After spending time on the Vans Warped Tour, there was no stopping Jeff Berman, the mastermind behind the punk / indie rock Divided Heaven. Further touring in the States would commence, including a stop at the Hotel Cafe located deep in the heart of Hollywood, CA. Prior to the full band performance which featured songs from his latest recording Youngblood, Jeff sat down with Highwire Daze to discuss a few of the songs, life on Warped Tour, being on DIY artist on the road in Japan, and other topics of intrigue. Read on…
How has this current tour been going and what are some of the highlights?
Yeah, well the tour of been a collection of series of tours. This tour has been the first time this summer that I’ve been doing full band stuff, and it’s been awesome. It’s been something that we’ve been wanted to do since the record came out, but I was so busy doing all this other solo stuff in Europe and Japan, Canada and stuff, and Warped Tour. Yeah, and so it was good to come back. I had two days off and then we left and it was great. I think the San Francisco show was the highlight, it was great. Our show in Vegas last night was fucking phenomenal. So, those two shows have been the best and it’s just been so much fun. It’s been good to have the band camaraderie with Nick and Ben,
How does a tour like this compare to doing Warped Tour?
Well, Warped Tour, it’s like all days. and then when you’re doing this it’s pretty much all nights. And I kind of prefer the former, you know, but Warped Tour is like a 12-hour day everyday, pretty much. If not, 14 hours. Whereas, this is kind of like, you have to kind of be a vampire, almost, to get through it. I’m good at both. I would say sometimes I’m not very good at switching off between the two, if that makes sense. And then, Warped Tour, you know, you’re on a bus and when I’m on tour otherwise I’m either in a car, or in a van on this tour.
Warped Tour was just you and a guitar?
Yeah but I had a bunk spot with a band called Air Dubai, hip hop band from Denver. They were really cool. So I didn’t take up much real estate but I need that bed because those drives are just brutal, man. Overnight drives are just brutal. So you drive all night in this moving tube and then you get to a new parking lot, you wake up disoriented, you orientate yourself, you find where catering is to get that first cup of coffee then I’m pretty much good to go.
What advice would you give a band about to attempt Warped Tour for the first time?
Sunblock. Delegate responsibilities. One person hangs posters, one person changes strings, one person does this, one person does that, so that no one is feeling overwhelmed. I love Warped Tour, I really dislike it when I run into bands that were just like, party 24/7 because I know that because they were partying 24/7 they has people that they hired that were working 24/7. I get that that’s the relationship between a lot of tech people and a lot of bands, but I would say, just work hard. Just be nice, be fucking nice to people and work hard. Share the responsibility because that’s what makes it great. You know, I won’t mention any names but there are certain bands that, like, they just, they’re on the bus all day until they get up and play and when they play they fucking kill it and it’s great but they should, you know, I think it’s cooler when like, you know, you’re at the catering and you’re setting up chairs for the lunch cuz you’re just trying to help out, you know, you look to your left and like, the dude from Of Mice and Men is helping you. Like, that’s cool. You know it just kind of levels everybody out. You’re playing at different sized crowds, that’s for damn sure but when it comes to actually helping the tour succeed, and helping the tour get to the next stop, it’s the best when it’s a collective thing. Just don’t go on there with a rockstar mentality that you’re, you know, there to be famous. Work hard to make it.
Let’s talk about Youngblood and some of the songs on the new album. First, what inspired the lyrics?
The title track was inspired by, I had just gone over to Europe and I had a layover, actually, I finished at the UK leg of the tour and I was flying to Amsterdam from airport named Stansted. Stansted, which is equivalent to Burbank to LAX. It’s like not their main airport, it’s a regional airport. And I fell asleep on the floor, woke up felt like shit, and it was kind of as the relationship I was in was crumbling at the time because I was gone so much and I ended up having that first line of the song just kind of trickle down to the rest of the lyrics. And it really embodies my desire to be a 32-year-old….man singing about what’s going on in my life. Not a 32-year-old man trying to capture what was going on in my life when I was a teenager. So, it was a conscious effort to lyrically provide my listeners with something that was more adult oriented, more mature, vulnerable when it needed to be, powerful when it needed to be, kind of quirky and fun when it needed to me but an accurate representation of myself at this point, in my life. And in doing that, that will keep me young. As opposed to just trying to be reinventing the 17-year-old wheel over and over and over and over again. If I’m able to do this at 32, it’s going to be better prepare me to be able to do it at 62 and at 92 and hopefully..fingers crossed, at 102.
Let’s talk about (the song) The Worst. What is The Worst?
The Worst is a fanzine that was started by my friend Kathleen McIntyre. She summoned up the courage to do after her father passed away. She started it as a collection of essays, poems, short stories, but all true, all non-fiction, all first hand accounts of people in the punk scene dealing with grief, because she saw the punk scene as this great place for all of these ideas to come together. But when people talked about grieving or people weren’t talking about grieving and they weren’t talking about the mourning process and that was something that she was going through, and it was important for her to get that in a cathartic sense so she thought that if she was doing this herself that it might help others to do it. So that is where I did that thing and I sort of did it as a tribute to my friend Kathleen, and the lyric in the chorus to say ‘we are not alone is a lie let’s make it right‘ – when that shit happens you feel like you are the only person in the world and you are surrounded by empathy and sympathy, and sometimes in the hardest times you realize that a lot of that is fake, and it is bullshit, and it is posturing. People say things like ‘sorry you lost your father, he is in a better place now’. That doesn’t help her because she doesn’t believe that, so lets have a constructive conversation about death and the construct of death, the culture of death, the economy of death. that was how she was able to feel good about what she was going through, well not feel good.but feel more comfortable with what she was going through.
Melissa Militia, who is that?
I have never said. I never said.
And may never say.
Melissa Militia is a song I wrote about a friend of mine that’s named Heather Cowolick, who is somebody that at the time that was just never right. We moved on but we are still friends, its cool. Yeah, I wrote a song about her and it was probably the easiest song I have ever written. I tried to fill it with as much irony in the lyrics that I could. I also dated a girl named Melissa for a while, years ago and I thought that if I named the song after Melissa that is would be a proper decoy so that people wouldn’t know that is was about Heather.
Does Heather know now?
Well, if she listens to this. I don’t really give a shit. At this point we are still friends and it is all good. The feeling I had when I wrote the song is not there now but I still love the song. I think that it is a fun song to play, a really cool song to share with people but I have moved on from it, safe to say. I am not ashamed to say that it is about her. Not that she would give a shit but that’s how it goes. Plus, I’m in love. I have moved on, I have a new girlfriend. I don’t want people to think that this is his way of reaching out. No it is not like that. We are friends, it’s all good. I never told anyone that before. No one has ever asked me that.
Well, everyone will know as soon as this interview goes up online. So how does an independent artist like yourself, end up touring Japan?
I went there in ’03 with a band that I was playing with called The Boils, a street punk band, we were based out of Philadelphia. The Boils, great punk band, as dirty as it sounds. The promoter that brought me over there brought another band called Protagonist that I was in in ’08. They brought me back this year. It just seemed right, the timing was right. I had a new record out. We had talked about it last year but I wanted to have the new record out. It was a good thing to wait for. It was awesome. It was the same promoter each time and I just kept the relationship. Maybe I will go back next year, hopefully.
What could one expect from your show here at Cafe Hotel tonight?
A lot of fun. A lot of dry humor, which is a fancy way to say bad jokes.
No, but we love each other up there. We have good camaraderie. We are a fun band and when we need to break it down and be sensitive, we can do that too.
If you could open up for any band or performer either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
JB: My favorite band that I think that I would like to play with is The Bouncing Souls because they have been my favorite live band forever and their shows are just so energetic and they just have a good, familiar-familial feel to them. Who else? Man, I would love to open for The National, or fucking Motley Crue. Get weird with it, open for Motley Crue. I don’t even care.
What is up next for you after this tour is all over? Which is tonight.
I am doing a tour in the winter time. We are doing a full band tour in Florida for a week around The Fest in Gainesville next month. The immediate thing is that I need a break. I don’t know if you can hear it in my voice or see it in the bags under my eyes. It has been four months plus straight, even before that it was just really since the turn of the new year. I have just pushed myself really hard and I have had a great time .It has been the best year of my life I think. I am looking forward to just taking a break and just relaxing for about a month then I will be hitting the road again in October.
(Interview and Photos by Ken Morton)
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