Every now and then a band comes along that becomes one of the favorites of the local scene; a band that other musicians want to hang out with, a band that forces people to change their schedule so they can catch their show; and one that attracts an audience full of everyone from music industry folks to original music fans. Divine Sign is one of those bands.
For the past year or so, you could just see the audience growing and feel the energy of something special starting to build. Led by Kerry McNulty and Lindsey Miller, Divine Sign really started to take off when they moved from performing as a duo to a full 5-piece band. The missing pieces (Michael Askin on lead guitar, Jake Fiedler on Drums, and James Stahon on Bass) changed Divine Sign's sound from a folk blend to more of a true rock and roll band. The best part was that the songs just sounded complete with the extra musicians. They didn't sound forced, they didn't sound different - they just sounded like they were finally completed.
Divine Sign continues the tradition of bands that walk the line between both the Asbury Park and New Brunswick music scenes. The band regularly can be found playing clubs like the Saint and the Court Tavern. And, they're usually on pretty good bills not just because they're a good band but because they really know how to network.
"I think these are scenes that should be supported by one another," said Kerry McNulty. "And I think we do that. Of course, I'd love to believe that everyone just wants to be there because they love our music!"
Divine Sign got a glimpse at how many people want to hear their music earlier this year at the Wave Gathering Festival in Asbury Park. Even though the band was scheduled early in the day at a non-traditional venue, the place was mobbed. And the people all came to see them.
The band has a smooth sound that is probably best described as country-rock. Their musical influences are revealed throughout their set. You can hear inspiration from artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell in their songs. In fact, their live show has the same flavor and vibe of The Band. It's both classic rock and contemporary.
The members of the band know that it takes more than just good songs to make a mark, you have to support your fellow musicians. This not only means having them show up at your shows but it means helping each other out and building stronger show lineups.
"We make a point to go out," explained Lindsey Miller. "We have jobs. We work really tedious jobs. Kerry (who is a high school teacher) wakes up at 6 o'clock or earlier, but we make it a point to go out to everybody's shows. If our friends are playing or we hear about a band that's cool, we are there. We have to support them. They support us and that's what it's all about.
"I still get excited like a little girl sometimes like when I was on stage for Kerry's birthday show (at the Saint) and I saw how many people were in the audience. I was like Oh My God! It made me feel so great!"
"And you know what?" adds Kerry. "That's never going to get old. When I look out in the audience and see Rick Barry and Lou from Status Green and Arlan Feiles - it's so cool. Because I love those guys and I hang out with them and we all go out and do our thing. We're all relatively in the same age group and we're playing the same kind of music so we're getting booked on the same shows."
Kerry and Lindsey met about 5 years ago when Kerry was in a New Brunswick based band called Nuclear Jackson Flash. At the time, they both worked at the Sam Ash store in Edison. Lindsey told Kerry she played guitar and they started writing music together. It was through that store they met Scott Stamper of the Saint and the name Divine Sign was born. But before that they were known as 80s Drag Queen...
Scott Stamper agreed to book them for a gig without ever hearing them. But they needed to come up with a name. While Kerry liked 80s Drag Queen, Lindsey hated it. So one day she bought a shirt from a store and the tag said Divine Sign with a picture of the zodiac on it.
"I said that looks cool, that would be a really cool band name," said Lindsay. "We're really into astrology. We don't like to talk about it because people think we're freaks when we talk about it. But we are really into it."
Even from those early shows it was clear that they were on to something. Between Kerry's sultry singing and Lindsay's harmonies, they originated the laid back vibe that their shows have now. Although the lyrics have gotten much better since then!
"When we started off we were just playing stupid love songs that we wrote about guys that we dated ten years ago," recalled Kerry. "What's nice about what we're doing now is that everyone who comes in and fills in contributes 100% to this project. Our songs become Divine Sign songs instead of Kerry McNulty or Lindsay Miller songs. And that's what keeps things together."
The band is currently putting every dime they make aside for the recording of their first record. They have a 4-song demo EP available for free at: http://www.myspace.com/divinesignnj
Divine Sign will be performing on Saturday, November 11th at the Asbury Music Awards at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.