DIIV is the project Zachary Cole Smith, guitarist of the tilling, Brooklyn shine-poppers Beach Fossils. Interested in some of his own ideas, he started composing blurry-warm bedroom rock for a theoretical, wishful-thinking live band. Eventually Dive (now DIIV) landed on the internet. Defined by glittery guitar yawns, splashing drums and abject synths, Smith looked accidentally genius. He’s certainly not the only person weaving dazed shoegaze and brisk indie-pop through a musky filter, but the curious energy of DIIV’s demeanor is remarkably resonant. It’s an aesthetic that certainly has its disciples, but few with the same songwriting talent. The band’s debut album Oshin is due out June 26, we caught up with Zachary to talk about guitars, name-changes, and the reduction that comes with being a blog-cemented “lo-fi” band.
You just changed your name to DIIV, you said it was because of respect of the Belgian band, is that just something you felt like you should do?
Yeah, I just knew that if the band was going to grow beyond a certain point, it’d be important not to have this potential conflict in the foreseeable future. And as a (new) fan of Dirk Iven’s music, I changed the name rather than potentially fighting for it. A name is really unimportant, and it’s easy to criticize when so much attention is drawn to a name itself rather than the actual content of the project, but I would never give the decision a second thought.
You’ve said that you have recorded over 60 songs in your bedroom, your songs have a sense of effortlessness to them, do you tend to write quickly?
Yeah, the songs – in their most rudimentary form – generally materialize really quickly, and then there’s a pretty harsh demo-editing process, after which I start to flesh them out more and more over time.
What exactly was it that made you want to start DIIV?
I dunno, I had been away from New York for a while, living in Minneapolis and in Seattle and traveling and touring in and out of the US, and then I got back to New York and everything seemed kind of the same as it used to be, just without me. And it was great because it allowed me to spend a lot of time by myself working on music, which I kind of always did by myself anyway, and at the same time, I was dying to be back part of my old social circles. So starting this band was my way of reaching out socially to a community that was kind of getting along without me.
You seem like a guy who’s pretty serious about the guitar, just by listening to the singles, do you think that’s true?
Um, not really. I’ve always played guitar since I was a kid, but have never ever taken it seriously. Playing guitar is just kind of this thing I know how to do, cause I’ve spent so much time doing it. I’ve always been intrigued by guitar bands, and this rock-band paradigm that has thrived since the fifties: guitar, bass, drums, vocals. It’s just so fascinating to hear all the different iterations and infinite subtleties of the different genres throughout different time periods all over the world who have embraced this simple structure.
The DIIV songs sound really homemade and personal, what was it like recruiting a band to bring the project to the stage?
It was pretty natural because the songs were written with a live band format in mind. I didn’t write any parts on the record that can’t be duplicated exactly by four people on a stage. I’ve played in bands before and seen hundreds of bands live that get super ambitious on record and then struggle to duplicate it in a concert setting.
You recorded the record with a full band, do you think that will change the way people perceive your band?
I hope not. I tried to balance the sound of the early demos with the sound of the live band for this record. But really, the home-recordings were just my best shot at mimicking the sound of a live band. It’s all just guitar, bass, drums, vocals; except the drums are all fake and I really had no idea how to record everything properly. I hope the full-band sound will inspire people to take the project more seriously.
There are a lot of bands that sound like DIIV right now, but you’ve managed to float to the top, people are talking about your band much more than all the other lo-fi pop bands in the world, is that somehing you’re cognizant of?
I wouldn’t really consider us a lo-fi pop band. I see the whole lo-fi thing not as being a movement, musically, but rather as being a means of conveying a variety of movements. Lo-fi is just freedom from money and studios and record label contracts. It’s making something on your own. There’s no cohesive lo-fi scene or anything like that. It’s just the only way I knew how to get my ideas across. And our new record is far from lo-fi, it’s cleanly recorded and all the decisions are aesthetic rather than practical.
You’ve played with Beach Fossils for a while, but your own thing is certainly taking off right now, do you plan on staying with that band through the future?
Yeah, Beach Fossils are my best friends and I owe them all a lot for inspiring/helping DIIV along since its creation. I couldn’t leave them.