Divino Niño Uses Old Friendships And Retro Sounds To Create ‘A Little Vacation’

Posted by Gus Contreras

Rachel Cabitt Courtesy of the artist

Divino Niño (L to R): Javier Forero, Pierce Codina, Guillermo Rodriguez and Camilo Medina.

Javier Forero and Camilo Medina — bassist, guitarist and alternating lead singers of the rock quartet Divino Niño — were childhood friends in their hometown of Bogotá, Colombia. They lost touch near the end of pre-school when Forero’s family moved to Miami. But years later, after Medina’s family had also moved up to Miami, the old friends re-connected during middle school. The boys’ friendship was bolstering by attending the same mega-church. That’s where they had their first opportunity to play and perform music together. Now, Divino Niño’s full-length debut, Foam, meshes together all those years of influence, migration and experience.

Back in middle school, neither Forero nor Medina had yet developed an interest in the kind of dream-pop, retro-sounding music that dominates Foam.”We were completely different at the time. I was listening to more hip-hop, and he was more into punk and that kind of stuff,” Medina says.

On his end, Medina says, he was mostly concerned with fitting in with the other kids in his new city. “I had just gotten to the U.S., and my English wasn’t super good, and I was trying to fit in. So I looked just like a Hot Topic commercial — like, I had the spikey hair,” Medina recalls his 13-year-old self. “I was just doing my best to fit in with everybody. I remember wearing a Flogging Molly shirt just because it had a skull, but I had no idea it was a band.”

Soon after they met as adolescents, Forero and Medina both became regulars at the mega-church that Forero’s family attended. There, they found the space to play their instruments and perform before audiences in church settings. Still, in other ways, their commitment to the church restricted their creativity and their growing interest in music. “We weren’t allowed to have girlfriends, to listen to anything that wasn’t Christian,” Forero says. “It was very limiting.”

It was only after moving to Chicago for college that the pair discovered the groups that largely inspire Divino Niño’s work today — namely, The Beatles and their contemporaries. Medina describes first hearing The Beatles, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Beach Boys and records of the ’60s and ’70s during college: “When we heard all this stuff, we were like, ‘Oh my God, we have been missing out on the best music in the world.’ And I remember thinking very clearly, like, ‘I don’t understand. From the ’60s until now, what have all these bands been doing? Like, everybody should be sounding like the Beatles, because it’s the best music ever.”

Even though the band is based in Chicago, the music on Foam, like “Quiero” for example, feels breezy, warm and relaxed. The bandmates say that’s to provide a sense of escape.

“I think our personalities are a bit softer and smoother and a bit more easy-going. We haven’t been scarred by the winter all of our entire lives,” Medina says. “‘Quiero’ has a very summer vibe. The beginning sounds like you just opened up a beer, about to hang out.”

True to Medina’s word, Foam does sound a lot like The Beatles. Divino Niño’s music, sung alternately in English and Spanish, wrap predominantly love songs in a psychedelic lilt. Medina and Forero explain that this lighthearted quality does not mean that their group is avoiding political topics, including those that concern Colombia (like the country’s role in the Venezuelan refugee crisis.)

“It’s not like I don’t want to touch on those topics — and eventually, maybe we will,” Forero says. “But I think that, at this point for this record, we wanted to just offer entertainment.”

“For me, I would love to give people a little vacation,” Medina adds.

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