a genre-crossing collage of gorgeous tunes that reference everything from Motown to the Pixies.
Contreras is quick to clarify that he's not trying to capture a specific sound. "We're not a "we're cooler than you' club. There could never be a true buzz machine behind By Divine Right, because we don't sell haircuts or shoes or anything like that.
"We're not necessarily of our time or ahead of our time -- maybe we're outside of the time continuum.
"But I think that on another level (and I know this sounds fucking pretentious, but I say it all the time), By Divine Right is revolutionary not because of the form or what we sound like, not even because of what we say, but the head space where we're above music."
Adds The Dill, "It's beyond it. It's beyond anything tangible."
"Like chakras!" Hixenbaugh chimes in. "They're there -- they're proven to be there, but you can't see them. We have respect for what music could be and what all the songs could've ended up being and all the songs we haven't written yet."
It's this hippie mysticism that makes the By Divine Right moniker seem so apt. The group is famous for sharing the love at their transcendental live shows, but their records never quite capture the same energy. This one may change that.
"I still don't know if I've quite captured By Divine Right," cautions Contreras. "We're like a monster with thousands of heads. At least you can see that when we play live.
"To a great extent I sat in the passenger seat for the writing and making of this record. I just let it make itself -- it's this beautiful accident, and I think there's something amazing about that."
Drummer Hall grins. "Now we sit in a bench seat in the back of a van."
"But we saw the most beautiful sunset the other day," marvels Contreras. "We were surrounded in this pink, orange, beautiful yellow haze. And then, when it couldn't get any better, a monarch flew by. It was like an epiphany, all around us. All of a sudden, it's a new day, like Good Morning, Beautiful."