Vibing & Zoning at the End of the World: A Conversation with DIIV

Post Author: Jacob McAdams

The veteran indie rock stalwarts discuss life on tour & dissect their dense new LP Frog In Boiling Water

Do you feel that apocalypse around the corner? When was the last time you shrugged off your anger at the world? Would you like an opportunity to face that aching feeling? DIIV has returned, and they’re here to face it, too.

While so many scramble to bury their heads in careless comfort, the DIIV team has sacrificed much to confront our shared paranoia. Without a label to support their newest record at the outset, Andrew Bailey, Colin Caulfield, Ben Newman, and Zachary Cole Smith put their own money down to ensure their newest project became exactly what they needed it to become. This devotion is evident in Frog In Boiling Water

This record’s cohesion, its complexity, and its brutal beauty are deliberate. As always, you can count on dynamic guitar melodies, mean and groovy bass lines, and thoughtful vocal harmonies. Everything here, from the intricate arrangements to their websites ( and poking at the internet, has been considered and curated to carefully distill the feelings of a world collapsing. 

It is not an easy listen. While some of the finest art can be utilized as an escape, this is a collection of 10 angles aimed at the exploitation, the depression, and the violence that color our little dystopia. It is intended to engage with disenchantment and without delusion. Frog does not normalize modern conditions. Every distraction has been shed, and there isn’t a second of music out of step with the theme. It can be uncomfortable if you’re not in a space to contemplate the shattered state of things. Sooner or later, though, there will be a moment for brooding, and this record will be there to brood with you. It’s a companion. It’s a mirror. Truly, though, Frog’s solace comes from knowing there are artists not willing to shy away from the truth. 

Also, it plain rips. 

The guitars flying overhead in “Brown Paper Bag.” Newman’s fills in “Somber The Drums.” The lyrical defiance in “Soul-net.” The talent and taste of the group, individually and as a whole, is impressive. And you’ll never hear the same song twice. Whether it’s a new layer, a new texture, or a new perspective on a lyric, there will always be more to discover in a DIIV song. Ready or not, Frog In Boiling Water cannot be denied as a massive contribution to modern music.

I had a chance to host a quick Zoom call and talk with Bailey, Caulfield, Newman, and Smith on the road. I just wanted to check in to see how they were faring at the start of their lengthy world tour. We spoke about the evolution of a live tune, vibing vs. zoning, tour comforts, and whether or not Frog In Boiling Water is a protest record.

How are we feeling today?

Caulfield: Amazing. The shows are amazing. It’s everything before and after the show which is physically punishing. 

Newman: Yeah. Exhausted. But the shows are great, which is kind of all we can ask for. 

Just kind of the sacrifice y’all make for us to go out and display these new tunes, huh? How are the new tunes feeling, by the way? 

Caulfield: We were talking last night about how surprising it is that they caught up so quickly to these other songs that we just played so many times. The new songs sound just as good and full and powerful as all the other stuff we play. It’s really cool. 

Righteous, that’s special. Has there been any songs, these new ones, or old ones, I guess, that have taken on maybe a new meaning? 

Smith: I don’t know. Maybe not a new meaning yet because they’re still so fresh in our minds. But I think they definitely take on a new intensity live, especially “Raining on Your Pillow.” I feel it’s kind of motoric and meditative on the record, and live it’s very intense. It’s cool when you’re in the studio, you make all the initial decisions about the song, and then they can continue to evolve in the live setting. You reimagine them. And that one turned out really cool.

Hell yeah. Any other moments from the new songs that kinda surprise you?

Caulfield: In general, the studio experience is all about bottling or perfecting, capturing some specific moment. And when you do the songs live, it’s impossible to be too particular. You just have to surrender to the amp sounding different or the room sounding different or us playing slightly different. And in general, I agree with Cole about the intensity. I really get a lot out of playing in this band. I used to think it had more to do with the hypnotic, kind of motoric, Kraut-y songs that we play where it always feels different. But even with these new songs, every single time we play, there’s something different and organic, and I feel it’s the result of the live experience. It’s just, for lack of a better term, a very “LIVE” moment. 

Smith: Yeah. There was a lot of time spent on the record going for this kind of studio perfection. There’s a song, “Somber The Drums,” that’s on the record where we’re doing live guitar looping and live sampling and processing samples live. It feels like gymnastics doing all this stuff at once. In the studio, you’re throwing this thing on and trying to manage all the pieces of the song and make them work together and accomplish more than we can do necessarily as four people playing. Bringing in loops and samples is really fascinating, and it feels like a direction that we are gonna work on exploring a little bit more. It’s just such a different experience, you know? 

That’s incredible. I am wondering what the crowd is like right now for these new ones. Are they kinda just staring, slack-jawed or inundated? Is there excitement? How do you feel about the reception? 

Caulfield: There’s definitely a lot of excitement. Cole, didn’t you say that the crowd is zoning now? Or are they vibing? They used to be vibing, and now they’re zoning. 

SMITH: I feel you can divide the world into three types of people: chillers, zoners, and vibers. And it was more vibers. I think people are readjusting their perception of what our show is because, in the past, it was really chaotic and fast and a mosh pit type thing. That is vibing. Now, people show up to vibe and then quickly are, like, “oh, I’m supposed to be zoning,” so then they zone. (laughs) And sometimes vibe, you know?  

Caulfield: I’m all about it. I remember seeing Godspeed You Black Emperor at the Metro in Chicago when I was, like, 18, and I was zoning hard. It was one of the most transportive, meaningful shows I’ve ever seen. And it feels like we’re tapping into some similar thing, where the crowd is going on a journey with us. You can look out and see moments where it clicks for someone, and they go wide-eyed and they’re, like, “holy shit (more laughs) this is this is crazy.” It’s just a different it’s a different experience now. 

Smith: I feel like this is the world we’re living in very much. But, playing a show, you are trying to create a world, but you’re also trying to bring yourself into the audience’s world and walk this line between the two. And, I feel maybe previously, we existed a bit more in the audience’s world where we wanted to cater to their expectations or give them their show. But I feel like now, it’s much more of an immersive, world-building experience where we’re trying way harder to bring people into this world that we’ve created around the record.

The first time I plugged in and thought, “Let’s go! A new DIIV record!” and I remember watching an interview and you’re describing Frog as “dense” and it it is. Everything from the subject matter to the way you guys present it is just deliberately complex. It had me thinking, if you guys had to scrap it all, restart, and only take one thing from this record and move forward, is there something in mind – whether it’s a lyric, a melody, the concept as a whole, a whole song, that you couldn’t leave behind? A cornerstone?

Caulfield: Can’t do it, man. 

Smith: Like if we dropped the hard drive and lost the files with the record? It’s funny because we kind of did that so many times. Throughout the course of the record, there’d be a song, and it would feel cool, but we would sometimes keep only one thing from the original. Whether it was the chord progression or a loop underneath – whatever it was. That was a part of the writing – deleting the entire album and starting over. That happened every single song over the course of the record. Like when you write an English paper, and then it gets deleted, and then the second time you write it, it’s better even though it sucked to write it again.

Caulfield: Making an album is an exercise, some sort of zen activity where you can’t change it once it’s finished. You have to just say it’s done at a certain point. And I feel like the lessons we learned or anything that we could glean from this album, the benefit is not being able to say, like, “oh, I would do it differently.” The benefit is going into the next thing we make. We now have this new information to tap into. 

New knowledge. Beautiful. What’s your comfort on this tour? What’s something you guys lean on or look forward to? 

Smith: The support bands that we have give us so much energy, you know? It’s so fun to watch all these fans see someone who we’re really excited about – to see how our crowd reacts. I’m always surprised and impressed by our crowd’s ability to adjust their perceptions or just enter that artist’s world. It’s just really good energy for us. It’s usually younger bands who are excited, themselves, but we also have SASAMI on this tour who’s a veteran, a lifer. To hear her perspective on things and see what she’s doing live…that, for me, is one of my favorite parts. 

That’s so righteous. Any other comforts? 

Caulfield: Well, we’re on a bus for the first time, so there’s, for us, extreme luxury…access that we have to areas to chill and a bed and a fridge that’s stocked and everything. Tour is always hard, it seems. There’s no way around it. But there’s this feeling that the band is just continuing to progress and getting better and better. The show is getting better and better. That’s the comfort that I have is that we’re on a really positive track going forward. If we were regressing in some way, I think it would be kind of depressing. 

Excellent. What do you think, Ben? What’s been a comfort to you? 

Newman: My wife is here at the moment. That’s comforting. I can can get a hug anytime I want. 

That’s gotta be important out there. 

Smith: Bro, you can already get a hug anytime you want. 

Newman: It’s different. 

Are there any questions that you wish someone would ask you while you guys are out promoting? Is there anything you guys have been waiting for? Maybe a “damn, I wish someone would ask me this about this part of the record”? 

Smith: We’ve had the privilege of speaking with a lot of writers who we really respect, and it feels like they are people who seem to understand the record. There’s a lot on the record. Like you said, it’s dense, and there’s a lot to respond to. It’s definitely been a privilege to see people explore the different ideas that we address. What do you all think? 

Caulfield: I agree with that for the most part. I think the mistake a lot of musicians make going into a press cycle is hoping for people to ask about specific musical moments that we’re so proud of, but I don’t think that’s really how people necessarily listen to music. But that’s the only thing that I would be stoked to talk about. Maybe doing an interview with another musician who wants to just talk about the composition aspects. But that being said, I totally agree with Cole that the interviews and press we’ve done have really run the gamut. And it’s more interesting to hear how people experience the record themselves and react to that. 

Bailey: I was gonna say that I thought we were gonna get a lot more political questions. We’re very obviously making fun of capitalism, but nobody is asking. I was all ready to defend Marxism, in interviews, and nobody brings it up. 

Smith: Yeah. We have people who have been really respectful. We’ve had no arguments. I guess I want people to ask about all the guitar tunings that we use. We got all these tunings that are fucked up. I want people to be nerdy about that.

Caulfield: There’s just some moments like Ben’s drum fill in the jam of “Somber The Drums.” There’s this one rolling tom fill that is a perfect drum fill. There’s all these musical moments where it’s like, “damn, we really fucking nailed that,” and I wish someone would geek out with us about those. 

Newman: I feel like, because we have the podcast, we get to ask ourselves whatever questions we want, and we end up just talking about music and nerding out for a while. That’s always the most fun – talking about music and going down the rabbit hole. We could just talk for hours. 

It’s exciting that you guys have that sort of outlet to talk more specifically. I’m thinking about what Bailey said about your stance, that no one’s talking about it. No one’s talking about how this is pretty much a protest record. Would you guys call this a protest record? 

Bailey: I wouldn’t say that. We’re not protesting. We’re just pointing. Maybe not even that. We’re observing how other people are either protesting or not protesting and sort of finding how it’s interesting how different people or different types of personalities react to a situation where you 100% should be doing more than protest. 

Caulfield: It’s like a depiction of what it feels like to be a live record more than a protest record. It’s so funny to me that, I know that some people listen and consume art for escape, but it’s so funny that some people are like, “I miss when they sounded beachy.” What world are you looking at? Where are you? Don’t you feel that things have changed in the last, like, 10 years? Some people just are uncomfortable with that or at least it takes them longer to warm up to. 

SMITH: I think for all of us, especially getting later into our career as a band, we want to make something that’s true and intentional and powerful and speaks to our experience with what’s happening. 


Whether or not you call it a protest record is beside the point. Frog In Boiling Water is a call to consider humanity, its direction, and your place in the building heat. Zone and vibe with DIIV on tour if you’re able. Surf their websites. Find their podcast. In a time overwrought with grease and greed, a band we love has remained true to who they are. Revel in the rarity.