The first thing you notice about the Night Divided is the bass. That's no accident: The Cincinnati trio consciously builds its music around distorted bass lines coated in black fuzz; bass lines that spark like downed power lines and vibrate with rhythmic tension.
The inventive bass parts come courtesy of Carla Cherry, who doubles as the Night Divided's lead vocalist. "She has a very great bass sound, but it's very specific, very singular," says guitarist Mike Fair. "The bass doubles as a rhythm guitar, and it frees me up to play like we would if we had two guitar players. We're more similar to how two hands on a piano would play.”
This approach makes it hard to pin down exactly where the band fits into the modern music landscape. But that's no accident, says Cherry. "From the beginning, we had a loose idea of the direction we wanted the music to take. I wanted it to have an experimental element—not so much with the instrumentation, but more with the arrangements of the songs and the lyrical themes. I try not to always take the most obvious route.”
Indeed, the band’s songs are rife with unexpected details and even more striking sounds. On ”Existing In The Parallel Now,” two versions of Cherry's vocals—one growling and strident, one higher and more desperate—intertwine to underscore the song's fractured lyrical take on the concept of time. "The Sky Is Acting Strange" has barely perceptible, whispery chimes at the start, which give way to boiling rhythms and psychedelic-tinged guitar shimmers. And the moodier, midtempo "Honor The Exemplar" features a lengthy bridge during which conversational chatter contrasts with simmering minor-key guitars and periodic wordless vocal sighs.
For certain, the band’s recordings are an intriguing study in contrasts—adventurous but not obtuse, aggressive but also subtle, in-your-face but contemplative. These same qualities give the Night Divided itself complexity and depth. "We've had a lot of comments at shows, and they're usually along the lines of, 'You guys are pretty weird; you guys are kind of experimental,'" Fair says. "I know it sounds that way, but it doesn't feel that way.
"But I've probably never in any other band thought of my guitar playing in such conceptual terms," he adds. "We're a post-apocalyptic version of what a rock band would be. That's exciting."
The Night Divided came together in 2013 after the dissolution of Cherry's previous band, Low Hanging Wires. After years of playing bass and singing backup in this group and others, including Cleveland-based post-hardcore act The Lovekill, she decided to form a project where she was lead vocalist. For a collaborator, Cherry immediately thought of Mike Fair, whom she met via his brief tenure as Low Hanging Wires' second guitarist. "I felt he would have a good opportunity to express himself musically within our alliance," Cherry says. "Not only did I like him personally, but his guitar-playing was just exceptional."
The admiration was mutual. In fact, Fair signed on without hearing a note of music "just based on the past experience I had," he says. "Right off the bat, I was super-impressed with Carla's work ethic." His instincts were confirmed after receiving rough demos Cherry recorded at home. "They were recorded in GarageBand, with a drum machine, Carla's voice and that thick, distorted bass sound that's on the record," he recalls. "They were basically solo performances. Even in that arrangement, they were really good songs, especially the choruses."
All that was left was to find a drummer, which proved to be the Night Divided's biggest challenge. In fact, the pair cycled through a series of musicians until, thanks to Craigslist, they finally found someone who met their criteria of not only possessing a high skill level, but also of being an all-around good person. Drummer Jamie Taylor fit the description. “I honestly didn’t expect to find anything too serious through the Internet,” replies Taylor. “But as luck would have it, I met two great people developing a great sound and strong ideas. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”