INTERVIEW: Jeff Berman Opens up on Divided Heaven's New Album, "Cold War"
As Divided Heaven, the brainchild of Jeff Berman, approaches their tenth year as a band, they also celebrate their vulnerable and powerful new album, Cold War. Released on July 20th, Cold War displays the band and Berman's softer, more emotional side. With a desire to create a powerful, poetic record that will touch anyone who listens to it, Berman found himself opening up more than ever about his own struggles with alcohol, anxiety, past relationships and the uncertainty of the future.
With Cold War out now, Divided Heaven are prepared to take their show on the road throughout the rest of the summer. Get to know a little bit more about the band and their recent release, and listen to Cold War now below.
Interview by Dom Vigil
Can you tell us a little bit about Divided Heaven for any readers who might not be familiar?
Divided Heaven is a Los Angeles-based music project; sometimes it is a full-band and other times it is just me, solo. Divided Heaven began as a solo endeavor in 2009 and has grown into a full-band. We tour quite a lot. We're cool, kind, and hardworking. Our music falls into wonderful middle ground between Ryan Adams, Green Day and the Replacements.
You’re about to hit your 10th year as a band in 2019 - reflecting on the past decade, how do you feel you’ve grown as a musician or just as a person?
Damn, I hadn't even thought of that, to be honest. Divided Heaven began as an outlet for the songs I was writing at the time. Pure and simple, stripped-down and raw. Now it's a job, it's a career, it's a passion and it's a brand. There are positives and negatives to each of those aspects (with the positives heavily outweighing the negatives, of course), and it has changed me for the better. Divided Heaven has figuratively brightened my life in so many ways: the wonderful people I've met, the shows, the miles, the catharsis of writing and releasing songs...it's rather overwhelming to think about. I'm not one to reminisce, though. I am perpetually driven by the journey and the next opportunity.
You’ve been involved in other projects prior to Divided Heaven as well. How have you seen this music scene evolve since you first got involved? How would you like to see it change in the future?
I've been playing music in bands for 25 years. The biggest difference from then and now is the significance and influence of social media on artists and fans. People listen to music differently and the path from vinyl to CDs to mp3s to digital streaming has certainly changed the manner in which people develop relationships with music/artists and how they choose to value music. I find people are convinced that their time is of the utmost value and they're seems to be a constant fear of missing out which prohibits them from being able to take a good old-fashioned chance on a band or artist and it stops them from truly being engaged in the moment. I wanna watch my words here, because I hate when people my age (mid-30's) spit out cynicism for today's music or scene while they wax poetic for a bygone era of music appreciation. So, I will say that I wish folks we're more engaged in music and less into what I had for lunch at the taco stand. Does that make sense? I am guilty of this, too, don't get me wrong. In most--not all--circles there is just less of a scene and in return we have individuals taking a more singular and individualistic approach to an artist. Whether that is better or worse is not for me to say, but I can say, for sure, that wind of change has been challenging for artist of all sizes. So, we'll see where it goes next...
You just released your third LP, Cold War last month. When you first started working on this release, did you know what sort of direction you wanted it to take? Did you have any major goals in mind?
We knew we wanted to make different record. We knew we wanted to create something more cohesive, raw and--to put it bluntly--heartbreaking than our previous records. We knew we wanted to work with Charlie Stavish again (our producer) and together we knew we wanted to make an analog record. Beyond that, we let each song take shape individually and hoped for the best. This process and attitude led to some great recordings and also some songs that weren't quite up to par to make the record. My main goal--and this may sounds trite--was to write songs that would incite an emotional reaction from people. Quite simply I wanted to make 'em cry, I wanted to make them happy, I wanted to make the tiny hairs on their neck stand up and I wanted to riddle their skin with so many fucking goosebumps that they'd find these songs unforgettable.
Cold War is definitely a vulnerable release at times. Can you take us through the emotional journey and some of the lyrical content of the album? What did you guys find yourselves writing about or inspired by the most?
Thanks for recognizing that. Vulnerable feels very appropriate. Cold War really spans a myriad of lyrical topics. Much of the lyrical content is too difficult to discuss in detail; it's just too personal. I will just say that many of the lyrics are about my complicated relationship with alcohol, my bouts with anxiety, my past relationship, the fallout of one of my oldest friendships, my longing to belong in a world that changes so damn fast, my fear of getting married, my own selfishness and emotional shortcomings, etc. I have always felt that my best lyrics come from a notion or a struggle that I am wrestling with; something that I am trying to understand within myself. When I listen back to certain songs I can hear that emotional journey within the lyrics. But, I understand that is my interpretation. The beauty of lyrics is that they can mean something unique for every set of ears that hear it.
What would you like listeners to take away from Cold War?
Cold War is our attempt to write a beautiful and poetic record. My hope is that listeners take something away from it; whether it be lyrical, musical, political, etc. I wrote these songs from a specific point of view and from a perch of a series of very personal experiences. However, now that they are released worldwide and Cold War exists outside of my head and my lyric book, the songs and their subsequent meanings are no longer mine. The songs now belong to the listener and are fully open to the unique and personal understanding of each listener. Writing Cold War was incredible helpful and cathartic for me and now it's not mine anymore; it belongs to whoever is listening to it at any given moment.
With the album out now, you also have some tour dates throughout the rest of the summer. What are you looking forward to at these upcoming shows?
We love to play live; it is our lifeblood. We guarantee a Divided Heaven show will be fun. Come join us.