This Texas bred, Husband / Wife, Acoustic Duo originally formed in Berlin, Germany in 2008. They are now based in Austin, TX. The band is made up of founder J. Spencer Portillo (vocals / acoustic guitar) and Caroline Rippy Portillo (vocals / bass guitar).
The Division Men's name was derived from the idea of artists collaborating from all over the world despite their locations. Originally formed in Berlin in 2008, the duo wrote and recorded and eventually returned to Texas.
Caroline was born in San Antonio, Texas. 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 and death in a border town.
The Division Men are actively touring and promoting their latest album "Niños Del Sol " which was recorded at their in-home studio in Austin, Texas. The Division Men have a distinctive sound that has been described as dark, romantic, ethereal, and haunting. The album features Rafael Gayol (Leonard Cohen), Steven Hufsteter (The Quick | Tito and Tarantula | Del Shannon), Jay Reynolds (Asleep at the Wheel), Javier Escovedo (The Zeros | True Believers) , Mitch Hertz (Bloody Kids), Raiye Rippy and Jake Garcia (The Black Angels).
"The Division Men are Caroline R. Portillo and J. Spencer Portillo. A husband and wife duo from Austin by way of Berlin where they originally formed in 2008. Their song “Heaven Knows Why” is cinematic and I can imagine driving Devil’s Backbone, a precarious stretch of road outside of Austin, at night in a beat up V8 Mustang with this as the soundtrack. It’s dark and eerie and evokes images of deserted ranches illuminated by an expanse of cold unforgiving stars. Behind the upfront acoustic guitar is a sea of lush instrumentation. Piano and chimes swell and ebb beneath Caroline R. Portillo’s voice and convey a penetrating sense of foreboding that lingers after the song is finished. It feels like a hymn to the unknown and forgotten. The chorus is sung with a sad weariness that resonates within its spiritual entanglement and reminds us that we’ll never have the answers. It’s a beautiful resignation to the vulnerable nature of our tenuous existence." For The Love Of Bands (Bruce Wilson)
"The Division Men‘s latest album gives you the feeling that it has just blown in from the desert, in much the same way that Clint Eastwood emerged in High Plains Drifter, and this is an album that carries the same feeling of haunting windswept menace. This is not an album that suddenly bursts into life, the tumbleweed continues to blow across the album as they maintain the style across the ten tracks, and almost hour long run time. Given the guest appearances on the album from worlds of punk, stoner and psyche rock this is a somewhat unexpected album, and there may well be some scratching of heads if the album is bought on this basis, but given time you may well find that Niños Del Sol‘s dusty charms grow on you.
With Niños Del Sol it seems The Division Men have managed to release an full length that sits somewhere between Mark Lanegan era Queens Of The Stone Age, Nick Cave and Johnny Cash‘s American series of albums, to me Niños Del Sol sounds like an album crafted for late nights that run into early mornings where the bourbon has been poured freely and the air is heavy with smoke. I have no doubt that you will find Niños Del Sol to be a windswept and mysterious album of Americana, but it’s also one that can be strangely compelling and hypnotic when the mood is right." The Punk Site (AJ Phink)
"Stunning musical Americana in noire; the Division Men’s “Heaven Knows Why” is heavenly. Grounded, grim and steady, this tune lurches deep into your psyche; a freight train of thoughts on tracks to an abyss. No stops. It’s dark, pleading country music with haunting, cantering rhythm.
“Can you see the storm upon us?” It’s pouring. Silver sheets assail you. Blinking against a wall of wet, you rush to cover. An old elm stoops over you, gathers you up in all its arms. Together you face the death of day as night usurps its throne. “Did you feel the ground beneath you?”
Surprisingly, one half of the Division Men duo is a woman. Her vocals tell a tentative tale throughout the song – lighting mental passageways like a distant candle. Together, the two paint a musical picture in chiaroscuro; high-contrast between dark and light. It’s the subtleties of “Heaven Knows Why” that help it stand out against the backdrop. Vinyl transients, splashes of pitched keys and radio-fuzz voice transitions…add in the visual experience of the video and you’ve got yourself a Texan Tim Burton-esque track worth tuning into. Up for the night, with a spot of rain, a rocking chair and a heavy mind? Lean back and give the Division Men a listen." Odd Nugget (Jeff Mitchell)
"Our favorite desert noir duo, The Division Men is on the cusp of an exciting new album, their third full-length release. Titled Niños Del Sol, it’s a deliciously romantic stew of acoustic and electric guitars, sensuous saxophone, delicately played piano and touches of percussion that lace in and out while J. Spencer Portillo and wife Caroline Rippy Portillo spin their vocal magic. The result is breathtaking. The music strongly conjures heady, exotic desert evenings along the Southern border. Each song moves seamlessly into the next like a lush and inviting soundtrack, but particular standouts include “Heaven Knows Why”, “Fall,” “Marionette” and the title track “Niños Del Sol,” which is spectacularly beautiful." Boston Survival Guide (Julie Stoller)
"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
"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 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
"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." The Deli
"I'm really enjoying this off the bat. The production is warm and the guitar melody reminds me of recent great indie bands like Girls and Pure X. The female vocals and effects on the chorus are a brilliant touch, uncovering a more tender layer that might have not otherwise been felt. This song is a true joy to hear, and I appreciate the submission. The lyrics are beautiful. The guitar solo and transitions are solid and smooth. And the production is completely and perfectly on point. Wouldn't change a thing about this song, and as I mentioned before, it's been a pleasure to listen. I'll be following you on Soundcloud after this, and feel free to keep me updated on your music." Aaron Frank (Rolling Stone / Spin)
"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 – 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
"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." Zinesters
"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)
"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 eeriness 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)