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By John Norris @jonnynono
The first time I interviewed Dustin Payseur's buzz-generating Beach Fossils, at South By Southwest 2010, the band's long-haired drummer, a Connecticut guy by the name of Zachary Cole Smith, didn't have a lot to say. But when I asked Payseur about the fact that this "band" was essentially, creatively, him--it was Smith that spoke up, to point out that increasingly that was the paradigm in indie rock. That "bands" were more than ever an individual artist's vision that gradually expands to include other players, and maybe, but not necessarily, collaborators.
In 2012 that is still the case, if not more so. And that drummer--now a guitarist, hair cut, and blond--is practicing what he preached in 2010. Cole Smith is generating plenty of his own buzz with his barely year-old creation DIIV, which began in a flurry of writing in a Bushwick loft, crafting songs that were a hybrid of the sounds made by Smith's heroes': Neu! and Can drive meets New Wave gauzy swirls meets early Cobain flailing passion. Always Cobain. The band's original name, DIVE, was a bald-faced homage to Nirvana.
How that name morphed into DIIV is part of our Face Time conversation this week, but there is much more. It was Smith and all three of his bandmates we sat down with at the Brooklyn offices of their label Captured Tracks, and a colorful crew they are: Andrew Bailey, erstwhile member of Shilpa Ray's band and a friend of Cole's from their days at St. Luke's Prep in Connecticut, a school which, as you'll hear, showed young Master Smith the door after only a year and a few weeks. There's drummer Colby Hewitt, DIIV's West Coast member, with a strong CV including a year or more with Smith Westerns, and stints with Bay Area band Buzzer and seminal psych-folk man Matt Fishbeck's Holy Shit. And there's the band's most arresting character, a guy who could probably be elected Mayor of Northwest Brooklyn if he ran, so connected is he, skateboarder-turned-guitarist and full-time astrologer, Devin Ruben Perez.
You'll hear how the guys came together, and how Perez wouldn't sign on until he knew that Smith was a Scorpio. (The whole band are water signs. So am I. I like that.) You'll hear how they kept up a pretty breakneck pace of local and then national shows over most of the past year, and about the recording of the excellent debut album Oshin with engineer Daniel Schlett. You'll even see the band's inspired, wacked-out music video for "How Long Have You Known?" and hear how the boys almost burned down the LA studio where they shot it, thanks to a live, out-of- control Roman candle.
Finally, the talented genes that made Cole Smith able to create this thrilling new record came from a musician father from whom Smith is long estranged, but who has a pop legacy of his own: two unforgettable commercial jingles, and you'll even get a taste of each.
Will DIIV then become "the fabric of our lives? Maybe not quite yet, but they're on their way to being the fabric of plenty of playlists, and for good reason. Diiv into Oshin as soon as you possibly can, and right now, check out this week's Face Time featuring music and conversation with Messrs. Smith, Bailey, Hewitt and Perez: DIIV.