Perhaps it’s easiest to start with what Dive In are not. They are not the latest in a long line of professionally disheveled, Velvet Underground-cribbing bands here to save rock n’ roll. They are, at first blush, the very antithesis: a band unafraid of big pop choruses, soaring falsetto, and bright, gleaming production. And yet, Dive In’s inherent uncoolness has a strangely paradoxical effect in 2015. It’s refreshing to hear a band so willing to stand alone and apart from the rest, to compete on a completely separate plane. To hear Matthew Guttridge tell it, being the best rock band would be setting sights too low. He’s “working to [make Dive In] the best band in the world.” Guttridge knows there’s a thin line between ambition and absurdity—but it’s a line he’s willing to cross multiple times over the course of our chat to make his points. His honesty is striking and a little disarming at times as we discuss everything from what it takes to get a band together in Pilton, their signing to Vagrant, and the imminent release of Dive In’s first EP ‘Eighteen’. Check out the exclusive first stream of the EP’s title track, plus an interview with the band.
How did Dive In get its start?
We’d all been playing music in other bands – well, not many bands. Not many because there’s only like four here [in Pilton]. But eventually we decided that it was best to come together because the other bands weren’t really up for taking it any further and we really wanted to make something of our music.
Tell me about making that transition.
A couple of us were in a band called In Gratitude. It wasn’t much more than posting songs online, to be honest. We were just holed up in the studio and writing – all very guitar-based songs. With Dive In, we began incorporating more synth and piano and there’s more of a production element to it even if the writing process itself hasn’t changed.
Which bands or records would you say have influenced Dive In the most?
Our favorite record collectively is ‘Synchronicity’ by The Police, for whatever that’s worth. I’d say we are influenced by the ’80s era, generally. Those bands all sounded quite bold and weren’t afraid to say something and go big. So by Peter Gabriel is another favorite of ours.
I’d say those influences come through loud and clear in your sound. They’re also pretty radically different from those of other bands trending in 2015. Why do you think strong lead vocals and melodies sound so novel right now?
That’s a tough one. I have a lot of opinions but I want to be careful because, well, I know I still need to prove myself. I personally think proper singing and melodies have fallen by the wayside because it’s hard to find something new [with that approach]. Back in the day, music was developing so people were stumbling onto new ideas all the time. Now a lot has been done so you really have to work and dig. When we’re in the studio, if we’re lucky something will pop out in 5 minutes, but that’s very rare. You have to be prepared to work really hard and dig and break down every part of your ego to get to the point that you’re confident you’ve written a good song and you’re saying something fresh.
So you’re saying it’s easier to act like you don’t care and to just sound cool.
Yeah, I actually am. It’s a mad thing to say. Look, I’m not going to sit here and say we’re the best band in the world because I’m neither that ignorant nor that arrogant. We’re nice people. But at the same time, we’re working to be the best band in the world. And I think what’s cool is having the balls to wear your heart on your sleeve and say something meaningful
Where does that desire come from – to put it straight out there?
I think growing up right next to the Glastonbury festival was a part of it. When you see these bands on the [Pyramid] stage with huge songs resonating with masses of people, it’s an incredibly powerful thing. I remember seeing R.E.M. play there — and I know we sound nothing like them — but I was in awe of how they could connect by being true to themselves. It wasn’t cool, you know, but it was better than that because it felt true.
Maybe a strange question here but do you consider Dive In a rock band?
Aesthetically, probably not. We do take elements—the rhythm, for example, we like to bring that forward. But I don’t know if we’re a proper rock band. We are definitely a band—we’re all playing instruments onstage. But rock band may be a stretch.
Do you think that made things more difficult when it came time to deal with labels?
Probably. We put up two songs very early on — in January 2012 — and within a few days we had a weird onslaught of emails from every major and renowned indie. We dragged them all out to our studio because we didn’t want to go to London to play a show unless everything was perfect. We wound up playing these weird label showcases [in our town] for four months, but they all ended the same. They didn’t hear anything mainstream that was like us and wanted us to find a producer that could make us sound like something else.
So what happened then?
We regrouped and then put out ‘Let Go’ [in 2013]. It did really well considering we didn’t give it a proper push. A few blogs picked it up and it got a bunch of plays on Soundcloud.
Is that when Vagrant reached out?
Yes. Jeremy [Maciak, Vagrant A&R] liked the song and wanted to hear more demos. He was the first one who just believed in the songs and didn’t care about anything else. So, we signed with Vagrant.
He’s based in America, right? So did he see you live?
(laughs) No. No, he didn’t.
That’s quite the leap of faith! What are your release plans now?
We’ll have an EP — ‘Eighteen’ and ‘Can’t Hold Me Down’ will be on it along with three short instrumentals. Eventually, ‘Let Go’ will get a re-release as a single, just not sure when. We think it can go a bit further still, and it’s been reworked and remixed so it has more punch now.
Who did you work with on these new recordings?
Andy Green [Keane, The Feeling] helped us a lot, and we re-recorded the vocals with him. It was great to get another crack because when we demoed a year ago, we were writing at the same time, so sometimes I didn’t get a real go at singing and it sounded stunted. Now I’m singing properly the whole way through. For mixing, we gave the songs to Alan Moulder [Smashing Pumpkins, My Bloody Valentine]. I loved his work with Smashing Pumpkins and felt like he was a natural fit for what we were trying to do.
So when can Londoners expect you?
It is a bit crazy that we’ve only played London three times, but we’ve also only done about ten public gigs total. We will play though—and soon!
The ‘Eighteen’ EP is out May 25 via Vagrant Records, and the band has announced a London show @ The Lexington on August 5.