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On March 6th, 2011, I received a birthday gift from my friends, Rachel & Thu. It was a journal, beautifully decorated with vintage Cold War-era Berlin street maps & German descriptions of the Berlin Wall pasted to the front and back covers. They knew I had lived in Berlin previously and that my time there studying was coupled with time writing songs. The decorations were meant to inspire me again much like I had been inspired in Berlin; to write with no pressure and no expectations.
At this point, I was living in Los Angeles, working full-time at a museum and part-time at a restaurant while also working to get Divided Heaven off the ground. I was lost in a new city trying to make new friends, trying to crack into a new scene, all while balancing the difficulties of a long-term relationship and a non-profit career. I had just finished recording the debut Divided Heaven album, A Rival City. I had other fledgling bands and was feeling dull and uninspired by the doldrums of a 9-to-5 life. Music was not my main focus for the first time in a long time and it weighed heavily on me everyday as I sat on the crowded city buses, in horrible LA traffic, to and from work. That time felt like a burden until I put that journal to good use.
It’s odd how blank paper can be so intimidating. Something that can provide its user with nearly unlimited possibilities and can capture your imagination in countless ways, can also feel unbelievably daunting. I started slow and began to write again. The songs were about my new experiences: topics such as office politics, marriage pressure, surfing, adapting to Los Angeles, living thousands of miles from where I grew up, looking into my thirties, seeing my friends climb the ladders of success while I just sat there on that number 7 bus crawling down Pico Boulevard wondering what the hell I was doing with my life…. I just kept writing songs and I haven’t stopped. That journal, in many ways, became my best friend, my sanctuary and my weapon.
Some of the songs written in that time period went to other bands, some faded into obscurity, some went into the vault never to be heard again and some landed on the Divided Heaven album, Youngblood. The songs on this record, Pacific Avenue, were written in that time period as well. We later recorded the songs, (mostly) live in the studio.
When I hear these songs I hear a different side of Divided Heaven: I hear the buses, I hear the doldrums, I hear the evening waves crashing on the beach, I hear my vibrant Venice neighborhood, I hear Ben and I working through ideas in his shoebox apartment, I hear myself wading through the complications of adulthood, I hear myself struggling to love and be loved, and I hear a part of myself that was longing for more and achin’ to be. I hear myself trying to be friends with Los Angeles and feeling nothing but indifference in return, and yet these songs could’ve only come to be in Los Angeles.
Sometimes you simply have to write for yourself and let the imperfections and brutal honesty thrive. In doing so, I found what I was looking for. Thank you for listening, I hope you enjoy and please know:
the best is yet to come. xoxo Jeff
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