Albany pop-punk trio Young & Divine have weathered enough ups and downs during their two-year career to trade war stories with bands three times their age. But JP Clark, 23 (vocals/bass), Jake Mai, 23 (guitar/vocals) and Joe Bortscheller, 22 (drums) channeled every drop of experience into their irresistible, melodically stellar, upbeat self-titled RCA debut, which is set for release in spring 2010, and the album is a welcome blast of positive energy and amped-up rock that isn’t afraid to get serious, too.
The band got its start when Clark grabbed the drummer he befriended in a college psychology class — the one with the bleached-blond five-inch mohawk, Bortscheller — to play on the songs he’d been working up by ear (he doesn’t read music). The group took off quickly as a four-piece, but Clark and Bortscheller soon found themselves in the market for a new bandmember to complete what was now going to be a trio. They found their missing piece in a literal digital haystack: MySpace.
“I was living in Texas where I’m from, and I got a random friend request from these jokers,” laughs guitarist Jake Mai. Their energetic, catchy sound had him hooked and Mai quit his job and flew to Albany to join the band, giving Young & Divine their distinctive harmonies in the process.
After just two weeks of rehearsals all three could tell the chemistry was perfect, and the crew bonded over their childhood musical loves. As a kid, Clark ditched his piano lessons when he discovered Blink-182 and Nirvana, Mai learned dirty Adam Sandler songs on the acoustic guitar before finding Third Eye Blind and Aerosmith, and Bortscheller was convinced to pick up the drums for a Metallica cover band that never materialized. All three cite Green Day as a powerful influence.
Young & Divine’s first few tours saw the trio grappling with busted transmissions, stubborn germs, and shady characters eyeing their gear. But their shows were making an impact and a fast following of loyal fans started trucking to every show within driving distance.
Young & Divine independently recorded their self-titled debut release with Kenneth Mount and Zack Odom (Cartel) at Atlanta’s Tree Sound Studios, where the trio became acquainted with the pleasures of a 24-hour beer keg and jam-packed 12-hour workdays. But most importantly, their super-charged choruses, powerful guitar lines and ear-grabbing melodies got hammered into the final 13 songs for the album.
“’Shake That Bubble’ is about going to a club and it’s your spot, you’ve got the hook up,” Clark says of the group’s dancey first single, where synths and a bouncy beat complement a barrage of guitars. “And it’s also about what girls do at clubs – or what we’re hoping they do.”
The album’s head-nodding opener is called “Bonus Track” and the tune usually leads off shows, too because it gives Mai a perfect opportunity to spin kick and oozes positive vibes.
“That’s all I want to be around now. I was tired of the old ways and hanging around negative people,” Clark explains. “Strangers by Day” is what the trio call their hook-up song about “people you want to keep on the down low,” and “Nicole Deserved It” is the true tale of a girl who quit her job as a camp counselor to hang out with Clark after a show one summer. “She ended up being a crappy person, so I decided she deserved what she got,” he says.
With Young & Divine due later this year, the trio are itching to get back on the road and show off some of their new tricks. “I’ve been practicing an idea for a drum solo now that everybody’s going to be involved in,” Bortscheller says. “A lot of bands forget they’re entertainers,” adds Mai. “Our sets are dynamic but we stick to our roots: we’re a rock band.”