Close this search box.

Charting the Cold-Blooded Evolution of DIIV

From part-time hobby to full-time job, the shoegaze outfit leaps back into tour mode in support of Frog in Boiling Water.

by Khagan Aslanov

Photos by Shervin Lainez

As soon as DIIV log onto their video chat with RANGE, three band members dole out quick apologies and run, either to the bathroom or to quickly make some toast. I’m one in a long line of inquisitors in a protracted press junket leading up to the release of Frog in Boiling Water, the band’s fourth LP. Left alone with drummer Ben Newman, he smiles and resorts to showing me his dogs, who are milling around his feet. 

 Once settled back into interview mode, the band looks both amped and wary of the upcoming tour; a group of old friends who have, up until recently, been in the thick of the COVID experience, living out both the undemanding pace and fiscal sting of the pandemic. Records are great and all, but without the steady financial backbone of a tour, the members of DIIV have, at one point or another, found themselves doing PA work on video shoots, bartending, doing security, and working in a crepe shop. 

 But here they are now, a new dawn looming, and all things weighed and re-weighed, it’s a grand place to be in. After years spent plugging away in the studio and hitting the road, they find themselves in that sweet spot, perfectly equidistant between a baby band and a legacy act – a group of musicians who’ve paid their dues, who get to pack mid-sized theatres without breaking a sweat, and whose touring routine is nowhere near as frantic and exacting as it was when they were younger, wilder, and more callow.


Photo: Coley Brown


What they bring to their fans and to the world at large has also changed. Lead singer and guitarist Zachary Cole Smith briefly muses on the Universalist affectations of their debut Oshin, that relayed unrest that was decidedly more abstract. He references artist Jenny Holzer and Zen poetry as major pivots for that youthful, bright-eyed revolt.

 “We’re way different people than we were 13 years ago, and there was an innocence there for sure,” says Smith. “Now we’ve earned the ability to look outwards. Making a political record just naturally felt where we’re at.”

Guitarist Andrew Bailey laughs sardonically, and calls their current LP as describing a ‘hellscape.’ Still, all politics aside, the core of that sound that colonized the affections of critics and fans all those years ago is still there, a lush and dense mixture of post-punk and dream pop, gauzy and floating, and somehow airtight, and with just a little sinister roughness around its edges. Listening to it sounds exactly like it should – like slowly sinking into a jar of honey that has a roofing nail propped up at the bottom, waiting for your descent. There are few who do this better than DIIV, and at this point in their lives, with many of past traumas and grievances put to rest, or at least functionally tabled, they are as comfortable and close with each other as they ever have been.  

That comfort is felt as they speak. There are no moments of interruptions, nor are there lags in conversation. They slide in and out of serious introspections and jokes, chatting about their favourite podcasts, bassist Colin Caulfield talking about getting into basketball, and Bailey and Newman laugh, joking about having to spray-paint flame retardant chemical on some pallets for reasons that are left largely unknown. They speak about workshopping stage shows, travelling to old familiar places, support systems and self-regulation. In the middle of it, Andrew finds time to plug MusiCares, a charity that helps touring musicians cope with and maintain mental health. All of these exchanges are punctuated by quiet nods from the other band members, small affectionate gestures of familial love.

It’s a crucial dynamic for a group of people who seemingly live and breathe art as an atomizing concept. Smith speaks about creating entire multimedia projects to accompany writing, visual art and video that all plait into a cohesive moment where, if you’re lucky, you find that chord, that pattern, that song. It’s a holistic approach, and might even sound intimidating, building an entire sensory world to extract an album from, but the band are taking it in stride. 

As the chain-smoking Smith adds: “The only way to keep this satisfying is to make it fun, and that’s what we all like to do.”

Ben mirrors that thought: “Music is both our only hobby and our job.”

It’s a good spot to hold.