Foam, out 6/21/19
Divino Niño are such experts at setting a mood that the Chicago band’s new album Foam feels like catching up with a lifelong friend. There’s an undeniable songwriting chemistry between guitarist Camilo Medina and bassist Javier Forero, who met as kids in Bogotá, Colombia and years later reconnected by sheer happenstance after their families had both moved to Miami. Now Chicagoans, their rhythmic, soulful — and at times bilingual — Latinx punk songs are a reflection of their continent-spanning bond and proof that Divino Niño couldn’t have formed without unlikely but happy coincidences.
This shows on the entirely inviting, syrupy, and sexy Foam. The quartet’s Latin American roots seep in throughout the LP’s silky psychedelic flourishes but especially on single “Maria,” which is sung entirely in Spanish. Inspired in equal parts by Argentine punk and the narratives of Mexican telenovelas, the personality-filled track is one of the most memorable on the record. Though it’s the first song Medina has ever written that wasn’t somewhat autobiographical, it’s delivered with enough emotion to feel real. Medina sums up the band’s ethos: “We are very driven by feeling: something that’s cozy, at home, and a little sentimental.”
After cutting their teeth in southern Florida bands, Forero and Medina decamped to Chicago in 2010 to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There they met guitarist Guillermo Rodriguez and together, the three became roommates in 2013 and started the earliest Divino Niño demos. Drummer Pierce Codina joined some time later and after several recordings and mixtapes like 2016’s The Shady Sexyfornia Tapes, the bluesy, drum-looped early tracks gradually evolved into the nostalgic, synth-led rock of Foam. The band started work on Foam years prior, recording and scrapping the effort multiple times. The songs eventually took shape as they patiently found their voice.
The ten tracks on Foam feature silky harmonies from Medina, Rodriguez, and Forero, wistfully romantic lyrics like the yearning plea on the title track (“I really wanna run away with you”), and sunny, honeyed arrangements. Songs like “Quiero” trade-off between English and Spanish with woozy guitars and harmonies anchoring the sweetness of the lyric: “I don’t ever want to change your mind / I want to be with you the way that you are.” It’s as close to a complete picture of love as a song can get, tackling everything from emotional intimacy, curiosity, and sex without a second wasted.
There are sonic touchstones that are fun to spot like the pristine City Pop-indebted production flourishes (it’s not a stretch to guess the title “Plastic Love” is a Mariya Takeuchi nod) and the subtle shoegaze of “B@d Luck.” But really, Foam is a love letter to Chicago’s vibrant music scene. Forero explains, “The Chicago community helped sharpen the vision and what we are supposed to be doing.” To the band, immersing themselves in shows with acts like Bunny, Glyders, and Parent crystallized how the city can and should feel like a musical home.
In fact, the band even recruited an all-star list of local collaborators like Justin Vittori (Knox Fortune, Grapetooth) who provided keys and auxiliary percussion while Luke Henry played slide guitar. Twin Peaks’ collaborator Andrew Humphrey helped mix the LP while others like Paul Cherry, Twin Peaks’ Colin Croom, and Mild High Club’s Matt Roberts lent a helping a hand with production. Though Foam is the product of so many personalities, backstories, and influences that cross genres and geographical lines, Divino Niño has managed to create something that feels truly fresh and uniquely them.
“This is us trying to find – obviously – our own voice and who we are,” says Medina. “Everything here is very heartfelt and emotional. We wanted to show that we are all softies.”