DIIV Believes We're All Boiling to Death Ahead of Denver Concert | Westword

NYC Indie Band DIIV Believes We're All Boiling to Death

The band plays the Ogden Theatre on Sunday, June 16.
DIIV returns with new record about boiling frogs.
DIIV returns with new record about boiling frogs. Courtesy Louis Kovatch
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DIIV doesn’t do concept records. But Frog in Boiling Water, the NYC indie rockers' fourth studio album, released in May, is held together by an inconspicuous central narrative that pushes it under that category, admits lead vocalist and guitarist Zachary Cole Smith.

“We didn’t try to make a concept record, even though apparently we did,” he says.

Frog in Boiling Water will never be mistaken for Tommy or Operation: Mindcrime, but the band’s decision to take on the downfalls of living in a capitalistic hellscape gives the record a more philosophical concept than those fictional rock operas.

The title, for example, is a reference to a long-held metaphor, popularized by environmentalist author Daniel Quinn in his 1996 novel The Story of B, about how a frog placed into a pot of water will theoretically slowly boil to death if the water temperature rises steadily compared to dropping it into piping-hot water. (For the record, a frog’s biology would never allow it to be unknowingly boiled to death.)

So when Smith sings “Systems fail and empires fall” on the closing track, "Fender on the Freeway," it hits harder. We’re all the frogs, as DIIV sees it.  But Frog didn’t necessarily start as a dystopian indie-rock project.
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The NYC indie rockers open up about how they see the world nowadays.
Courtesy Coley Brown
See, DIIV focused on the music first, before an overarching theme emerged lyrically. Frog was written between 2019 and 2023, and Cole, guitarist Andrew Bailey, bassist Colin Caulfield and drummer Ben Newman simply shared how they felt during those weird times.

“It’s really fortuitous that we were able to bring in some heavy themes on the record,” Cole says. “We waffled back and forth about thematically what we wanted to tackle. It did happen really naturally. I think it was partially because the music matched, too.”

Sharing weighty topics isn’t necessarily new for the band, as Smith’s past struggle with drug addiction are well documented on records Is the Is Are (2016) and Deceiver (2019). But addressing bigger, societal ills this time around felt like the most natural thing to do.

“It just trickled its way in,” Newman adds. “It wasn’t like one day we decided to make it political. Thematically, it really started to emerge on its own because that was on our minds anyway.”

It's an election year, so the next five months leading up to November 5 are going to be infuriating, especially with both sides stewing after the recent Donald Trump and Hunter Biden news, and DIIV plays into that general sense of dread that most people are feeling. Check out the manic website DIIV put together while promoting the new album, if you have some free time to fall down an unhinged rabbit hole.

While it’s not as introspective and personal as previous releases, Frog still comes across as close to the heart in that way.

“It’s less introspective than some of our previous records, but that is a part of it. That’s something that we definitely dabble in as a band,” Smith says. “This one we wanted to tie in the more introspective elements into other characters or a broader social context rather than speak specifically about our own experience, even though it’s all tied in and there are moments of introspection on a big-picture level and micro level.

“In terms of the records we made, this one is maybe the least explicitly introspective,” he continues.

“I think that maybe comes from this being an outward-looking album, but still very personal-sounding,” Caulfield adds. “It’s like our voice or the world through our eyes. Because of that, it feels very intimate, regardless of whether or not it’s looking outward or inward.”

Judge for yourself when DIIV (pronounced “dive”) plays the Ogden Theatre on Sunday, June 16. Sasami and Glixen are also on the bill.

Cole, who previously played in Soft Black, formed DIIV as a solo project in 2011. But the group naturally began to shift into a more democratic outfit. Frog, the bandmates agree, is the most collaborative effort to date, and they figure that’ll be the new norm moving forward.

“There are a lot of things about this album and the band where it feels like there’s some sort of momentum or inevitability about certain things,” Caulfield explains. “I think the past three records were baby steps toward doing a more intentionally collaborative record. That’s what ended up happening.”

Cole and company can’t necessarily recall a particular conversation about changing up the band dynamics and allowing each member’s voice to be heard and considered. But Cole admits to intentionally taking a step back from a more “totalitarian” approach and allowing everyone’s ideas to be part of the process, particularly with Frog.

“You can quickly lose the plot when you’re trying to make a decision about one small thing,” he says, adding that it can be something as simple-sounding as whether or not a song should include four bars or eight.

“During the course of it, we were creating and designing a decision-making process. It was extremely participatory, where it made it difficult to make decisions at the time,” Cole says.

“But there is no answer. There’s no stock, boiler-plate way of the DIIV model of writing songs,” he concludes. “We’re just figuring it out as we go. We were building the car and driving it at the same time.”

DIIV, 7 p.m. Sunday, June 16, Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue. Tickets are $33.50.
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