The four-piece Brooklyn band was formed in 2011 by Zachary Cole Smith, the former guitarist of label-mates Beach Fossils, bringing musicians Devin Ruben Perez, Andrew Bailey, and Colby Hewitt into the mix to complete the lineup.
Part of DIIV’s quick rise to recognition has to do with the band saturating the local scene in the beginning, playing shows as much as possible and rarely saying no to any bills. This was a strategy to get the name out there, because, as Smith put it, “a show isn’t a special thing if nobody is into you.”
The band’s creation was also a response to the perceived sameness of the scene; Smith started something that was purposely different in hopes of affecting the music being made from that point on.
“That’s why we started this band,” he said. “‘Cause the scene sucks so bad.”
Naturally, his comment wasn’t meant as a jab at Brooklyn bands, so much as an explanation of finding a need or gap in the scene and fulfilling it.
“It was just easy because there [were] no guitar-based bands,” seconded Bailey. “So as soon as we…started to do something that didn’t sound like all the other stuff, people automatically just started going.”
Now that the group has started touring more regularly outside of New York, the members turn down a lot of opportunities similar to those in the beginning because it can afford to be selective.
“We graduated from that scene fast,” Smith explained, pointing to DIIV setting its sights on bigger things. “Not that we left it behind, but I try not to associate with it.”
Shortly after the June release of the debut album, “Oshin,” DIIV came to Berlin and played 2 sold-out shows, returning again in November for another.
The album made a lot of waves in the indie pop community for its resemblance to the C86 sound, although Smith has noted that Krautrock, world music, and a lot of Nirvana were also inspirational in its formation. The music itself was written by Smith in his bedroom, although “with the band in mind,” but now he hopes that future songs will be written more collaboratively.
Interestingly enough, although Smith has been in bands before, DIIV was his first foray into writing he music.
“I’d never really written songs…before,” he said. “[Beach Fossils] didn’t really teach me anything about songwriting. It mostly just taught me about how to start a band, how to play shows, and how to put the whole thing together, what you need to do, and who you need to surround yourself with.”
Additionally, he shared that it taught him a lot about what not do to, an idea the other members seconded in regards to their own previous bands.
While things may seem glamorous for the members of DIIV, all four insist that they are not only poor, but that life on the road can wear them down, and at the cost of sacrificing their social lives.
“It’s just not the kind of thing that’s suited to have a mature lifestyle,” Smith said. “Okay, like, what are the things that make you an adult? Like, having a place to live, like, having a relationship, and like, children, or like, a job or whatever. And, like, those are things that…you have to separate yourself from…it’s just suited to a kind of like an immature kind of lifestyle, which is why music is for young people.”
That’s why he said that the eventual goal is for all the hard work of touring and promoting themselves to pay off, so that they can spend more time writing and living and less time on the road.
Of course, it’s also possible the guys in DIIV–being relatively new to the game–are just experiencing that part of the cycle, and when they have time off, they might just end up yearning to be on the road again, particularly since they do love seeing new places and thrive off of playing their music for others.
“Being able to put forth your art and have it appreciated nonetheless, [or] playing to a cool crowd that’s like energetic and shit, that’s awesome,” Perez said.