The New Division
I have been speaking with The New Division…
about the incredible new track, Jealous. The project is the moniker of L.A. songwriter John Kunkel – he reveals his path into music and what inspires him. With an impressive body of work under his belt; I ask what comes next and how his latest work differs from his previous stuff – he talks about touring and his start.
I was curious to discover what we can expect from the upcoming E.P., FADER, and what the scene is like in L.A.; how Kunkel met the band he plays with on the road; how he spends any time away from music – he ends the interview with a great song choice.
Hi, John. How are you? How has your week been?
Great. Thanks for asking!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure thing. I’m John Kunkel and I’m the lead singer, songwriter and producer for The New Division.
Jealous is your new track. Can you tell me how it all came together? Is there a story behind it?
I don’t remember the exact moment of when I wrote it, but I recall wanting to write a Pop-driven song and had sketched out some early ideas for it around 2016. Over the course of the past year or so, I worked on it gradually and had my co-producer, F.J. DeSanto, come in and help with the arrangement. As with all the songs on this record, he was pivotal in bringing them to life!
It is taken from the upcoming E.P., FADER. What sort of themes and songs can we expect from it?
FADER touches on several experiences - but also deals with some more narrative-driven topics. I like to write my songs as stories, meaning they’re a mix of the personal and fictional.
You have released several E.P.s so far. How do you think you have evolved as a songwriter through those releases?
I feel like I’ve evolved into a more self-conscious songwriter, for better or worse. When I started New Division all those years back, it was a lot easier to write whatever I felt as there was no ‘standard’ - and it was almost natural in a way.
Nowadays, everything feels overly-calculated. In some sense, it’s not as fun as it once was - which is a sign I might need to take a break and work on some other projects. That’s not to say however I don’t like writing songs as The New Division; it just means there’s more pressure to write better songs and that pressure isn’t necessarily conducive towards that goal.
L.A. is where you are based. Is it the best place in the world to make and release music, do you feel?
I think it’s a great place for both.
I’ve, personally, never really recorded much in L.A.-based studios; I do everything from home. As far as releasing music, unless you’re signed to a label based out of L.A.; I don’t see there being much of a difference where you’re located. Since I self-release everything, it doesn’t affect what I do either way. However; L.A. is very inspirational and the weather beats anywhere I've been.
Give me an impression regarding the artists you hold dear. What sort of music do you listen to away from your own?
Depeche Mode has always been the Holy Grail of lyrics and songwriting for me, while New Order has been what I’ve strived for as far as musical energy, rawness and Pop-songwriting goes. Their arrangements are (really) unique and their care-free attitude translate incredibly into their body of work...
As far as music I listen to outside of my own, I spend a lot of time playing ambient and down-tempo stuff such as Billow Observatory, Steve Hauschildt; Emeralds, Tangerine Dream; Terry Riley, Leandro Fresco; The KLF, The Orb and loads more. I also really have a love for Trance, House, and Techno when it comes to Dance music.
Vaporwave has also been a huge inspiration for me as of the past couple of years. As far as a few honorable mentions: Com Truise, Jon Hopkins; Brian Reitzell, Disasterpiece; Underworld, Vangelis; Massive Attack, Gus Gus; The Jesus & Mary Chain, Röyksopp, Air; Future Unlimited, Gustavo Cerati; Oasis, The Chameleons; Black Swan Lake…and the list goes on and on.
Do you have any gigs lined up? Where are you heading?
We’re planning an East Coast tour and a couple of dates in Germany this year, which I’m excited about.
Will you come and play the U.K.? Have you ever been over here?
We’d love to come to the U.K. It’s on our bucket-list for sure so, hopefully, we can make it out soon. I’m a huge fan of the U.K., so it’s a must.
I believe you have a band you play with on the road. How did you come to meet them?
I met everyone at different times, but Janzie (Keys/Synths), I met in college back in 2005 and have remained friends ever since. Alex (Drums) came to one of our shows in Santa Monica probably in 2012 and, at the time, we didn’t have a drummer, so he joined right away.
Danny (Bass) grew up with Alex and had played in bands together before ours. He joined shortly after Alex. James (Guitars) and I met through his solo project, Missing Words. I produced his first E.P. and we became friends during that whole process.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
On an artistic level, I hope to write more and complete more tunes. It’s been hard finishing songs lately due to a hectic schedule. I want to be more focused, creatively, which can be hard when you’re working on several productions for any number of people or companies. So, yeah; I just want to write better songs and feel like I’m contributing something to the wider Indie/Electronic community.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
We played a show back in Houston, TX a few years back. We played on my birthday and I got to celebrate that during the show with our fans who were there. That was a really special moment for me. One I’ll never forget.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
I’ve given this advice to a lot of people but no one seems to take it (for whatever reason)…but, I think it’s pretty important when you’re starting out: if you can write, produce and sing your own music, then don’t involve others into that project until you are ready to finalize it.
I think collaboration is great when you’re working on a ‘collaborative’ project where everyone’s involved from day one but, when it's your own, be the sole creator of it from start to finish.
If I hadn’t done that when I started New Division, the project would’ve likely died out very fast and I wouldn’t have been able to make a living off of the songs I’d written. Just imagine trying to split a record five or six ways with your bandmates when your total royalties are under $800 a month. Good luck trying to make rent…
That’s not to say you shouldn’t get advice, feedback or have a producer work on your record. It just means, if you’re going to put all of your time into a project and you can do it all on your own, why involve anyone else? If you want to collaborate with your buddies, set up a side-project where everyone does their fair share of work.
Just my two cents on the matters...
IN THIS PHOTO: MUNA
If you had to choose the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
This record propelled me to form my first band at thirteen; so that one’s easy.
Lost in Translation (O.S.T.)
If it weren’t for this film, I would’ve never discovered The Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine; Sébastien Tellier and Death in Vegas.
New Order – International
This was my first introduction to New Order; a greatest-hits collection. Without this compilation, I probably would’ve gotten a bad introduction to them.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
When at home, I have to make a concerted effort but, when I do, I like to play Fallout 4 (or any other similar game). As far as traveling goes, camping is a great way to unwind. It’s relaxing and one of the best ways to disconnect from the outer world.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song, and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Sure thing. This song has been on-repeat for years now, so figured I’d share it with you: Arnej - People Come People Go (Original Mix)
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