There’s a reason every 613 punk sounded extra raspy when they woke up hungover on Saturday morning.
Ottawa got a sweat-soaked close-up of contemporary, high-voltage Portlandian punk on the weekend. This past Friday, April 3, the highly-acclaimed boys of DIVERS managed to fit our sleepy Capital into their North American tour schedule for the very first time.
Awash in PBR, body odor and unkempt facial scruff, this eccentric West coast foursome were given a very enthusiastic welcome to House of Targ, care of a drunken, mixed bag crowd of grey-haired punks and rosy-cheeked youth.
DIVERS, whose band name was decided on “just because it sounded cool,” is comprised of Harrison Rapp (guitar and vocals), Seth Rapp (lead guitar), James Deegan (bass) and Colby Hulsey (drums).
Their skin-and-bone sparkplug of a frontman, Harrison, is the oldest in the group – and also happens to be the elder brother to DIVERS’ much less extroverted but equally-talented lead guitarist, Seth.
These unassumingly powerful brothers, along with their bassist, James, originally hail from Las Vegas, Nevada and have lived in Portland now for a little under a decade.
Harrison says he relocated to Portland after visiting when he was 12. “Back then I loved the rain because I was from the desert,” he says. “I thought it was a beautiful place to skateboard. Plus I could tell there was a good music scene. I just sort of fell in love with it.”
Harrison says that the band’s chemistry seems to mesh now with the addition of their latest, Colby. “Henderson [DIVERS’ previous drummer] was really great to play with. He had a lot of passion, but at some point it was just time to go our separate ways,” he explains.
“We’d been playing with Colby forever – and he’s definitely one of the best drummers I know. He’s brilliant. There’s no other people I’d rather be playing with right now. It’s just perfect to me.”
DIVERS’ show on Friday was patiently awaited as Ottawa’s female-fronted Nightshades and Toronto’s grungy, post-punk Mass each opened with two exceptionally energizing and juxtaposing performances. Suffice to say the small, communal Targ stage was sufficiently warmed up and poised for noise by the time DIVERS mounted it.
At first glance, the boys of DIVERS are relatively typical – donning staple wool toques, lanyards-tucked-into-the-back-pocket, coupled with the indifferent-holes-in-the-shirt-worn-over-tight-worn-in-jeans look. But when these guys started up just after midnight, there wasn’t a stagnant or sober body in the house.
Their sound is that of slow burning, psychedelic indie rock, carefully weaved into a strong smattering of British vintage punk.
Seth says it’s pretty hard to pigeon hole their genre, but that someone once called them ‘punk ‘n roll.’ “I feel like it differs from song to song,” he says. “We like a lot of different shit, and we try to squeeze it all in there in one way or another.”
Harrison’s stage presence is reminiscent of Bowie on coke and whiskey, with just a hint of neurotic androgyny. He’s easy to fall in love with, and seriously fun to watch.
Channelling the energy that only four young dudes who just released their first black wax could possibly channel, it’s clear that a lot of blood, sweat and beers went into their latest album release, Hello Hello – pressed for the first time in February 2015.
According to Seth, the guys are hoping to tour Europe to promote their latest album either later this year, or early next. “We’re hoping to fit Japan in there, too,” he adds.
When asked what he thought of Ottawa and House of Targ Harrison was quick to note that “that was one of our favourite shows on the tour. That was a fun show. The whole basement, rock and roll vibe felt very comfortable.”
They say twenty and thirty-somethings move to Portland to ‘retire.’ In this case, I’d say they moved to rock.
If you ever get a chance to see these guys live, do it.