Arts Desk

Dive Goes Deep: A Chat With Zachary Cole Smith

Despite the headlines, Dive is not an after-thought for Zachary Cole Smith, who's also a member of Beach Fossils. “Beach Fossils is not really my band at all,” the singer-songwriter says. “Everybody’s like, ‘Beach Fossils side project!’ and stuff. But Beach Fossils has nothing to do with me at all. I just play in the live band. All I do is jump around on stage and stuff.” Smith has been an off-and-on member of Beach Fossils for two years, and is currently the sleepy pop group’s guitarist.

He only began writing songs for his similarly minded solo project, Dive, in May. Both Brooklyn bands trade in airy, reverb-heavy vocals and dreamy guitar lines. And they both record for the buzzy record label Captured Tracks. Similarities aside, Smith says he wants to make a mark with Dive this year, with a full-length record and a third seven-inch on the way (Beach Fossils also has plans for an LP this year). So far, Dive only has a couple of two-song singles to its name ("Sometime" and "Human").

Smith brings his four-piece band to the Black Cat’s Backstage tonight, opening for Oberhofer. We spoke about why his first album sounds like a second album, about the relative intelligibility of his vocals,  and how Captured Tracks became a lo-fi community.

Washington City Paper: Is [Dive recording] for an LP?

Zachary Cole Smith: Yeah, it is, it’s for the LP. It’s for an LP that we haven’t actually announced yet. It is for an LP that’s coming out in the summer. It’s gonna be cool, man. It’s gonna be different from anything people have heard so far.

WCP: How so?

ZCS: It’s way more... It’s sounds like the live band. It’s much more live, you know? Much more live. Before, the stuff was real squashed. It didn’t have the best sound, the original home recordings. The actual songs aren’t realized as they were meant to be.

WCP: Is it just—every part of the song is more amplified?

ZCS: Yeah, totally. Instead of shitty drums built-in on a MacBook, it’s a real drum set. And instead of plugging my guitar straight into the computer, there’s an amp and a microphone. Instead of my MacBook microphone, there’s an actual big steel microphone with wires going into a big mixing board.

WCP: So, we’ll be able to hear what you’re singing now?

ZCS: Well, yeah, kind of. It’s still shrouded a little bit. But it’s much more—it’s the same sound but just more realized. You’ll probably be able to pick up a few words.

WCP: Is there anything you would compare it to, or anything you’re trying to reach for in terms of the LP?

ZCS: What we’re going for? Kind of what I’m going for is the sound of what would be the second Dive album, but it is our first album. But it definitely has a second album feel. Rather than—it’s like we’re going straight for Seventeen Seconds rather than, like, the first Cure record or something. It’s a second album type of album.

WCP: You just have those first two seven-inches out right now?

ZCS: Yeah, I have the first two. And then I have a third one that we haven’t announced yet either. There’s a third seven-inch that’s probably coming out in April. I guess that’s not official yet. There’s a third seven-inch out in April that I recorded in the same studio as the full-length, so that’s kind of a preview.

WCP: So the first two, is that just solely you on the tracks?

ZCS: Yeah. The first two seven-inches are almost demos. They actually are the demos. Both of the two singles that made those two seven-inches, we recorded them for the record. The B-sides are whatever. They are what they are. They’re not getting rerecorded. The whole thing is basically demos that have been released at this point.

WCP: Were you apprehensive at all to release just demo-quality stuff? Did you just want to get it out there?

ZCS: Yeah. I was definitely apprehensive to release it because I was never 100 percent satisfied with how it sounded. I knew I was aiming low. I wanted to set our bar at a certain point that I knew I could pass. I wanted to set a standard and then know that I could one-up myself. And so I was cool with releasing that stuff. I really wanted it out there and I had no budget. I’m glad I did. It’s not the way that the band is meant to sound.

WCP: In April, you’ll be touring with Frankie Rose and you’ve already played some dates with her. Do you know her or just like each other’s music?

ZCS: I’ve known Frankie for a while. She’s cool. I’m not super-tight with her or good friends or something. I was definitely obsessed with a couple of her Vivian Girls songs, like that song “Where You Run To” is one of the best songs of 2009, I’m obsessed with it. [sic; the song was released in 2008]

WCP: There’s a free date on your April tour, when Frankie’s playing one of the chickfactor anniversary shows. Will you be at that show?

ZCS: I won’t be at that show actually. We’re going back to New York that night and playing a show with Bush Tetras with Le Poisson Rouge. It’s super exciting and I love Bush Tetras.

WCP: Have any of those chickfactor-related bands ever been an influence on you? Like Black Tambourine, or the Lilys?

ZCS: I actually don’t really know who’s on the chickfactor—I didn’t hear much about it, but Black Tambourine’s a huge influence on both me and—I know Frankie has to be really heavily influenced by Black Tambourine.

WCP: Your label, Captured Tracks, has been able to build a community in New York in the last few years with like-minded bands. Does that sound accurate?

ZCS: Yeah, totally. Mike is definitely a visionary, [label founder] Mike Sniper. Definitely visionary. He just knows what he wants. He discovered Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing and all these bands that ended up being great—and Craft Spells and Soft Moon, he found them all on MySpace, just listening to shit and knowing what he wanted. And then he put together this roster, built it up to the point where I knew about Captured Tracks for awhile and I just sent Mike my demos and he liked them and wanted to put them out.

WCP: Did you know him through Beach Fossils?

ZCS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course, but—I’m sure that was a good in, but I think he probably liked the songs, too, I hope.

WCP: Is there anything special about Captured Tracks that generated this community, or is it just Mike taking the time to look at everybody?

ZCS: Yeah! There’s one really, really special thing about Captured Tracks, which is that they—every single band that they put out, they put out that band’s first record. They haven’t approached any bands from other labels. They built every single band from the ground up. It is this community, but it’s cool that Mike built the whole thing from scratch. He put out all these bands’ first records—Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing and Craft Spells, and Widowspeak, The Soft Moon, etc., Dive. All these bands he put out—everybody’s first record.

Dive performs with Oberhofer at 8 p.m. at Black Cat Backstage, 1811 14th St. NW. $15.

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