From the Lone Star state to Berlin and back, the duo that make up The Division Men have been around the world and in between playing music together and seeing the sights, they managed to fall in love. Now the couple already has one tour under their belt for the year, are still on a high after releasing their latest Under The Gun last year, and are currently working on getting more music out to their fans. Now on to what they had to say about where they’ve been and where they’re going.
Kendra: You both have roots in Texas, where you reside now. So how did things shape up and form in Berlin?
J. Portillo: I moved to Berlin in 2003 because I found the city fascinating. I had been there twice before touring with an old band I formed in El Paso. I had been living there for close to five years and met a lot of amazing and talented musicians/friends. I spent all my free time writing music in my apartment in Kreuzberg and was inspired to collaborate with the many friends I made through the years. I called the project The Division Men because not everybody lived in Berlin or Germany.
Kendra: What came first, the music or the marriage?
Caroline Rippy Portillo: Music definitely came before the marriage. Jesus and I met in 2007. I was playing bass guitar for Tito And Tarantula and his band at the time opened the show at the Wild At Heart in Berlin. We pretty much became inseparable after that. Jesus had already started The Division Men and was corresponding with several musicians, including some of my fellow band mates. It was basically destined for us to start writing together. But because I was touring so much, the bulk of the writing for the two of us didn’t really start until we moved to El Paso, Texas.
Kendra: How much have you guys grown and learned since releasing Under The Gun last May?
Caroline: This album was extremely special. After we moved to Austin, we built our studio and were really able to take our time writing and recording. This was completely different from our live studio recording “Live at Clap of Thunder” in El Paso. I think the biggest thing that I walked away learning from this album was how well we can work together and how passionate we are about what we are doing. It’s not always easy but definitely something to be proud of.
J.: I’ve always been in a position of having someone be in control of the recording and mixing process. This was my first attempt to record an entire album and play the role of musician/engineer/producer. I’ve learned a lot from the process. It was a different feeling to be in control of your own timeline and balancing that with your creative and emotional expectations. This album motivates us on so many levels and the process of recording it shaped our sound.
Kendra: Looking back, is there anything you wish you would’ve done different on that album?
Caroline: Just like any artist, there are always small details that you think you may have missed. Overall I don’t think there is anything we seriously regret. We’re pretty pleased with it and it evolved in the right direction for us. I guess the key is to take your time.
Kendra: Where do you hope to go musically with the next record?
J.: We’ve already started writing for the new album. Musically I think the songs give off a different feeling. Oddly enough we’ve written them over campfires and loads of mezcal. I think we’re better musicians and we are more in tune when it comes to putting together new ideas.
Caroline: Understanding our sound has made writing much easier for both of us. I think the direction of these new songs have more of a “night sky / living on the road” feel. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of it unfolds.
Kendra: What’s something one of you does that’s absolutely “Criminal” to the other?
J.: I don’t listen. I think it’s a blessing to have a wife/bandmate that can put up my quirks.
Caroline: He has to say that. I know where he sleeps.
Kendra: You work together and live together and when you tour you have to hit the road together. Does spending that much time together ever put a strain on your personal and/or professional relationship?
Caroline: We are “that gross couple” that actually enjoys spending their time together. I say it a lot and I truly mean it. Jesus is my best friend and he makes everything fun. I don’t think I could spend that much time with anybody else in the world.
J.: I always said I wanted to marry a bass player. I just got lucky cause she’s right 98 percent of the time.
Kendra: If you had to make a mixtape for your partner to listen to on the road, what five songs would have to be on it?