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Divorce Corpse: Growing Up Post-Apocalyptic

Kevin Wildt
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Wichita’s Divorce Corpse brings together two old friends who haven’t played together in roughly five years. KMUW’s Jedd Beaudoin recently spoke with one of the band’s co-founders and has more.

Divorce Corpse releases its debut CD this weekend, but the quartet is not exactly new to Wichita music lovers.

The group was founded by childhood friends Matthew Wiseman and Kody Ramsey, who spent the first part of the last decade in the band Ricky Fitts.

Divorce Corpse also includes Martin Swiggart, who Wiseman played with in the duo Powerlifter, and Kevin Wildt, who was a member of Wiseman’s first major post-Ricky Fitts band, Polar Opposite Bear. Despite being seasoned musical veterans, Ramsey and Wiseman found launching the band harder than they expected. Wiseman points out that experience, in its way, can work against musicians.

"When you’re young everything’s new. Every chord you play, it’s like the first time you’ve played that chord. You’re just the most creative you could be. There’s no box that you put around your art," Wiseman says. "The older you get, the more that you become jaded, or you have opinions. It’s no longer, ‘I don’t like jazz because it’s too challenging.’ It’s now, ‘I don’t like this kind of metal.’

"But the genres break down more and more, and you just get confined into smaller and smaller boxes,” he says. “And ego is another big deal, 'cause everybody in a band wants to shine. Their band is going to sound like this. It doesn’t matter what you add to it. Their band will be Queens of the Stone Age meets Alkaline Trio. And you say, ‘I don’t want to do that, though.’ You have to figure out common ground. That’s why it gets harder, because you have more reference points.”

Those musical reference points were something the members eventually began to cast aside as they moved toward more general—and even less musical—places to start.

“We talk more about textures and feels, more than about this band or this song," Wiseman says. "We might talk about a visual format that we can all subscribe to.

"We say, ‘It needs to feel more like an apocalypse movie. Or, ‘This song should feel more like a beach scene in a monster movie.' It makes more sense to us to shape a song on a visual format that we can all subscribe to rather than say, ‘Well, punk.’ OK. Kody’s going to think of Off! Martin’s going to think of Black Flag. Kevin’s going to think of The Damned. We’re all going to think of a different approach," he says. 

Forming Divorce Corpse also meant that Ramsey and Wiseman could create together as more fully-formed musicians. Aside from a weekend-long Ricky Fitts reunion a few years back, the two hadn’t played together for the better part of a decade. Wiseman distinctly recalls the first time that he and Ramsey sat down to play again.

“It was like seeing your dog after you’ve been on tour or something. It was like this beautiful, overwhelmingly emotional but comfortable family feeling. I don’t really have the vocabulary to describe how it felt. It feels like it’s just supposed to be there. He can shape a song with no effort," Wiseman says.

"I’ve played with a lot of guys and sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to make a song happen. It’s crazy because when we started playing, he thought he was a singer and was a singer in a band. I was playing bass in a band, and we just decided that I wanted to play guitar, and he wanted to play drums. We started a band. From that moment, it was easy.”

Wiseman adds that the lyrics on the album are a sign of the times as well as his and his bandmates’ age.

“I grew up when the hippie thing was done. In the ‘90s, it was very apathetic. Everyone was very, ‘So what!’ So we said, ‘Screw it all! Burn it all down,'" he says. "But now it’s all burned down. So what do you want to do about that? Why not make a game plan? You can’t be angry if you don’t do anything to fix it.”

Divorce Corpse celebrates its CD release Saturday evening at Barleycorn’s.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.