“Creatively, it’s freeing if you’re always making a right turn to go suddenly left because you now realize you’re on a beaten path, and anything can happen,” Guillermo Rodriguez, guitarist and occasional rapper of Divino Niño, says. As a result, the Chicago-based, Bogotá, Colombia-bred band has been able to ditch the status quo of how DIY-indie should be perceived. They’re forming a new route altogether, one where Latine artists of all forms can cross. Their new sophomore record, Last Spa On Earth, is the path’s entry.
Divino Niño, since its gradual rise in the Chicago music scene in 2013, has been brewing — whether consciously knowing it or not — a new sense of urgency for boundary-pushing sonics and stories, allowing their roots to take shape rather than following the footsteps of local bands in the Windy City. And in some ways, they did.
In 2019, the quintet formed by Camilo Medina, Javier Forero, Pierce Codina, Justin Vittori, and Rodriguez ventured on their breakout debut record, Foam. The quirky, 10-track album curled together indie, psych-rock, and sweetly bilingüe packaged love songs that never disappointed yet stayed in an indie lane while. But this time with Last Spa On Earth, there’s a gradual evolution — employing a central theme of yin and yang that serves as the duality of the world, producing doses of reggaetón and larger-than-life stories told in their native Spanish.
“Seeing that dark side is really important because it gives you more perspective on what reality actually is,” Medina says about Last Spa On Earth. “So with this [record], all the elements from fire, water, night and day are all there. That’s why the album cover has almost every element and [its] opposite. It’s about being super serene and having a super crazy party simultaneously, so that was a big aspect. And it was because of the past few years of chaos in the world, too.”
As the pandemic’s disorder halted the world, the group’s ability to create was also affected. But through isolation, the dawn of a new era arose. It required the band to share their tastes without limitation. Strangely enough, it started from sending humorous bachata beats every so often that ripened as concepts for what could evolve. Typically it was routine for the band to look outwards at the Chicago music scene for guidance. Instead, they had to rely on looking within and, most importantly, exploring their roots.
So it’s no surprise the record feels like an exquisite, cathartic release needed after visiting a five-star spa. The group’s new era allows a meditative dembow ambiance to smother the air, taking shape in the albums opening track, “LSE.” This time, Latine dance music has fully taken over for Divino Niño, cultivating a richer, more mature tone. With standout tracks like “XO” and “Tu Tonto,” both illuminate a neoperreo flare, a subgenre within reggaeton that takes flight in internet culture and punk-like spunk while weaving between trap and house that reminisce on the late-night club scenes in Bogotá.
But it wasn’t an easy transition. For most Latine indie artists, the feeling of being stuck in a box, whether in terms of sounds, aesthetics, or lyricism, is common, especially in a community dominated by white, cis-gendered folks. Luckily, the band decided to push the boundaries, taking flight into their own sound while immersing themselves in the vibrant scenes across Latin America.
“I don’t think that we were aware of how much we were limiting ourselves in the community of Chicago. Because when you’re surrounded with indie bands singing in English, that’s your reality,” Medina passionately notes. “So after we pretty much listened to everything we could in Latin America and the rising scenes from regions like Argentina and Mexico, we knew we wanted to be a part of that. I want to amplify what we see happening in other places of the world because the world is not Chicago.”
“[A]fter we pretty much listened to everything we could in Latin America and the rising scenes from regions like Argentina and Mexico, we knew we wanted to be a part of that.”
Every song on Last Spa On Earth connects to being an essential self-help guided journal the world needs to read, flushed with poems of the band merely trying to manage their lives — even when the spa day is over, and the party of mundane life has just begun.
“You can go to the spa, and you can try to enter all of the rooms that potentially have all these remedies and self-help advice to help you. But maybe at the end, none of those things work for you. And then come to realize that it’s a continuous process to be in touch with yourself and keep checking in with yourself. Hopefully, listeners can sweat it out and release, because that’s exactly what we did.”
Check out Divino Niño’s Last Spa On Earth below.