The Division Men's named was derived from the idea of artists collaborating from all over the world despite the their locations. J. Portillo spent countless days and nights writing in his apartment in Berlin, Germany. He worked, recorded and performed with artists such as Mitch Hertz, Steven Medina Hufsteter (The Quick, Tito and Tarantula) and Fredo Ortiz (Beastie Boys, Money Mark, Gogol Bordelo). Although the collaborations dwindled, J. Spencer and his then girlfriend Caroline continued to actively write and perform together under the already established name "The Division Men".
Caroline was born in San Antonio, Texas. She spent her childhood surrounded by music. Caroline is the granddaughter to the master craftsman, Don Martin Macias, known for his handcrafted bajo sextos. Proud of the craft of her grandfather, she made an effort early on to make music an active part of her life by first experimenting with school band & later picking up the bass guitar. From 2007 until 2012, she played bass guitar for Tito & Tarantula. J. Spencer Portillo was born in Los Angeles, California but was raised in El Paso, Texas. His El Paso roots offer a huge influence on the lyrics which frequently present atmospheric portraits of love, life in a border town and death.
The Division Men is actively touring and promoting their new album "Under The Gun" which was recorded at their in-home studio in Austin, Texas. The Division Men has a distinctive sound that has been described as dark, romantic, ethereal and haunting.
"..a true joy to hear. The lyrics are beautiful. The guitar solo and transititions are solid and smooth. And the production is completely and perfectly on point. Wouldn't change a thing.." Aaron Frank (Rolling Stone / Spin)
"if you are in the market for a soundtrack for the dreams you can partially remember and involved some half-baked romance then "Dying to Get By" could be for you. This is because the song exists in the shadows, hanging in the air like
cigarette smoke that refuses to dissipate. It hardly matters that the vocals switch between male and female because the
sense of eerinees is all persuasive. Given these constructs its natural home would most probably be a scene from 'True Detective' where the sense of desperation is almost too much to bear." Kevin Hugger (Mp3Hugger / Indiecater)
"Holy shit this is cool. The voice and (female background vocals) are mesmerizing...There are so many thing to enjoy with this. The pure simplicity gives soul, and not overplaying the sections gives the piece even more weight. In other words, if you were to keep repeating the sections and creating a long story, you'd lose some of the impact and the listener might tire. Instead you convey the message perfectly." Alan Poyer (Awakening Dreamer.com / Fluence)
"Your mind will immediately think that Tom Waits joined forces with Johnny Cash & The Civil Wars within a dark side of purgatory. The duo’s 2014 acoustic effort – Under The Gun (out now!) – contains much of these spiritual feels that expect to be transported back in time to a saloon in the old west run by David Lynch. I can imagine J. Portillo & Caroline serenading, bathed in candlelight of course, the ghostly shadows in the room with all their “whisky piano blues”. Must be how their live shows play out. Keep yourself in that mental space while you listen. Heightens the tone." Bored 4 Music
"Their windblown, end of the world waltz is the sound of making a break for it, as the music seems to breathe with the scent of mesquite and dust. The Division Men are a perfect blend of rustic Western melodrama and ethereal beauty, like the theme song for True Detective with The Cocteau Twins‘ Liz Fraser on celestial harmonies. It’s rugged, and passionate – nearly violent, but unrepentant." The Drainage
"Quite lovely, haunted and moody." Maria Mouk (Cultural Catalyst & Critic)
"Laidback and with more than a hint of Mark Lanegan in their musical motivations, Texas band The Division Men leisurely walk through the shadows of Americana throughout “Criminal”. Needless to say, the song is more about mood than melody." Bluesbunny.com
"Definitely onto something.. honest voice & lyrics.. reminds me of Leonard Cohen, and a little bit Half step Tom Waits. I wanted a bit more arc, rise & fall, climax.. but all in all, a solid track. Very cinematic, as in, I can hear it on a TV series." Kristin Schloesser (WeAreTeamHans / Partner 101 Group)
"..definitely imbued with a strange, dark romantic and ethereal flavor that reminds a lot the merger of Tom Waits‘ vocals with dustings of Johnny Cash‘ lyrics and The Civil Wars‘ acoustic style. If many are the influences and the similarities, so many are the uniquenesses like the ethereal Caroline’s voice that seems to come from the shadow, or the intensity of J. Spencer’ lyrics which depict dusty western atmosphere, perfect as an OST of a spaghetti western movie. I’m pretty sure that Sergio Leone would have chosen a few of Spencer’s hypnotic chord progressions for his movies.
The EP, Under The Gun is like a movie and its OST: a concept album that tells about dark romantic stories of criminals, heart wrenching love stories and fatal endings." Undercover Rocklife
"Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits-ish. Intriguing dark vocal tone. Engaging production and arrangement." Andrea Young (Aspenbeat)
"Criminal" by The Division Men is a hauntingly Tom Waits-sounding tale, with a rather impressive accompanying music video. The concept of a narrative music video seems to have gone by the wayside, but this mysterious travelogue leads the viewer from Texas into the heart of old New Orleans. Well-shot and using vivid colorscapes, The Division Men have something to be proud of. It's not a gimmick, it's not going to go Miley-level viral, but is rather a respectable visual counterpart to their music. Wiley Koepp (Coyote Music)
"It’s pretty damn easy to do singer-songwriter acoustic stuff badly. When you cut out almost all of the instruments and voices from a potential song, the restricted format you’re left with can lead to all sorts of issues. Not the least of these oft-seen issues with the format are making songs that are too simple, songs that are too confessional without being interesting or songs that feature that annoyingly common tendency for people to “weird up” their voice to stand out.
The Division Men don’t trigger any of these warning bells. In fact, this acoustic pair writes deadly lullabies with just (for the most part) two guitars and their voices, and what comes out is dark music for dark nights. And it’s just good. Their compositions are brooding and manage complexity despite the pared-down format, and the vocal contrast of husband J. Spencer Portillo’s deep baritone with wife Caroline Rippy Portillo’s floating, hyper-airy vocals fits perfectly within the methodical, plodding structures of their instrumentation. It’s lovely night music for night moods, and if I could, I’d suggest walking your neighborhood in the small dark hours while you let it play around in your head. It makes for an evening that’s somber in just the right way, which is not a bad way to describe this duo in general. Get listening."
Vocalist/guitarist J. Spencer Portillo and vocalist/bassist Caroline Rippy Portillo’s musical output resemble the melancholic dynamics of Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell. Alternative Nation
"This quiet, shimmering beauty is created by vocalist and guitarist J. Spencer Portillo and vocalist/bassist Caroline Rippy Portillo. Caroline’s vocals come in like delicate old lace laid softly over J. Spencer’s dusty and windswept desert regrets, with wistful piano tinkling mixed sprinkled in here and there. “Whiskey piano blues,” indeed." Boston Survival Guide
"Under The Gun is haunting, atmospheric and eerily romantic. Listening to this album transports me to another time and place. I really hope they get to do some soundtrack work soon as I could easily picture their music in a western or indie film. This is my album of the month." Phil Russell (A Little Bit Of Sol)
"If your tastes range more toward the spookier, murder ballad folk end of the Americana spectrum ala Nick Cave and Johnny Cash, then this tune by Berlin, Germany formed, and now Austin Texas-based outfit The Division Men is right up your alley." Rob Jones (The Delete Bin)
"The Division Men is a duo from Austin, Texas. Even though the band name might tell you different, is not just formed by men, but the members are singer/guitarist J. Portillo and his wife Caroline Rippy Portillo who besides playing bass also sings. Together they make alternative, acoustic music with a dark edge.
"Criminal" reminds us most of a Damien Rice song, but with a country-flavour dip; a fine combination as far as we think." Zinsters