Originally known as Dive, the Brooklyn, US band was formed in 2011 by Beach Fossils ex-member Zachary Cole Smith (vocals, guitar), Andrew Bailey (guitar), Devin Perez (bass), Colin Caulfield (keyboards, guitar) and Ben Newman (drums). Previously named after a Nirvana song, the band became DIIV in respect to a 1990s Belgian group holding that name and their front-man Smith, has led the charge of this indie rock, dream pop and post-punk group of friends.
Like mentioned, band-creator Zachary Smith use to be the drummer for Beach Fossils, before heading on his own to create this project in 2011, having recorded a two-tracked demo, handing them out to the crowd watching his previous band, catching the attention of Mike Sniper from the label Captured Tracks. The band was formed, all wearing over-sized shirts with a rock-band defined feel, through their well-constructed sets when playing across Brooklyn. The contract was signed and soon followed the release of ‘Oshin’ (2012), a compelling melodic dream-pop album acclaimed for its wavy guitar/vocals, with a sense of unease raptured with krautrock and beautiful refrains.
This lead them to tour the UK with The Vaccines as well as the US with Japandroids in 2012, but trouble struck Smith when in 2013, him and his girlfriend, Sky Ferreira, were arrested on charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance (their car stacked in heroin as well as ecstasy). This gave them a bad press image, bringing about the dark comparison to Kurt and Courtney, labelling him as a loser drug addict:
“What happened to us was really shitty and traumatic, and it wasn’t something I did to get attention—it was the worst possible thing that could have happened at that moment,” he says. “I knew it was going to take a really good album to save me. That’s what made it so hard to write, and why it took so long. If I didn’t make a great record, then I’m done. That’s it. I’m fucked.”
Booking himself in to rehab following the incident, Smith had also been creatively stuck on writing new material, Mike Sniper declaring a certain frustration in his methods of using heroin to inspire his artistry. 3 months later, the first thing to come out of Smith’s head is “Dopamine” off their latest album, which was released as a single in 2015, with intertwining, dreamy guitars and an experience of abuse:
“When I see kids with no experience with anything talking about ‘Dopamine’ as a heroin record, I want it to be a cautionary tale,” he says. “Look at the words. Look at what happened to me.”
Come the release of ‘Is the Is Are’ (2016), DIIV took on a more mature sound by exposing their emotions on this album, sticking to their reverb sound but adding more piercing textures which resembles Sonic Youth’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ (1985). This put the band back on the map, with the record being a collective effort that had every musician behind it, even though problems struck again when bass player Perez, used anti-Semitic jokes and racist slurs on 4chan. Whilst this platform contains much of this, the band’s growth in a progressive Brooklyn was not seen well by many fans, nevertheless, Smith’s connection with Perez as well as apologies meant he would stay in DIIV. The band’s image to this day has positive and negative views, their fantastic record has advanced them on the music scene, but Smith is somewhat remembered for the past stunts that have engraved many.
To this day, we can see the struggles DIIV has been heading for, having canceled a large part of their European tour in 2016 and Smith checking in to rehab for the long-haul as of February 2017, it’s hard to determine when they’ll be back. The band has come out with incredible dreamy, indie rock material which has been acclaimed and I’m sure they’ll continue to do so. Smith wanted this second album to leave a mark and believe me it, I’m looking forward to his return – wishing him a speedy recovery as he deals with personal issues.