Sound Seekers

SOUND SEEKERS: New Album From By Divine Right

Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani
By Divine Right’s ninth studio album, called Organized Accidents, benefits from a bit of studio magic that occurred during the recording process. Taking what are traditionally known as happy accidents and making use of them is what you might consider an “organized accident,” says BDR’s front man, Jose Contreras, 43, a long-time producer and leader of the psychedelic-tinged indie rock group that’s made a huge dent in the Canadian rock scene over the past 20 years.
By Divine Right is known as a launching-pad band, given that its former players ended up becoming stars in their own right. Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning, Leslie Feist, and Holy Fuck’s Brain Borcherdt were all once part of BDR, leaving some reviewers to refer to Contreras as having an “always the bridesmaid” type curse in the music world.

                  Contreras laughs at the reference. “I don’t think I’m the bridesmaid, I’m more like the priest,” he jokes from his Caledon, Ontario coach-house studio where he’s packing up. He and his songwriter-spouse Lily Frost, along with their two children, are moving back to Toronto to be closer to their many collaborators and band mates.
As a “priest” Contreras has blessed many in the TO area’s music scene, but after a certain time, he says it’s time to set people free and switch it up.
“I don’t like to be held onto too tightly—or to hold on too tightly,” he says. Contreras will encourage people in his band to move on after a time as he says it’s good for the artistic growth of everyone around.
That same free-spirited nature can be heard all over the new album. Organized Accidents is hugely groovy and jaunty with big happy harmonies and little studio-gleaned fuzzy bits. On parts of the album you can hear punctuating tape loops, the pitter-patter of feet, and the hinge-swing noise of doors opening in the background.
Contreras says those effects aren’t by design. “It’s not dialled up.” Rather it’s an organized happy accident.
In one instance, a friend popped in to the studio to say hello mid-session, which can be heard in the ambient background noise on the record. “When it happened, I was annoyed,” Contreras says. “I said, ‘I’m recording in here!’” But I ended up leaving it in, so I apologized later for being an asshole,” he laughs. “It’s how it all worked out. There’s a bit of vérité to it.”

By Divine Right and Magneta Lane play Pressed on Thursday, August 29. 8 p.m., $10.

Coming Up
The Folk Festival opens Wednesday, September 4 with Patti Smith and City & Colour on the CUPE Stage. Look for our Folk Festival best bets next week.