DIIV 2014 by Ryan Muir/Stereogum

...CONTINUED FROM PAGE 2

On the night of September 13, 2013, Smith and Ferreira were driving through Saugerties, New York on their way to perform at the Basillica Soundscape music festival in Hudson when their pickup truck was pulled over and searched. “We were driving through a really small town in the middle of the night, and a cop pulled out in front of us and a cop pulled out behind us,” Smith remembers. “I had a warrant out for my arrest, so they arrested me immediately. And then they searched the car, which was full of gear — all of our music equipment, all of everything. And they just tore everything apart, and they just found all sorts of stuff… It was bad.” Here’s how the encounter played out according to police blotter from Hudson Valley newspaper The Daily Freeman:

Drugs: Zachary C. Smith, 28, of ________________, Catskill, was arrested by Saugerties police at 12:30 a.m. Saturday and charged with two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, one count of possession of stolen property and one count of aggravated unlicensed driving, all misdemeanors. He was also charged with the violations of unregistered motor vehicle, driving without insurance, unlicensed driver, and having an inadequate exhaust system. Also arrested was Sky T. Ferreira, 21, of ________________, Brooklyn, on misdemeanor charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance and resisting arrest. Police said the two were arrested following a traffic stop in the village. Officers stopped a 1990 Ford pickup truck with New Jersey registration after the driver made several vehicle and traffic infractions, police said. Police said a registration check showed the license plates on the truck were stolen and the driver, Smith, was wanted by the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office on an outstanding vehicle and traffic warrant. While taking Smith into custody, officers found a plastic bag containing 42 decks of heroin, police said. Police said Ferreira, a passenger in the truck, was found in possession of Ecstasy and resisted arrest. Smith and Ferreira were arraigned in Saugerties Village Court and sent to the Ulster County Jail — Smith in lieu of $2,500 bail and Ferreira in lieu of $1,500 bail.

A series of bad decisions had caught up to Smith in spectacularly turbulent fashion. There were the drugs, of course, which have been a battle for as long as Smith can remember and which were getting out of control at the time of his arrest. “I’ve just always been the kind of person that you can’t say to me, ’That stove is too hot. Don’t touch it.’ I have to just touch it and figure out how hot it is — you know, hold my hand just above it or touch it with my little finger. I always have to push my limits. So all the sudden there’s this drug that enters the scene that’s this ultimate forbidden thing, and that makes it the most tempting thing around. I’ve always struggled with various addictions throughout my life.”

Furthermore, he might never had been pulled over that night had he not been driving without a license, something he’d been doing for almost his entire adult life. “I lost my license when I was like 21, and I didn’t get it back until I was 28,” he says. “I probably drove across the country 10 times or more without a license and it just never mattered. Nobody cared. And then eventually I found one cop that did care, and that’s where the warrant came from.” Smith says he tried to appear in court four times but his case never made it on the docket, so he assumed the problem had gone away. Instead, a warrant was issued for his arrest. “I could have just paid the ticket or something, but it ended up being my undoing.”

The arrest caused countless unpleasant consequences for Smith and Ferreira. Besides the legal hoops they’re still jumping through — court-ordered rehab and regular probationary check-ins for him, anger management classes for her — there’s the seemingly irreparable damage to the couple’s public image. Ferreira lost several modeling jobs and faced widespread accusations of drug addiction, charges she and Smith say are entirely false. Smith still wrestles with profound guilt about the fallout in Ferreira’s life: “Basically I just was stupid. I fucked up, and it was entirely my fault, and I fucked up my girlfriend’s life. She literally didn’t do anything wrong. She basically was just a passenger in the car with a person who was out of control for a minute. She got in deep shit… Her career got really fucked up because everybody thought she was a drug addict, which she’s absolutely not. That’s the worst part of it for me is that I really fucked her over.”

He’s also haunted by the reality that his drug problem has eclipsed DIIV’s music in the public consciousness. “I feel like there’s all this weird mythology that sort of surrounds me, and it distracts from the purity of the band,” he says. “If somebody mentioned DIIV, they wouldn’t hum the song, they’d be like, ’Oh yeah, the guy who got pulled over driving a stolen car with heroin in it.’ I really hate that.” DIIV began as an intentionally shadowy enterprise, but Smith has become far from anonymous over the past two years. “I never wanted my face or personality to be part of the band, but it became inevitable,” he says. “This next record I did want to reveal myself a little bit more, but I never wanted to feel so exposed as I do now. I just feel like out there on the internet I’m just standing there completely naked and everybody’s just gawking, like, ’Man, you fucking loser.’” Whenever he returns to this subject — which is often — his voice quivers with a fragility that matches his boyish frame.

“I just feel like people who prosecute drug addicts, they have no ability to understand what it’s like to struggle with addiction,” he says, troubled by the lack of empathy. “I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy and in rehab and different stuff that’s helped me learn how to handle it on my own, but they don’t really offer resources for how to talk to the general public about it. I know how to involve my girlfriend and my mom and my friends in my recovery, but when it comes down to the general public, it just gets reduced down to, like, ’You fucking junkie, I hope you fucking OD.’” Aside from all the wearisome negativity, Smith is bothered by some people’s perception that he went on drugs and got arrested as a publicity stunt or to live out a certain rock-star archetype. “To act like I’m advocating heroin use is so offensive to me because I would never do that,” he says. “I’m living proof of how much it can fuck you.”

***

When DIIV go on stage at Music Hall Of Williamsburg, most of the beer the venue provided is still in the fridge. I’m not sure anybody has poured a drink from the bottle of Jack Daniel’s besides me. Bailey, DIIV’s pigtailed guitarist and resident Yankees fan, tells me he’s a recovering alcoholic as of last fall, when he almost drank himself to death. (For his part, Bailey still loves weed, but he forgot to bring his stash Thursday.) He used to maintain a detailed knowledge of the liquor laws in each state so that he could figure out when and how to acquire extra alcohol. Now he’s asked venues not to provide booze before the shows but says the hospitality staff always thinks he’s joking. DIIV used to be that kind of band, he says, but they don’t really pound beers anymore. In fact, neither during Monday’s rehearsal nor at Thursday’s show do I notice any member of the band consuming any mind-altering substances, at least until after the show when a celebratory round of champagne makes its way around the room. Everyone seems clearheaded and alert, including Smith.

So, is he done with heroin? “It’s a complicated thing,” Smith says. “With drugs you always have a pretty complicated relationship with it. So according to AA and all that stuff, I’m never recovered. But now I’m at the point where I’m in recovery. I have to report for drug tests and stuff. I wouldn’t say I’ve beaten it or anything because I don’t know if anybody can, but I’m trying my best. I can’t say, ’No, I’m totally clean and sober.’ But like anything, it’s a little more complicated.”

Even the decision to fight his addiction didn’t come easy, but Smith says Ferreira weathered the storm with him when others would have cut and run. “It took me a long time to learn my lesson,” he says. “Even right after I got out of jail, I continued to engage in incredibly risky behavior and didn’t even think about it. Another person might have been like, ’You know what? Fuck you. You ruined my life, and now you’re going to keep doing this same thing over and over?’ But she was just so patient. I think that’s part of what helped me get through it. She was just so good to me.” From Ferreira’s perspective, Smith is being too hard on himself. “I did lose out on a lot of opportunities, but it was my fault,” she says. “I was in the car.”

Ferreira is also of the mind that other people could and should have stepped in to help Smith break his addiction before things got so messy. “Even before [the arrest], I was trying to help him,” she says. “And that was the thing that I found so disgusting about it was nobody else was trying before that. Because that could have been avoided in a lot of ways. It’s not completely his fault.” She seems less upset about Smith’s drug abuse than other people’s failure to step in and do something about it. “It put me in a really weird position,” she says. “Because I want to be his girlfriend, not his mom. You know what I mean? Like, I don’t want him to resent me.”

When Smith enters one of his guilt spirals regarding damage to Ferreira’s career — a subject he returns to nearly as often as online persecution — she always insists that he’s not at fault for other people’s decisions not to work with her. “All I wanted was for him to get better,” Ferreira says. He was already crediting her with saving his life in interviews before his arrest, but now there’s a worshipful tone along the lines of “Amazing Grace.” He can’t believe the mercy she’s shown him.

Still, Smith’s guilt persists. The two-week rehab stint he went through late last year was useful on that front; group therapy sessions helped Smith see how much anguish he was carrying around, and he gained a sense of self-worth from helping other patients through their own struggles. “It wasn’t like a cure-all,” he says. “It wasn’t like I left rehab and then all of the sudden everything’s fine.” He remains in therapy, where he’s learning how to cope with the pain and anxiety that drove him to drugs in the first place. There’s also a legal incentive to get clean. “Basically the gist of my release from jail is I was released into the custody of the Ulster County court system. I don’t own myself right now. I’m property of the court until I prove myself to be cured,” he says. “That really sucks, and that casts a big shadow over the whole tour.”

Any sense of looming dread is not perceptible during Thursday night’s set. Smith, still wearing the same outfit from Monday, bounces his upper body with an aggression once compared to Major Lazer’s daggering. In this context, he seems less like a kid dressed up for Halloween and more like a wizard conjuring blissful swells of sound to ward off evil spirits. Every band member is coursing with a vibrant energy that never quite materialized during Monday’s strained rehearsal. As they burn through songs new and old — and a DIIV-ified krautrock cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” for good measure — the sold-out crowd rages on, a vocal antidote to the vitriolic chorus Smith has become accustomed to. Many of the teeming masses climb on stage and, ahem, dive back into the audience. In this setting, Smith’s problems seem shimmer up into the ether along with the reverb.

The roaring crowd reminds me of the continuing demand for a second DIIV album, which Smith says is almost finished. He’s not sure exactly what to call it or which songs to include, but he hopes to put it out before the end of the year. “I feel like I should have put out two records already,” he laments. Last summer he talked about releasing a record about the state of guitar music, but whatever he meant by that seems to have eluded him now. He’s fairly certain the final product is going to be a lot more personal than that. “I’ve just kind of had a difficult two years,” he says. “I’ve been going through a crazy time. Any lyric I write is just what I’m feeling right now. I’m not really like a storyteller. It’s much more like verbal diarrhea.” Any discernible lyrics would mark a major change from Oshin’s bleary, sometimes wordless mumbles. Smith also figures the album will be a reaction against Oshin’s intricately constructed sound — still unmistakably DIIV, but rawer and “more thrown-together.”

Nothing about the new songs feels particularly ragged tonight, though. DIIV are in the zone. As Ferreira and the rest of the band’s social circle cheer from the balcony, they tear through a triumphant encore, sounding bigger and louder than ever. The role of headliner is fitting them quite nicely. When the final note rings out into the auditorium, the crowd roars, and DIIV retreat backstage, beaming with a glow not unlike the translucent haze that emanates from their music. Ferreira greets Smith in the hallway, and they embrace, hands grasping each other’s faces. For now, everything is under control.

[Photos by Ryan Muir.]

An earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to Smith’s pickup truck as stolen. The license plates on the truck were reported stolen because Smith did not return them to the truck’s previous owner in a timely fashion.

Comments (36)
  1. Great article. I remember loving Oshin when it came out, but for some reason or another I haven’t really spent any time with it since that first summer it was out. I actually saw DIIV twice, opening for Wild Nothing and Japandroids, but neither slot felt like it fit (too abrasive for the first and too left-field for the second) so I’m interested to hear how the new stuff has evolved.

    I do wonder if Smith and Ferreira encourage some less likable aspects of each other’s personalities, but I also try not to give a shit about the people whose music I listen to as long as they aren’t really hateful or unpleasant.

    • also: “It didn’t help that the truck he was driving was stolen.”

      I can brush off the heroin and all – these people aren’t supposed to be role-models – but that seems like a pretty off-handed dismissal of something kind of important to story of the whole arrest.

  2. great article. he says he wants to be anonymous and let the music and the band stand for itself, but i find stories like this and Christopher Owen’s to add to the music’s appeal. plus it helps that oshin is a GREAT record.

  3. I would love to know what kind of information this guy is blackmailing the indie mafia with to get the coverage that he and his band receive.

    Aside from a couple of websites, nobody cares about this band at all. They’re not talked about, their shows (at least in my city 0f 5,000,000) are sparsely attended, and they don’t sell any records. Their sound is generic, half-assed dream pop and their songs are weak. Their playing is weak and they display no ambition of any kind.

    While it’s more worthwhile to cover them than whatever psychotic thing Kanye West says that’s not saying they deserve any coverage at all. They’re really, really shitty, and the indie mafia should own up to their transgressions, whatever they may be, instead of trying to convince people that this band is worth caring about. There are thousands of bands that display more creativity in five seconds of music than these guys do in 40.

    • I understand why this was down voted, but I totally agree. These guys are boring.

    • While I agree that DIIV are boring as hell, this is Stereogum… 90% of the bands covered here are bands “nobody cares about”. To me it sounds like totally generic, shapeless shoegaze, but other people seem to really like it, so there ya go…

    • If I could continue my experience on the internet (hell, or in life) without EVER hearing the term “indie mafia” ever again, I’d be much better for it.

    • Nobody cares about this band, but hey, there’s at least one person who really cares about how much nobody cares about this band.

  4. DIIV’s only released one actual song – Doused – but it’s a really good song. They should write more songs.

  5. I enjoyed hearing his side of things and I agree it’s time to wrap up the whole arrest incident. But it doesn’t seem like it’s taught him a whole lot. Has he ever tried to issue a statement or something owning up to everything before this interview? He obviously feels guilt, but at the same time I’ve never read anything from him except excuses and how he wants to take his band to the top. It’s waaaaaay too early in him or Sky’s careers for any of that crap, so of course it makes them unlikeable.

  6. pree  |   Posted on Jul 28th -11

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Ok, that read trollish, but I agree with Runyon above — the choice to leave the stolen car thing just hanging is a really curious one to me. Who stole it? How did he get it? How does that complicate his status as some hippie? Like, where’s the critical question-asking going on here?

      Furthermore DIIV as a band isn’t interesting enough to me to merit the 4000-some words or whatever this was to me without at least some larger commentary on why they’re significant to the current music scene. Is it because of this boring stoned white garage-rock genre that’s never gone away and fuels its fires with drug-riddled martyrs? Is it because we care or don’t care about the personal lives of these artists? Is it because ZCS plays stereotype to the point of caricature? Maybe I just wasn’t the audience for this, but for a “cover story” this felt pretty weak.

      • pree  |   Posted on Jul 28th +3

        What I’m saying is: if you found this interesting or challenging at all, I’d be really interested in hearing why.

  7. It’s really really hard for me to look past Smith’s arrest (which apparently involves a stolen car as well?!), his drug addiction, his “Kurt Cobain complex,” his ego, and his relationship with Ferreira. Every article or interview with this guy makes me like him less and less, but I was hoping this article would perhaps change my views. Unfortunately, it only enforced them.

  8. i’m sorry but where is this “stolen truck” thing coming from? the police report clearly says “Police said a registration check showed the license plates on the truck were stolen”. THE LICENSE PLATES. not the truck.

  9. Damn, I don’t know guys, I guess I just like his music and think he seems like a person who exists in the world, flaws and all? He is not Jesus incarnate, but maaaaaan people are keen on hating the dude and I just don’t get it.

  10. I really liked Oshin when it came out, was a very nice niche album, but I feel like Ive been waiting for a follow up for forever now

  11. what’s so bad about wanting to be as good as Nirvana? Even if he wasn’t being sarcastic, it’s not like he said “I am the voice of my generation” he just said he wanted to be, which is probably something most musicians would aspire to.

    • not the good ones or the ones who actually become the voice of a generation. They tend to focus on writing great songs, which is what this dude should be doing, but for some reason pitchfork and stereogum are trying to convince people that this band is worthwhile in anyway.

  12. Here’s the thing that upsets me about all of this: he seems oddly miffed at the notion you need a valid driver’s license in order to drive a car. Call me a fascist, but I think that’s a pretty sound requirement.

    He also rightly criticizes how our justice system treats drug offenses while (seemingly) failing to realize how softly he and Ferreira were treated. Modestly successful young white musicians with decent lawyers just have to attend some meetings (which they apparently bitch about having to attend) while inner-city kids of color often get jail time for these sorts of offenses. If he thinks the justice system dealt them a raw deal, he ought to think about the broader context a little.

    • I never got the sense from Cole that he felt screwed over by the legal system, other than the hoops he had to jump through to prove his band business was a valid work commitment on par with a factory job. The main way he felt mistreated was the public’s attitude toward drug addicts — the whole “I hope you OD, junkie!” thing.

      • And that’s a cogent point. It’s possible that my reading of his reaction to the arrest and what he and Ferreira had to deal with afterward wasn’t the most sympathetic.

    • I agree with this, though he’d have to be very stupid to not realize how easy he got off.

  13. To me, it all seems pretty honest and genuine, and people usually seem to have a problem and like to criticize that especially when they don’t like what they hear. It’s interesting to see how different people interpret things. At least he’s talking about this stuff. It also takes courage to address and acknowledge an addiction problem not just in the spotlight, but in general.

    I’m not quite sure what it is, but something has always drawn me to Diiv and Cole Smith. Possibly that he seems like a normal dude that would be in my circle, especially after reading this article. But I’ve been patiently waiting for this follow-up record, and hope that the music speaks for itself. I’m really hoping that this new album reflects more of the live sound especially with the drums. Oshin is a good album for what it is, but I feel like the recordings in a way just don’t do the band total justice. They don’t give off enough energy for what’s presented on stage in a live show, and I’d like to see that represented on this next jammie. From what I’ve heard of the new songs being played around, I’m pretty stoked to hear what Cole puts together for this, and I think it’s going to be good, and better than Oshin.

  14. This guy still has a lot of growing up to do (and bro, seriously, you look like a total dick in your cute little outfit), but I kind of dig this ‘Oshin’ album (never heard it before) and am interested to see where he takes it next. Exercise some discipline and common sense and it’ll take you far.

  15. He sounds like such a sweet and gentle guy. No doubt the tone of the article tended toward that picture, but it seems to me like what he desires is just some support in trying to make music and continue to mature as an artist. It really blows that he’s so thoroughly vilified in the music media, it seems extremely undeserved. It’s good to see an article try to cover the other side of him. Also, really excited for a follow-up to Oshin!!

  16. Really great interview Stereogum! (more of this please!)

    I first caught Diiv open for Wild Nothing in Toronto a few years back and was completely blown away by their set.
    I had heard their record, but the live show was an entirely different thing altogether, not just a band playing some songs they wrote.

  17. tdc  |   Posted on Jul 29th 0

    Whatever you think of these guys, wouldn’t it be courteous to take their personal addresses out of the article?

  18. His band mate is described as a “skateboarder and devoted astrologer” …he publicly states he’s skipping court to practice, oh and his girlfriend will get mad if he misses another birthday!

    This is, what… in the first few paragraphs…and you guys wonder why he’s getting hate? Their music is beautiful but oh my god they seem so vapidly contrived.

  19. Now?
    Now all the assholes can voice their opinion now can’t they!? If you don’t like the band, don’t buy (err steal) their music, don’t comment on message boards or their articles, and if you had any real fortitude you’de STFU and go make your own music!!

    It’s Rock n’ Roll!!
    They are DiiV and i dig em! \m/

    Thank’s for the article stereogum, i really enjoyed it… to bad these comments pissed all over everything! Gutless losers!

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