The project of singer/songwriter/guitarist Zachary Cole Smith, DIIV make music that combines shoegaze bliss with grunge catharsis. The influence of Nirvana and My Bloody Valentine was evident on their 2012 debut album, Oshin, but the band's sound deepened and broadened on 2016's Is the Is Are, which paired Malian-inspired guitar melodies with Smith's confessional songwriting, and on 2019's heavier-sounding exploration of trauma, Deceiver.
Born in New York and raised in Connecticut, Smith began playing guitar as a young boy and joined a few bands during his school years, including a group with future DIIV guitarist Andrew Bailey. After a few years playing guitar with the psych-rock band Soft Black and playing drums for Beach Fossils, Smith formed DIIV in 2011 as a forum for his own songs, incorporating aspects of Krautrock, C-86, and Malian guitarists along with more expected forebears like My Bloody Valentine and Nirvana. To round out his live band, he enlisted Bailey, bassist Devin Ruben Perez, and ex-Smith Westerns drummer Colby Hewitt. Originally called Dive, Smith changed the spelling of the band's name after learning of the early-'90s Belgian industrial act by that name. DIIV signed to Captured Tracks in October 2011 and released the singles Sometime and Human -- both of which were demos Smith recorded on his own -- and Geist in advance of their 2012 debut album, Oshin. The following year, multi-instrumentalist Colin Caulfield became a touring keyboardist and guitarist for the band.
In 2013, Smith's substance abuse issues came to a head. DIIV scrapped a recording session with former Girls bassist/producer Chet "JR" White, and that September, Smith was arrested on drug charges on the way to a DIIV show in Hudson, New York. After being charged with drug possession, he went to rehab in January 2014. While in recovery, he began writing material for the next DIIV album; by that July, he had amassed over 150 songs. The band began recording in Brooklyn's Strange Weather studio in March 2015, around the time that Hewitt left the group. He was replaced by touring drummer Ben Newman, who played the majority of the drums during the sessions. Arriving in February 2016, the ambitious double album Is the Is Are presented a more polished version of DIIV and entered Billboard's 200 Albums Chart at number 81.
Following Is the Is Are's release, DIIV underwent more changes. Early in 2017, Smith returned to rehab, this time for extended inpatient treatment. During this time, the band issued a single that collected their covers of Sparklehorse's "Cow" and (Sandy) Alex G's "Icehead." That December, Ruben Perez, whose racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic online posts caused controversy in 2014, left the group; Caulfield took over his duties as bassist. To make their third album, DIIV entered the studio with producer Sonny DiPerri in March 2019. Taking a more collaborative approach toward songwriting than before, the band looked to heavier influences like True Widow and Unwound while recording. Deceiver, a deeper exploration of the pain lying beneath addiction, was released in October 2019. ~ Heather Phares