An interview with Chicago band, Diviño Nino
Divino Nino

There isn’t a band quite as sexy Diviño Nino.

With the anticipated upcoming release of their third full-length album, Foam, out June 21st off of Winspear, the Chicago quartet has been veterans of the music scene for a few years.

They’ve released four singles off of their upcoming record, which shows a sunny side of the band. The tracks are what you want to be blasting off of a speaker at a  Lake Michigan beach, even if Chicago stays cloudy for most of the year. And according to songwriter, Camilo, he drew inspiration for their tripped-out song, “Foam,” by imagining the beach in the midst of a Chicago winter.

Culture COLLiDE sat down with members of the band to talk about Christian cults, their professional backgrounds as visual artists, recording on old tape machines, and how they first came across the Beatles only after high school.

Culture COLLiDE: I know it’s been a while since you released a record, what have the past few years looked like for you?

Camilo: We have two records before this one, but we’ve never toured on a record, you know. We’ve been just kind of dropping stuff in a very disorganized manner [laughs]. This is the first time where we’re like, “Hey, how about we tour with this album.” Now we’re building the band trajectory from here.

Javi: We were never playing songs from the records we just put out. We were playing Foam, the new record coming out! We’ve always done touring wrong [laughs].

Guillermo: We also couldn’t always play those older songs live because of their arrangements. So we gave up a lot of songs and started writing new ones

CC: Other than realizing you weren’t playing the songs off of the records you had released, what were some other lessons you learned since the last record?

Camilo: After releasing The Shady Sexyfornia Tapes, we kept on trashing our recordings. We had all the equipment — all of us bought gear because we all had solid jobs — so we thought it was like, “Man, maybe we didn’t get it ’cause we didn’t have the preamp, or the compressor, or this other thing.” But we had all the things we needed and we knew that live we had an energy that people liked because we’d have people come up to us at shows and would be like “Man, you guys are sick.” But it’s hard to translate the live performance into a recording. It’s a whole different thing. And figuring that out was our first biggest learning curve.

CC: And what was the second learning curve?

Camilo: The other thing is that after releasing Tapes, we didn’t really know the music community in Chicago. It was hard for me to feel comfortable or feel like, “this is what we should be doing next.” I felt kind of cloudy. But after we started hanging out in the Chicago community and going to shows, I realized “Oh, okay, I feel more comfortable now.” And as soon as Alex Fryer from Dumpster Tapes invited us to a Dumpster Tapes show, things started to make more sense for us.

CC: Are you guys still recording on reel-to-reel?

Camilo: We did it but that hasn’t worked well for us. Right now we’re just going straight up digital as possible. We might just go as digital as it gets. Plug and play, man!

CC: Where do you guys record? Do you still record at home?

Camilo: I have another room in my apartment to record. I also have a little studio in my living room. We recorded the whole record there.

CC: What does the songwriting process look like when you’re home?

Guillermo: For us, I think the lyrics are really important. I don’t think a song takes shape until a feeling is conveyed.

Camilo: And usually it’s when we have a little gap of time, where we can be like let’s jump on a jam right now, then we might see something bubbling up from there, where we’re like, “ooh, all right, that’s a new song idea.”

CC: With the sound of this new record, you guys sound sleeker. Was this a natural shift or was it something you decided on?

Camilo: It was very conscious for sure. The choice was like, let’s hear all the frequencies in there. Let’s try to get it as crisp as possible.

CC: “Maria” is the only song on the record that is completely in Spanish. Because you’re bilingual, how do you decide to inject Spanish lyrics in your song?

Camilo: The only times Spanish has slipped in the lyrics has been when it came to me naturally, like totally effortless. But I don’t think I’d ever be like “Hey, I’m going to try to write it down in Spanish.”

CC: I’d imagine you get different sounds vocally with Spanish, too.

Camilo: That’s what I like. I think in Spanish you can get, you can say similar things in a different way.

CC: I read you guys talking about the grittiness of Chicago and the rawness here, how has the nature of the city affected your music?

Javi: I think it affects how we perform live, especially our vocal performance. There’s a lot of empathic, energetic Chicago bands that we really like. There’s a roughness to Chicago, like the Chicago handshake or Malort or even the weather.

Camilo: Opposed to Miami, everyone, even if they don’t really like you, everyone’s sort of nice to you.

Guillermo: What you see here is what you get. You get more face value.

Camilo: That is exactly what I like about Chicago. I feel a bit more grounded here — I like that vibe. I think it has been helpful for my personal growth. Like if somebody doesn’t really like your music, they’re not going to say “great set.” I like that.

CC: I was reading that inspiration for your song “Coca Cola,” came from the restricting but secure lifestyle a 9-5 job can bring. These days, what do your days look like as self-employed artists?

Camilo: Right now I’m home a lot of the time, that’s why I like we’re out talking here. I was working at an agency for four years and we were still playing music. I was living with Javi and another roommate but I would get home exhausted from work, you know, and then cook dinner, and then I see my bank account and I’m putting money away. For all my life I had been rushing for money, or a job, or get that 401k, and when I started getting all these things, I was still feeling unfulfilled. And with freelance work, there’s been less money but I can also be more choosey with the projects I take on.

CC: And the ability to not be stuck downtown or on the blue line at rush hour.

Camilo: Yeah man, it saves a lot of time. 100%.

CC: How about the rest of you guys, do you guys also work in a creative field?

Javi: Yeah, I build websites, and I also work from home.

Guillermo: I work at an animation studio, which is basically in a garage. It’s nice. It gets me out of the house.

CC: I didn’t realize that most of you have a background in visual arts. How does your background in visual work help with songwriting and/or production?

Camilo: Oh man, for me, there was this whole duality of whether I want to be an artist or a musician — as if there were separate things. But then I realized, at least for me, they both tickle the same itch for me. It just has different outlets. Music and art touch this abstract part that is unexplainable and it makes you feel things. You’re pretty much working on the same playground. And at least for mixing, it’s helpful for me to picture a room and decide, “oh, where should the drums be?” Or, “I want the guitar right here.” And just asking myself “what’s the vibe?”

CC: I read some of you guys are from pretty strict Christian backgrounds when you grew up, how did that feed into your musical identity when you were growing up?

Camilo: For starters, when we were in this little Christian cult when we were about 16, we could only listen to Christian music. But when we moved to Chicago, we started listening to the Beatles. It was like, “Wow! Music can be incredible!” It was like a big light switch was turned on [laughs].

CC: Who are some Chicago bands you’re excited about?

Camilo: Girl K released a record and she’s got a beautiful energy. Bunny is working on an amazing record. Ruins, too. Paul Cherry’s new stuff will be beautiful.

Javi: Deeper.

CC: And Deeper is also another band that took a few years to perfect their last record.

Camilo: Oh yeah. It takes a long time to process. The process is tough, man. That’s why right now, we’re cooking up new songs.

photo by: Alexa Viscius