When the guitarist-vocalist Zachary Cole Smith started the Brooklyn band DIIV (pronounced Dive) last year with his pals Andrew Bailey (guitar), Devin Ruben Perez (bass) and Colby Hewitt (drums), he didn't expect the band to blow up quite the way it did. Smith was already busy touring and recording with his other band, Beach Fossils, but after DIIV played a ton of shows in Brooklyn, the buzz was unstoppable.
The band's debut album, “Oshin,” released in June by Captured Tracks, has earned DIIV praise by everyone from Pitchfork (earning the Best New Music tag) to Interview Magazine. It all happened very quick, so after a few tour dates with Best Coast and Wild Nothing, Smith was happy to find some peace at the house he's currently renting in Tivoli, a small town in upstate New York, before heading out for DIIV's first European tour.
“This was a very fast-moving band,” says a soft-spoken Smith. “I had to get away from Brooklyn, and the touring life is a bit too much. You have to show up every night, and you're the entertainment. In every city, you have to be the life of the party. It's kinda cool, but it's crazy. The nature of the job is that you have to be incredibly social. I had to get away from that, and not talk to anyone for a while. Out here I can just bike to the river and watch fireflies, or take a trail into the woods.”
Looking back on the past year, though, DIIV's speedy elevation doesn't seem like much of an accident. Smith knew he wanted to start a band that would stand apart from the other countless Brooklyn bands, and he was confident that he knew the correct formula for success.
“When I made DIIV, I felt like there was a lack of good, young Brooklyn bands,” he says. “Nobody really had the potential to break through on an international scale. I knew exactly what was missing, so I created a band to speak to what I thought the music world needed. Maybe it seems stupid to say the world needed another guitar band, but I think it did. The music we make is very simple and very concise, but it's also very effective, I think.”
Smith wrote the foundations for the songs on “Oshin” in a month of extreme productivity, locking himself away in his apartment. “They came very quickly, many were written in the same day,” he recalls about the 60 or so songs he wrote, which were ultimately cut down to 13 for the album. “I got in these crazy moods -- just sweating it out in my room -- so I just started writing. I was really inspired.”
“I felt like my life was slipping away, and I felt like it was important to do something,” Smith says about his urgent burst of creativity. “It was a desperate, lonely period in my life, and the record's a very desperate and lonely world. But I didn't want the songs to be fleeting and cheap, or about one specific time period, so I wrote about moments from my childhood, and every relationship I've ever had in my life.”
"Maybe it seems stupid to say the world needed another guitar band, but I think it did."
This tension between timelessness and rootedness produces a dreamy, drifting mood on “Oshin.” Like the names of both the album and the band, the music's initially disorienting, but ultimately familiar. Smith's greatest musical muses are Krautrock bands like Neu! and Can, and the expansive sonic visions of these bands effortlessly harmonizes with Real Estate's pleasant languor, Explosions In The Sky's heroic drama and New Order's pop precision.
“It's meant to be an immersive experience,” says Smith. “It was written as a record, not a bunch of singles. I think there's something comforting about listening to a record the whole way through, and to feel like it's taking you on a journey. That's how I listen to music, and that's the kind of music I'll always make.”
DIIV's European tour began on August 19 at London's Radfest, and the band plans to release a new EP on Captured Tracks early next year.
Follow Elliott Sharp on Twitter @ElliottSharp for more news and music.
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