The New Division Releases Expansive Dark Synth Pop Album Modern Life

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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best entertainment magazine in the UK“, synth pop artist, The New Division, has released his new album, Modern Life.


The New Division

John Kunkel, a musician, producer, and sound designer from California who is of Brazilian American descent, created the electronic synth-pop project, The New Division. The producer from Los Angeles started his passion project when he was 18 and moved to Riverside, California, at a time when synth-driven sounds were starting to gain popularity but were still very underappreciated by the general public. His music has been played millions of times on a number of different streaming platforms. He recalled wondering why there aren’t there more synth bands while attending shows in 2005. He felt the urge to start his own synth-pop band because everyone was making music he didn’t like, whether it was folk, emo, or just standard rock.

He started writing songs inspired by New Order and Depeche Mode, two of his favorite bands. The name “The New Division” comes a book he was required to read for an economics class called “The New Division of Labor.” Kunkel said that many fans think the name came from making “Joy Division” and “New Order,” but he didn’t even think about it when he saw the book cover until someone pointed it out a few months later.

The New Division on The Table Read Magazine
The New Division

In the end, he sent Peter Hook (New Order) a message to see if he liked the name. To his surprise, he said, “Well, I don’t mind it, actually. Your music’s good as well!”

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After first release in 2009, The Rookie EP, Kunkel decided he needed to move his music in a darker direction after being compared to other bands in the expanding Chillwave scene. As a result, he released the album Shadows in 2011, which is still a fan favorite today. At the time, Kunkel didn’t really want to be associated with music that was blatantly upbeat and happy.

By that point, Shadows had become an unconscious effort, with a lot of songs talking about themes like drug abuse, murder mysteries, and film noir. Even though there are a few love songs on the album, Kunkel explained that he wanted the record to explore subjects that don’t get much attention. It presumably didn’t help that he was working graveyard shifts on four nights a week, and composing the album during odd night hours.

The New Division started playing a lot of shows all over the world shortly after Shadows came out, opening for Peter Hook & The Light, Peter Murphy, and playing with Elefant, Shout Out Louds, Minus the Bear, and other bands from the middle of the 2010s.

Modern Life

After putting out four full-length albums, half a dozen EPs, and a variety of singles in 2023, Kunkel is living a very different life than when he started this journey at the age of 18. He is now married with two kids, and work a long nine to five. But the drive to make the music he loves is still there.

His new album, Modern Life, explores topics of mayhem, disengagement and escape, as well as the impact of technology addiction, and exploring a continually changing world. Hard-hitting synths, vast soundscapes, and heightened melodies give the album a darker sound than its predecessor, Hidden Memories. The majority of this album was written while we were all confined to our homes and unable to interact with friends or our families. Even though he doesn’t think the pandemic significantly affected him, listening to these songs in succession makes him realize something new about myself. Through the music he writes, he’s still exploring something about the world that makes him uncomfortable.

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