Article and phtotography by Alexis Paquette
When my friends and family first started suggesting new rock band Cross the Divide as a Spotlight possibility, I was apprehensive. Forget apprehensive—I was downright against the idea. I’d already elected one musician for a 2011 Artist—April talent Cole Phillips of The New Nicolette—and did not want to repeat the medium. But even more than that, I stubbornly resisted the three-piece Christian rock nominee because two thirds of the band consisted of two of my brothers.
Sisters are the harshest critics.
However, after seeing several CTD shows—several phenomenal shows that rocked my unrockable heart out—I had to change my views. Cross the Divide has only been around for one year, and already they are taking the world by storm. If I don’t get this interview now, they might become so famous that I never get my chance.
Even if two of them are my brothers.
VIP Pass: Meet the Band
There are three members: Zac Paquette (brother one), lead guitarist, front man, and general manager; Chase Paquette (brother two), bassist; and Trent Robinson, drummer. Together they form the cohesive unit known as Cross the Divide.
The classifiably Christian rock group came together at the end of August last year after Chase recruited Zac to form the beginnings of a band with him, and then the two of them together recruited Trent. Trent came to the table with reservations, but was won over quickly.
“I’ve been in a lot of bands,” Trent explains. “And a lot of them don’t go anywhere. A lot of them are just a bunch of people—I mean, any musician can say they’re good, and a lot of them do. But they aren’t. But these two… I knew their capabilities.” With this in mind, he gave the band a chance. When he realized Chase and Zac were serious, and were producing good music, he stayed.
Once officially a three-piece, the men were able to concentrate on their music. With all three members well-trained in their respective instruments and experienced in playing alongside other musicians, it wasn’t long before the band was headed for performing live. But the group needed a name.
Zac was the one to suggest Cross the Divide. “Everybody who has walked in Christian circles has seen the picture of the ravine with the cross in it and on one side is man on the other side is God, and the cross is the bridge between man and God. So I came up with that as Cross the Divide—that was the imagery there.”
He adds that the name works on another level, too: “Where we want to be a Christian message in a mainstream environment, we’re crossing the divide between the secular world and the Christian world.”
Behind the Music
It is universal knowledge that Christian music has struggled for decades to be taken seriously, with only a few select bands rising to the top—bands like Flyleaf, Skillet, and POD making the cut, while others fall miserably short. Almost anyone who will give Christian music a chance comes with a chip on his shoulder, so a band that wants to rise above has to offer something new and different. According to Zac, Cross the Divide doesn’t shirk the challenge:
“Our music is extremely unique. I have not heard any band that really sounds like what we sound like,” he says. “Most hard rock bands are typically quite a bit slower than we are in their feel. Our songs tend to fall somewhere between 120 and 180 beats per minute, where most hard rock songs fall somewhere between 60 and 120. So we’re doubling the pace. Genres where you would have that kind of speed are usually either metal or pop punk—or techno. And we’re very rock.”
The band provides a real show onstage, as well, mixing serious entertainment with the message that they bring. For instance, while each continuing to play complicated riffs with one hand, Zac and Chase will cross the stage to high-five each other. In addition, Zac plays each of his solos differently, breaking up the pace with shred-style finger tapping and sweep arpeggios; Chase brings stage-jumps to the mix as well as rapid alternations between playing from the bottom of the neck and the top; and Trent’s drum solos are show-stoppers. All the while, the band works toward a specific end goal.
“We are a Step One band,” Zac says. “We’re carrying our Christian message to a mainstream audience. So. What does that mean? Step one, we think, is helping people to recognize that they need God.” As he explains that everyone needs God, he adds that there are certain steps to getting to Him—first realizing need of Him, then being introduced to the one, true God, and finally living out a life with Him. “We want people to realize that they need Jesus,” he says.
Song lyrics are the way the band prompts their audience to consider their need of God. “All of our songs say, here’s what they weight of sin does. Well, here’s what Jesus did for me. Because I was a murderer, I was a whatever—I was a bad person, and I was redeemed by Jesus.”
Their latest song, introduced at the Night Before the Fourth event in Rochester, New Hampshire, called “In the Shadow,” is a perfect example of this. The chorus, which poses the question “Where do you stand?”, begs the question, as Zac puts it, “Are you standing in the shadow of the Almighty, where there’s protection, or are you standing in the shadow of death? […] Are you chasing after you don’t even know what, or are you in a place where it’s solid and there’s safety?—The idea of the song is just that. Getting people to ask the question, what are they living for? Where are they?”
Ups and Downs
Cross the Divide has been able to book a number of great gigs for a band that is new on the scene. Their most recent appearances include the Night Before the Fourth, an Independence Day event that draws thousands each year; the Northwood Summer Concert Series; and a night of rock at GroundZero, alongside Florida band Love Like Gravity. They were even in the running for Warped Tour, but in the end just barely missed the cut.
“It was really exciting to be in the running to go to Warped Tour and be in the Battle of the Bands,” Chase admits. “We didn’t end up going, and that was really disappointing, but that last month it looked like we might be going, and that was exciting.”
The band seems to agree that Night Before the Fourth was a huge triumph for them. Trent says it may even have been “the best thing yet.”
“It was really powerful,” he says. “There were tons of people that were very into it and excited. At the end of that we were able to walk away and have huge grins on our faces that we knocked that one out of the park.”
It is victories like Night Before the Fourth that the guys have to hold onto when things are against them. As Zac observes, “New England is a hard region to play, for any band. Particularly New Hampshire. People in New England stand against the wall with their cell phones, if they’re there. They don’t respond, they don’t want to come out in the first place—any venue is a long drive. And finding paying gigs is hard.”
But the band manages to focus on the good things—things like Night Before the Fourth, which yielded a number of new Facebook fans and even some fans who followed them to their gig with the Northwood Summer Concert Series—and on upholding their message both on the stage and off.
“We’ll reflect Christ best if we’re the guys who help all the other bands get their gear on and off the stage. We’re the guys who are there first, and we’re the last to leave, usually. We show support to the other bands, we are kind to the venue […]—we just really want to reflect Christ in everything,” Zac says.
CTD is now in the running for Uproar, an international hard rock touring festival that gives one local band per venue the opportunity to open for big-name acts. You can vote for them by visiting the Uproar Festival Battle of the Bands website.
Band of Brothers
For all the hard work of being in a band, the members of CTD remember to respect each other as brothers above all else.
“The biggest thing for me is just being able to play music with these guys,” Zac attests. “We talk about church—‘church’ being the people we share Jesus with—and these guys are my church. These are the guys I enjoy hanging out with and enjoy making music with. That’s really the coolest thing for me.”
They work together as a team to create music and to be a light to the world. Although Zac is the only one who chose music performance as his focus for college, all three guys treat each other as equal musicians.
“That was one of the things when Zac and I started this, and when we brought on Trent,” says Chase. “It was a matter of, we all wanted to play what we wanted to play. We all wanted to write, we all wanted to express ourselves in the music, not be a backup band for Zac.”
“Yeah. I certainly never wanted this to be The Zachary Paquette Experience,” Zac adds, smiling.
The band works together to make decisions on what sounds good and what doesn’t. If Zac brings a riff to the table and the other two don’t like it, it gets tossed, or at least set aside for later. Even onstage, when the audience is calling out for more at the end of a CTD performance, the band does the musical equivalent of a huddle to decide how to go out. If one member is too exhausted to do an intense song, together they pick something else.
“Honesty is important,” Chase shrugs.
Cross the Divide plays nice, rocks hard, and stays positive. If there’s a band anywhere out there to take note of—a band that makes it happen without the perks of a formal album, booking agent, or producer—then CTD is it. What advice can they offer to other musicians and artists out there who are pursuing their dreams in the face of all odds?
“You just gotta keep pluggin’,” Chase says. “Keep chugging along. It’s not easy. At all.”
Trent and Zac nod in agreement.
“It’s hard work,” he continues. “It’s hard to get out there, to find a place to play, or show your artwork, or whatever it is—and even harder to get people to be interested and come out to see it. And for a long time, it sucks up a whole lot more money than it makes. But you have to love it, and if you love it, it’s worth it.”
* Spotlight is a new series highlighting burgeoning artists in the community. It features artists of all genres and mediums and exists to inspire local talents to pursue their passions and revive the arts, as well as create associations and networks among those struggling to market their work. If you have an idea for Spotlight, or a nomination for an upcoming Spotlight Artist, contact APW here. Thank you for your involvement!
For tour dates, photos, videos and more, visit the Cross the Divide website www.crossthedivideband.com.
To learn more about the Cross the Divide street team visit and like their Facebook.
To hear samples of crowd favorites like "Planet" visit the Cross the Divide ReverbNation page.
To see exclusive photos from the Northwood Summer Concert Series event click here.
As always for bonus photo and trivia visit APW fanpage.