DIIV SINK OR SWIM

Exclaim! - - FRONT PAGE - BY CAM LIND­SAY

ZACHARY COLE SMITH NEVER IN­TENDED TO TAKE AL­MOST FOUR YEARS TO RE­LEASE DIIV’S SE­COND AL­BUM. When it came time to de­liver Is the Is Are, he went for it the only way he knew — by re­leas­ing a dou­ble al­bum. Smith is fully aware of the eye-rolling that comes with an artist de­mand­ing more than an hour of the lis­tener’s time, but to him, Is the Is Are wouldn’t have hap­pened any other way.

“First of all, there has been a lot of time be­tween records, and I did want to de­liver some­thing sub­stan­tial,” he says dur­ing a drive through Los An­ge­les. “It was con­ceived as a dou­ble record from the be­gin­ning. Just the num­ber of songs I had, and to cover the amount of ground we cov­ered, I felt it wouldn’t be able to be as di­verse as it is with­out hav­ing two full LPs.”

Smith’s anal­y­sis runs much deeper than his stock­pile of songs, though. “I also re­ally wanted this al­bum to have a very hu­man qual­ity that is easy to crit­i­cize,” he adds. “When you think about dou­ble records, they’re al­ways as­so­ci­ated with bloated, rock’n’roll ex­cess, which is some­thing I kind of wanted to play with. I wanted to make a record that, at first glance, seemed like a mis­take or im­per­fect, but through­out the course of the record it wins you over.”

Is the Is Are (the ti­tle comes from a poem he com­mis­sioned for the record) ex­pands the son­i­cally ro­bust dream pop of their de­but, 2012’s Oshin, by pre­sent­ing DIIV’s lu­mi­nous sound in a wider scope, one that came with a de­sire to re­ject the con­ven­tions of rock mu­sic.

“There isn’t re­ally one song that has a ver­se­cho­rus-verse struc­ture,” Smith ad­mits. “The songs are based more on Krautrock. They’re more driv­ing and less pre­dictable, and fol­low their own struc­ture with­out be­ing forced into a cho­rus or verse or a solo or a bridge. Also, I mixed the record my­self and I don’t think I re­ally knew how to do that. But I just kind of owned it be­cause I knew what I wanted it to sound like. There were a lot of de­ci­sions I made that were ex­per­i­men­tal, just based on me hav­ing no idea what I was do­ing.”

Lyri­cally, Smith al­lowed him­self to open up and ad­dress the per­sonal trou­bles he’s been deal­ing with over the last cou­ple of years — specif­i­cally his 2013 ar­rest for heroin pos­ses­sion. Smith sees Is the Is Are as an op­por­tu­nity to prove that DIIV has a fu­ture.

“It was im­por­tant for me though to make a good record for a lot of rea­sons,” he ex­plains. “But mostly just to save my own name, so I wouldn’t spend eternity as a foot­note as the guy who got ar­rested for drugs. I think af­ter that hap­pened, if I didn’t make a good record, we would have been a flash in the pan. My name wouldn’t have been as­so­ci­ated with mu­sic, it would have been as­so­ci­ated with th­ese more sor­did things, which was a very ter­ri­fy­ing prospect.”

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