Interview with Jeff Berman | By John B. Moore | Photos by Paul Silver
Los Angeles’ Divided Heaven started out primarily as a solo outfit for Jeff Berman, but over time, they have turned into a fully fleshed-out band who vacillate between five and more members—depending on who is available to sit in at any given time.
“It was a natural progression,” Berman says. “I grew tired of traveling alone—much like the Jason Isbell song, [‘Traveling Alone’]—and I was writing music with other people anyway, so it made sense to kick Divided Heaven into another gear. I still tour solo a little bit; I just needed to amp up Divided Heaven’s musical intensity to match what I was writing at the time.”
Divided Heaven’s new record, Cold War—which comes out on July 20 via Wiretap Records and Paper + Plastick Records—was written as a full band, and that’s reflected in the sound. “The only difficult part of the transition, really, is rebranding Divided Heaven as a full-band entity and not just a solo artist,” Berman says.
He adds that there’s plenty of ear candy to listen for on Cold War, and that’s a direct reflection of their collective willingness to experiment. “If we felt something was weird, we went for it,” he says.
The band also didn’t shy away from politics when writing these songs, which is not surprising given Berman’s influences, namely bands like Anti-Flag. “Whenever I’ve felt despondent at the state of the world or the political climate, it has come through in my art,” he says. “We launched a charity campaign for Syrian refugees on Inauguration Day, and we’ll be doing more charity work in the fall. I am just a very political person, and it reflects in many of our songs.”
Berman will be the first to admit that Cold War is Divided Heaven’s darkest record. “Our style is just a bit more figurative and, dare I say, poetic and not so overt and literal,” he shares. “I went to college at American University in Washington, D.C., which is a very politically-active campus. I have a degree in journalism and history. All in all, I am a news junkie, almost to a fault. I get the news; I get how it’s used, manipulated. I understand the role that public relations companies play in creating the news and shifting the narrative. Having said that, I find politics easy to understand—it’s dirty.”
Everything nowadays is political, he says, whether it be music, football, pizza delivery—everything. “This current administration and its preceding campaign [are] an abomination,” Berman asserts. “The xenophobic, racist, closed-minded, sexist rhetoric of the fascist president was meant to be insulting and to mobilize a population base for political gain—and it worked. Therefore, it is the responsibility of those who oppose said fascists and such rhetoric to speak out, set a positive example, and create art that will outshine their hate—and be unapologetic about doing so.”
Those sentiments can be heard throughout Cold War, especially on tracks like “The Daughters & the Sons,” a song about the strong-willed women in Berman’s life, their positive influence on him, and the desire to set a positive example for others.
Divided Heaven will be touring through August, then doing a number of official record release shows around California in September and October. Starting in the fall, Berman will also temporarily head back to his roots for some solo touring, including stops in Europe.