DIIV opens up about their near breakup and developing their latest album, Deceiver

In the comparatively simple times of last summer, I met with Cole Smith (vocals, guitar) and Colin Caulfield (bass, keyboards, guitar, vocals) of DIIV for a stroll of the quieter streets of Neukölln. Their latest album Deceiver, released last fall on October 4th, is a self-proclaimed soundtrack to “personal resurrection” characterized by heavy catharsis, eloquently thrashing guitars, and noticeable vocal tension that emotionally holds you close but physically keeps you at arms’ length — social distancing expressed sonically. 

As we were walking around a historic building that’s changed purposes, owners, clientele, and overall meaning, it felt relevant for Colin to explain how this album has been a turning point – and continues to be one, “It’s interesting, it kind of mirrors a lot of things in our own life. Just like being able to admit that you’re not equipped to do something or something’s out of your control, like needing help and that kind of ethos extended itself into much more than just the music or personal growth and stuff. As a band, we were like, ‘we can’t do what we want to do alone’. We need to find someone who’s going to be able to help us.”

The band enlisted the help of producer Sonny Diperri, who has worked with My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, and Protomartyr, producing a heavier and richer overall vibe. Both Cole and Colin agreed, “We knew from the beginning we wanted an outside ear and somebody who knows what they’re doing.”

Cole states, “We had spent like six months as a band creating this language where you’re able to talk to each other and be really brutal with each other, but also really supportive. I feel like it’s probably a hard thing to walk into this group that has a system of communication. He just fell into it and we got really close with him. We all, in the end, made the record that we always wanted to make.”

The album art in and of itself evokes a specifically inward-thinking feeling. Cole explained they chose this work from an Australian painter, Rhys Lee, an artist Cole had already been following for quite some time. This work felt confrontational to them and went hand-in-hand with the album title and songs within it.  

“Deception was a big theme, whether it’s me being the deceiver or me pointing fingers somewhere else.”

It’s inevitable we immediately got to speaking about what sets Deceiver apart from DIIV’s previous work. Colin shared, “I think we knew about the differences from the get-go. The making of the record was fundamentally different in so many different ways. The whole band was figuring out the arrangements of the songs together in a room. The difference is, I still get surprised — certain things I noticed or I feel that I haven’t felt before when I’m listening to it. I dunno, we’ve been so close to it for so long that it just, it just exists now.” 

Before coming together to write the album, the band spent around a year living in a world that wasn’t at all similar to their previous lifestyles. 

Colin states, “I think it’s like certain things in your life, like family or band relationships or hard work, and certain ones are worth working on. I think we all just recognized it. We like being in a band together despite some dark times and times of conflict or disagreement and stuff. We knew that it was worth putting in the time cause now it’s really great.”

Cole specifically reconnecting with the band after going through treatment was a “series of firsts” of newfound focus and perspective. Ten months of writing followed, of the musicians “not being precious with ideas”, and a dedication to learning how to be comfortable with communicating and voicing their opinions gave their audience a much more complex and honest look into their dynamic and creative output. 

When I asked if the context of the album informed this honest, vulnerable space, Cole answered carefully but with that same amount of truth: “Absolutely. I mean, you know, a huge part of recovery basically systematically like dismantling your own ego and acknowledging your own flaws and then changing those things. And I think that was like a huge part of just, you know, growing up and we all did a lot of growing up in that time and helped us work together really well.”

The album was recorded in Los Angeles, where the musicians found much more space than their previous home base of New York to create. The four-piece have just finished a string of European dates in support of this genre-bending, deeply personal and vulnerable offering of an album. 

From beginning to end, Deceiver feels like a body of work that the listener should take all in one go. Cole and Colin explained that every detail, no matter how small, was considered through their democratic writing process. Through these details, listeners are clearly able to detect the significant shift DIIV has taken with this venture. Deceiver is, in fact, some kind of rebirth. You can learn more about their transition through their documentary, “Starting Now”, via The FADER.

Colette is a freelance writer and photographer based in Berlin. She likes Turkish psych-rock, wandering, data sculptures, and white sauce.  For more Colette, visit here