Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield

Divorce "We bonded over a shared sense of humour – we laugh a lot"

A band with a cowboy boot on one foot and Doc Martens on the other, the London-Nottingham four-piece tell us about their songcraft, their plans for the future – and the humour to be found in the mundane.

Divorce lindsaymelbourne Get Together 2023

Divorce playing at Heist Brewery for Get Together Festival 2023.

Lindsay Melbourne

'Checking Out' is Divorce's most streamed song to date. It's a darkly funny murder ballad with storytelling every bit as singular and striking Dolly Parton's 'Jolene', with pop and country sensibilities hidden behind its rocky sound. Divorce are a band with a cowboy boot on one foot and Doc Martens on the other.

At the band's core is the creative partnership of childhood friends and long-time collaborators Tiger Cohen-Towell and Felix Mackenzie-Barrow. As quadruple-barrelled songwriting entities go, Cohen-Towell-Mackenzie-Barrow are a force to be reckoned with, their tightly harmonised vocals reflecting a close working relationship honed over years spent in shared musical projects.

"A lot of songs have been written together – sharing a brain, in a way," Felix tells me when I catch up with the band before their set at Get Together Festival in Sheffield. "To a lot of people that would feel like a bizarre process, but it feels very normal to us now. When you write together for as long as we've written together, it almost feels more alien writing alone."

'Checking Out' is something of an exception, Tiger tells me, a deliberate attempt to spin a yarn.

"'Checking Out' was very conceptual, but that's actually quite rare for us. Our lyrical style is naturally quite theatrical and image-rich, but tracks like 'Services' and 'That Hill' are quite closely linked to our own lives."

The songs of Divorce's debut EP feature motorway service stations and the love lives of petty criminals being mocked on small town social media, with an accompanying music video set in a suburban living room. And, of course, there is the band name itself. I ask what draws them to these images of the domestic and the mundane, of middle age and middle England.

"There's usually a lot of humour in those things. I think all that stuff is inherently quite funny," says Felix. "In the most normal aspects of your life, that's where the weirdest stuff happens."

A surreal edge runs through Divorce's music. There is a playfulness and a refusal to take themselves too seriously. "All four of us bonded over a shared sense of humour. We laugh a lot. We're silly billies, really." This was much in evidence in our conversation, as we somehow segued through rat kings, the majesty of cats and the culinary delights of dog cheese.

On stage at Get Together that evening, the band laughed and joked between the songs of their storming set at Heist Brewery. The four-piece came together in 2021 with the addition of old Nottingham friends Kasper Sandstrøm on drums and Adam Peter Smith on guitar. They make a tight live act and they've fostered a growing fanbase that counts Steve Lamacq and Anthony Fantano amongst its numbers.

With things on the up, Tiger and Felix recently relocated to London. I ask whether London still has a pull for up-and-coming bands, drawing talent out of regional scenes, but they tell me the move was made more for personal reasons than professional.

"Divorce has always been a bit placeless, which has been quite nice. We've never really thought of ourselves as a Nottingham scene band," says Tiger. "I think it's helpful being in London. You're closer to industry stuff. But really it's another scene like anywhere has a scene."

Judging by the heaving crowds in Kelham Island for the festival, independent music is by all accounts alive and thriving in the North.

There's only so much the band can tell me about their next steps.

"We've just been on a farm near Wetherby," Kasper explains, "doing some writing together, which has been really fun."

"We've also tried writing together as a four, and we're very new to that," says Tiger. "I'm excited to do that more."

Whilst their first EP has a raw, organic feel, the new material is set to draw in more synth-based sounds. Storytelling nonetheless remains the focus, something Adam sees as central to Divorce. "I think that's what our songs do – tell a story about human connection".

"The work of the travelling bard is never done," Felix nods sagely, and the rest of the band fall about laughing at his tongue-in-cheek musing.

Watching the band perform – Tiger in their customary wig and Felix sporting a bolo tie – it's hard not to get a sense of a vaudeville troupe travelling through town. With only four songs out in the world so far, but with lots of new material on the horizon and a busy festival season ahead, the roaming bards are only just getting started.

Filed under: 

More Music

More Music