Interview with By Divine Right

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Canadian alternative indie band By Divine Right played Fernando’s pub last night as part of their coast to coast tour promoting their ninth album, ‘Organized Accidents’.  Formed in 1989, the group’s only consistent member has been original founder Jose Contreras, well-known for leading the alternative rock revolution throughout the nineties, and for his collaborations with other big name Canadian artists. Past members of By Divine Right have included Brendan Canning and Feist. BDR now plays as a trio with Jose accompanied by drummer Geordie Dynes and his nanny Alysha Haugen on bass. After the show I got to catch up with Jose for a quick off-the-cuff interview.

When you started By Divine Right in 1989 where did you want it to go? What were your intentions?
I thought BDR would be a mostly improvisational Psychedelic band. When I was younger I was so influenced by the 80’s, I had a band that was synthesisers and drum machines, then at one point I saw Apocalypse Now and I heard the Doors again so I started listening to all of my 60’s albums and realized I loved the 60’s more, so my goal was to somehow steer it back to something real. I really just wanted to make a cool psychedelic record and listen to it, and I did.

What do you think about what BDR has become?
The weird thing is how time changes how you view things. In the States we were considered alongside with all of the other Canadian bands that were blowing up at the time so we were playing all of these really over the top shows and getting great reviews, whereas in Canada it was like people just wanted us to go away. Then just 5 years ago I began getting all of this credit for stuff because I was there and I didn’t stop. I think my last couple of records are really cool and fresh sounding. They’re honest and they’re creative and they’re not marketed. There are a lot of peers right now that are going a little too hard. They could be weirder and sound a lot less manufactured. There’s something to be said for the idea that obscure music is better. I believe in what I am doing, and when I pour it on it feels real.

You also produce? I heard you collaborated with Hannah Georgas?
Yeah, we wrote a song together, Bang Bang You’re Dead. It was like song 4 on CBC 3 which is cool. I have a lot of friends who are really good at marketing what they do. I’m not really like that. Out here I’ve worked with the likes of Hey Ocean, and in Toronto I’ve worked with my wife Lily Frost, the Meligrove Band, Bicycles, St. Sebastian etc.

Your ninth album just came out, are you already working on anything else?
Yeah, I’ve got three records that are almost done. One’s a new BDR record which is super off the cuff, but it’s really fun, and also I have an improvisational record in the works. The third project is a secret which nobody knows about. The new BDR record is tracked live. It’s really unexpected. Its super scrappy, super amazing and we’ll probably just release it digitally.

BDR has really paved the way for Alternative and Indie rock, and they will continue to do so with their experimental style and ambient sounds. The current line-up is a formidable trio of honest, outgoing and sincere musicians who have a great passion for their art. Even after two decades Jose is still animated and fun when he gets up on stage, and has a modest outlook on his life and achievements that make him very personable. I look forward to what he has in store for us.

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