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Tonight: Division Day brings 'Visitation' to Spaceland

September 2, 2009 |  1:09 pm
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With a fervor nearly matching the simultaneous subprime mortgage mania, 2005 was the year of the music blog. Between the enthusiasm for an emerging medium and the relative paucity of influential sites, the blogosphere became a hot house of unsustainable buzz. From Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! to Sound Team, from Birdmonster to Tapes N’ Tapes, from Cold War Kids to Voxtrot, the overexuberance could only breed disappointment when rookie bands failed to live up to titanic expectations.

Division Day, a Los Angeles quartet, was one of the bands caught up in the maelstrom, with nearly every big blog touting the impressive singles from its self-released “Beartrap Island.” The attention drew label suitors, who promptly promised to release the record and then went out of business. Local indie Eenie Meenie stepped in and pressed the album in 2007, but by then the initial cycle of buzz had run its course and fickle fans had moved on to blog-house (Ed Banger, be thy name).

The reception sent the band to a crossroads, where it plotted possible new courses and carefully considered its future. Soon it was sketching out demos for a new album, which it ended up recording on its own dime, borrowing from family, depleting savings and hoping for the best. Upon hearing “Visitation,” the finished product produced by Justin Meldal Johnsen (Beck, Nine Inch Nails), local indie powerhouse Dangerbird Records gave Division Day a deal, promotional muscle and a backing it hadn’t seen prior.

Building on the gains of “Beartrap Island,” "Visitation" finds Division Day harnessing a more muscular and focused sound, fusing frontman Rohner Segnitz’s black metal fandom with chromatic synth-pop melodies and the sensibilities of a band named after an Elliott Smith B-side. The result is one of the year’s best local indie rock releases and a happy ending to the hype hangover.

Tonight, the band -- Ryan Wilson on guitar, Rohner Segnitz on keyboards and vocals, Kevin Lenhart on drums and Seb Bailey on bass and vocals -- plays Club NME at Spaceland, with fellow labelmates Bad Veins. In advance of the set, Pop & Hiss spoke to Wilson, far right in the photo above, about the band's favorite neighborhood haunts, its "90210" name-drop, and the kitty humor website, www.icanhascheezburger.com.

Are there any random or weird stories about the recording of the album that stick out?

When we recorded the album, [Johnsen] would periodically stop us and pull out photos of LOL cats from icanhascheezburger and we would bust up laughing. It happened all the time. It’s really embarrassing.

Was there a galvanizing incident that set you guys on the path toward this album, or was it just a general matter of maturation and evolution after having been together for a few years?

We felt more comfortable this time. When you’re younger, just getting out of school and first starting out, you’re often in a rush to do everything all at once. L.A. has a lot of good bands and there’s an inherent sense of competition to be doing stuff all the time. We eventually realized that we had to focus on what we could control — which was output. What came next was a natural consequence, we looked inward instead of just trying to be at Spaceland all the time.

What’s playing in the band’s van right now?

On long drives, Rohner is into more experimental stuff like Ryoji Ikeda. He makes these frequency drones that sound like the road and blends into the road over time and helps get you in the zone. Lots of Mitch Hedberg too. I like to listen to the Beach Boys and, since the driver rules, my only chance to play a whole Beach Boys album is when I’m driving. The one song that gets played the most is “You Suffer” by Napalm Death. It’s a three-second song that we like to play at maximum volume whenever someone falls asleep riding shotgun.

What are the band’s favorite spots to hang out around town?

We love Future Music in Highland Park. It’s a great vintage music store owned by a man named Jack Waterson. We’ve become friends with him, and we’re always going there to buy stuff and get stuff fixed. Jack’s been in bands and usually gives really great advice. Farther down York, we like to go Café De Leche. We’re big fans of India Sweets and Spices in Atwater Village; Pure Luck, a vegan restaurant across from Scoops, near Los Angeles Community College. Our favorite Mexican restaurant is La Abeja, on Figueroa and 26th — they have the best huevos rancheros.

You guys got name-dropped on the premiere of the new “90210.” How did that happen and were you bombarded by MySpace requests from 13-year-old girls afterward?

We got a letter asking us for permission to use our name, and we figured it wouldn’t get put in. Our manager sent them some stickers and the next thing we knew the episode was airing. We didn’t know if we’d be in there until it ran, and the next day on MySpace we found out who watched the show. None of us ever watched the original, but one of our friends was working at [children's art studio] Paintbox Kids and saw some girls on MySpace, giggling about how they thought someone in the band was cute. It was funny.

-- Jeff Weiss

Division Day performs tonight at Spaceland, 1717 Silver Lake Blvd. 8:30 p.m. $10.

Photo: Left to right, Division Day's Kevin Lenhart, Seb Bailey, Rohner Segnitz and Ryan Wilson. Credit: Tim Norris

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