The Divided have all the makings of a solid street-punk band. With thick, crunchy guitar riffs; precise, pounding drums; and plenty of powerful group vocals, their sound is reminiscent of classic working-class “oi!” groups. But their debut record, World You’re Living In, which was released last month through Huntington Beach’s Hostage Records, also bears healthy doses of melodic hardcore and even some bluesy rock. As a whole, the album harks back to a distinctively heavy OC punk sound of the 1990s as well as takes a creative step forward for the outfit.
Guitarists Pat Hall and Brian Celi, drummer Noah Lysek, and legendary baritone Raybo are well-seasoned from their years with the prolific punk outfit Bonecrusher. A self-described “working-class band,” their blistering street-punk sound and class-conscious lyrics made them a staple in OC since forming in 1992. Since then, they’ve released 10 full-length albums and even more singles and EPs.
Bonecrusher has undergone numerous lineup changes over the years, one of the most notable of which happened when front man Raybo moved to Hawaii. “I was living in the islands,” he explains. “I moved there for a couple of years and started surfing. And [then] I came home, and I wanted to rock. I was looking for guys to play with, so I went back to [the Bonecrusher] guys. But music just wasn’t coming out the way I wanted it, and I kind of lost contact with them. Then Brian called me up and said, ‘Let’s form a band.’” Thus, the Divided were born.
The Divided’s sound is significantly more diverse than Bonecrusher’s. The new band, which now includes Chris Lohman on bass, mix together a variety of influences without losing an ounce of punk urgency. Raybo’s voice ranges from an intimidating growl to a gruff, soulful croon. Melodic guitar lines reminiscent of late-’90s/early-2000s groups such as the Unseen and early Anti-Flag add another layer. And hearty group vocals on choruses and even simple “oh”s encompass the spirit of such bands as the Angelic Upstarts and early Dropkick Murphys.
“Noah does these primal screams, and it sounded so good that we all started doing it,” Raybo says. “So we really hit the backing vocals in the studio, and it worked well.”
Equal parts technically proficient and passionate, it’s fair to say that Lysek is the band’s engine. The percussionist plays heavy-handed rolls, flavorful fills and thrashing beats, all at a breakneck pace. Singing while drumming with such energy is no simple feat, but Lysek is a master. He even filled the front man role for Bonecrusher while Raybo was off the mainland. “I can’t stop talking about him,” Raybo says. “I love him.”
The band were quick to hop in the studio after forming just more than a year ago, which Raybo says adds to the resulting album’s energy. “It’s urgent,” he explains. “We had to get in as soon as we could, before we split up or something else happens.”
Perhaps the biggest change for the Divided is their lyrical content. Bonecrusher has always been a political band, as evidenced by 1998’s Working for Nothing and 1999’s Problems In the Nation. But the Divided write much more personal songs. “I’m so fed up with politics and bullshit like that,” Raybo says. “I just sing about family and having good times. I try to uplift people with music, instead of just going up there and playing a set and not giving a shit. I write songs about the world around me and what I see.”
This approach has led Raybo to something he says he’d never imagined: singing punk-rock love songs. When his fiancée, Wendy, was diagnosed with cancer, he felt frustration, stress and a plethora of other emotions, which he dealt with in the best way he knew how. “Music hits when you’re in ruin or when something’s happening in your life, and you’ve just got to write about it,” he explains.
Fortunately, the two are looking forward to healthier days. “She is just beautiful,” he says. “She’s fighting it, and she’s coming back from it, so I’m truly amazed.”
While some songs on World You’re Living In, such as the pleading, heartfelt “Suicide,” are a clear lyrical departure from Bonecrusher’s output, a timeless sense of angst is retained throughout the album. Tracks such as “Working Man” show the band haven’t forgotten their class-conscious roots. In fact, by releasing this album through Hostage Records, the Divided are celebrating a bit of their past: Bonecrusher’s ’96 EP Animal, on which most members of the Divided played, was the label’s first release, and World You’re Living In is its 75th.
Before embarking on a tour through Europe next fall, the Divided are working on material for another full-length. And you can be sure that it’ll be more of what Raybo describes as “songs that make you move. It’s a certain beat that drives, and when it hits you, it gets up in your neck. You can feel it in your backbone when it’s turned up loud—especially loud.”