Baby Nirvana. That’s how DIVE was described to me as I made my way to their show at the Brooklyn Bowl. And standing in the crowd, watching Cole Smith sing an inch from the mic, with a mop of bleach blonde hair covering his face, it clicked. It’s not the music that makes DIVE analogous to the early 90’s—there isn’t enough grunge (which in my opinion is a good thing), it’s the performance. Smith seems openly vulnerable to the audience, jiving off guitarist, Andrew Bailey’s Red Hot Chili Pepper-like head banging. Bassist, Devin Perez stares into space, wide-eyed and waiting, as his fingers pluck and swerve. Pitchfork named the bands single, “Sometime” single of the week last month, and that’s enough to make any band an overnight indie success. A well deserved success, at that.
A week later, I’m walking up the steps to Cole’s apartment in a warehouse in Bushwick, carrying three beers for Smith, Devin and myself to enjoy. “The place is kind of antiquated. There’s no plumbing.” We step inside. Fishtank on one wall. Beat up leather couch on another. Workman like station by the kitchen, with a pile of instruments beyond it. Devin plops down on the couch and keeps his eyes on the fish tank for the entire interview, watching the fish swim around the manufactured coral and seaweed.
In your bio, it says DIVE is “one part THC, and two parts MDMA,” what’s that mean?
COLE: My friend wrote that.
DEVIN: It’s funny, my favorite band is Pure X, and I try to channel some of their spirituality in my performance: simple, beautiful, raw energy.
C: That experience of stripping your identity, I feel like there’s something anonymous about DIVE. That feeling when you’re rolling, of looking in the mirror and not recognizing yourself. Your identity is stripped from yourself and you’re this shell. This sensual shell. I’m trying to create a persona that’s rooted in anonymity.
You kind of holed up in your apartment for the summer, what was that type of anonymity like?
C: I’ve been traveling for the past two years. Living all over the country, all different places. When I finally moved back to New York it felt like my friends got on fine without me. I was in the city and it felt like I could just let the world go by my room. I’d sit in here and watch people go by, and record something. It was pretty claustrophobic, but I think a lot of the music was sweated out in this weird manic fever in the middle of the night. It was so hot in here. I’m glad it happened, but that’s how it happened.
How’d you guys get started from there?
C: Well, I was making the songs on my computer and we kind of went from there. We flushed them out live. I’ve always recorded stuff on my computer, but this has been the first time I focused and made something with a specific sound.
What is that specific sound?
C: I wasn’t really going for anything in particular. I made one song, liked it, and wanted to make more like it.
How’d you meet the other guys?
D: I was the first guy you talked to, right? [Cole nods] We met through DIY shows in Brooklyn. I used to help promote, book, and run shows. I never wanted to be in a band, but for some reason when Cole asked me to join him, I just felt like he was the right person. I just had to say yes.
C: I texted him and asked if he wanted to start a band. He texted me back saying, “What’s your exact birth date? Month and year.” I sent it to him and an hour later he replied, “PERFECT.”
D: I’m really into astrology. I wanted to make sure that our charts were compatible. Bailey is Cole’s childhood friend. Colby, I met him a long time ago back when he was at Smith Westerns, and he was just a great person. Just a really nice guy. He told me he and his girl were moving to New York, and we had talked about making a band, and it was that same thing with Cole where I felt like I needed to be in a band with him. Plus he’s a Cancer too, so it totally fits. Bailey’s a Cancer too, which is perfect. We just need a Pisces, which would complete the water trio.
C: We want a female Pisces in the band.
Let’s go back to the astrology. How’d you get into it?
D: I’ve always been into philosophy. I went to college for a while, and studied that. Astrology kind of runs my life. I check my chart every day. I’m much more interested in Eastern philosophies, than Western, but I know a lot about both.
Where’s the world going?
D: I’m really into Chinese astrology. This year is the year of the White Rabbit, which represents the moon, and the moon controls water. 2012, which is next year, everyone says it’s the end. It’s the year of the Water Dragon and everyone’s always talking about how December 21st, 2012 is the end of the world or something. Winter is the element of water and December 21st is Winter solstice, so it’s the water element at it’s most powerful. It’s pretty intense. The Water Dragon is kind of cursed. It’s a bad omen.
That’s about right. And you could play the bass before you joined the band, right?
D: I can play every instrument except for the drums. I’m not really that good though. I’m not into writing my own songs. If I were to write music, I’d want to work with someone on it. Instruments are easy for me. They’re fun,
C: It’s actually ridiculous with him. I’ll be like, “I have this new song.” I’ll show it to him once and he’s got it. I’ll forget the song even existed and he’ll remember the bass line perfectly. The first time he came over, I only showed him the songs once and that was it.
What’s the song writing process like for you guys?
C: I always start playing some weird thing on the keyboard, whatever the song starts with gets buried beneath everything, but that’s the start. I layer the bass, the guitar, then I write the vocal melody and lyrics down the road. It’s the only way I know how to write songs. I feel like I can only write songs that are DIVE songs.
What does the name DIVE mean for you guys?
C: It’s grown into itself. I knew when I started a band I wanted it to be a four-letter word. I got it from a Nirvana track. I feel like the band has grown into the name. At first it was sort of, who gives a shit what the band is called? There are probably already like fifty bands in the world named Dive, and they’ll probably sue us and we’ll have to change it. It’s not about the name at the end of the day.
D: I’m really into the name. Everyone in the band is a water sign. It’s not even really about the band name, it’s about where history is going, we’re all in for a dive.
In what way?
D: The economy crisis, the way music is these days. Katy Perry for example: she’s tied for most hit singles on a pop record with Michael Jackson! It’s ridiculous.
There’s none of that muddiness in music anymore. When you have your songs produced what do you look for?
C: I literally know nothing about production. The way the songs sound is totally incidental. I know how I want the songs to sound, and they do, but it’s really an accident. I have no knowledge how to produce anything. I’m not sure Lo-Fi is what I’m going for. I’m not sure it even exists as a genre, the same way kraut rock can mean a billion different things. I’m going to work with someone on the full length, because I don’t trust myself to do it right.
Who would you say is a direct influence on the band?
C: It kind of becomes this feedback group, it influences itself. A lot of the music I listen to now is music I make. Not DIVE songs, but stuff that would be DIVE. I listen to it and get influenced by it a lot. I had this experience recently, I had never listened to the Cure in my entire life. I listen to a ton of music and am kind of voracious in finding new stuff. A month ago I downloaded their entire catalogue and it’s all I listen to aside from my own demos and it’s really interesting. It’s just a weird digest of stuff that’s already in my head.
What’re the plans for the future?
C: Do the record, and play shows. I’m just focusing on the record though. I just want it to be right and good. I want to create a real identity.
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