Edward Burnett sat down to talk to premier NYC band The Dives. Mikey, Jimmy and Sergio talk through their first gigs, favourite films as well as the music scene over in New York City and how the pandemic has affected its vibe and schedule.
RNRR: Welcome to Spotlight, I’m joined today with rock band, The Dives! Hi guys, how are you all doing? Would you mind introducing yourselves and where you’re from to readers unfamiliar with your music?
DIVES: Hey! Thanks so much for having us! We’re Mike, Jimmy, and Sergio and we’re based in Sayreville, New Jersey.
RNRR: Hi guys! How would you best describe your music to new listeners? What genres do you delve into? Any other bands’ style you’d liken yours to?
DIVES: We consider ourselves Alt-Pop. In line with bands like The Wombats, The 1975, The Academic. You know, a plethora of “THE” bands [laughs].
RNRR: I don’t know about the readers but I can’t get enough of The Wombats! ‘Moving to New York’ is just an all time classic, hate to deviate from the course of questions for a moment but what are your favourite Wombat songs?
DIVES: Aren’t they just fantastic?! Jimmy is the only one of us who’s seen them live but we’re all big fans. You can’t really go wrong with any of their tracks, but some of our faves are ‘Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)’, ‘Kill the Director’, ‘Greek Tragedy’, ‘Shock Goodbyes and P45s’, ‘Lemon to a Knife Fight’, and so on and so on. Their videos are so rad as well. We especially love the singles ‘Bee-Sting’ and ‘Turn’.
RNRR: Great choices there! So back on track I do apologise [laughs], how did the band meet? Did you know each other before the music started flowing or was this a purely professional start?
DIVES: [laughs] All good! So easy to get off track when it comes to bands you love. We were originally a 4-piece band before we ultimately ended up as a trio. Myself (Mike) and Jimmy knew each other from the Jersey music scene. Bob, who has been our Producer since the beginning, knew Sergio from working together on previous projects in NYC and introduced him to the rest of us. The rest is history.
RNRR: Just briefly before we move onto your actual music and releases to date, can you tell the readers a little more about the NYC and wider New Jersey music scene? Do you find yourselves in an interlinked wider network of bands and artists in the surrounding area? Would you say the talent is growing year on year?
DIVES: The scene in NYC and NJ is unfortunately a bit fractured. Somewhere along the line, bands started thinking it was impossible to move up together. Bands promote their set but then leave once they finish playing, taking their fans with them. Instead of just booking a set for ourselves, we try to secure the whole night and book bands that are similar to us on the bill when possible. We only put the shows start time and end time on the flyer to encourage people to stay to see all of the bands. This helps the bands fanbases cross-pollinate and it keeps the venue full and the bar selling drinks. I think if more bands and venues adopted this philosophy, the scene would come back stronger than ever.
RNRR: That’s a very good policy to hold and well done for doing your bit in trying to keep up the lower level music scene alive! So let’s zoom right up to the present and talk about your brand spanking new release, ‘Never Enough’. You describe it as a “deep, breakup anthem” which is cleverly disguised as a “danceable pop track”. I’d definitely agree with that rundown but what else does it mean to you? Are the song’s lyrics personal or did you try target a relatable subject that most people can sympathise with while listening?
DIVES: Yes! This song was definitely inspired by true events. It came about during a writing session I (Jimmy) had with our friend, and amazing singer/songwriter, Zach Matari. Zach recorded the initial conversation we had upon meeting up on his voice memo app without me knowing and it captured some candid thoughts that made their way into the song. There are lots of personal little Easter eggs in the lyrics that pertain to my story, but lots that are open ended for listeners to attach to their own stories. I think that’s the perfect ingredient for a popular song.
RNRR: So on that topic, do you always go about the same way while writing a song? Are their certain elements like relatability and little references that you feel need to be present always or do you believe that you can go fully off charter and do your own style without such noticeable features?
DIVES: We tend to work with what feels or sounds good in the moment whether it be a riff, an idea/topic, a lyric, or an experience. All 3 of us are songwriters with our own styles, so the hardest part is to write within the sound of the band. With time, that’s beginning to come more and more naturally.
RNRR: So every process has to have a start and although we’ve chatted about how you all met, I think I’d like to take the readers even further back through The Dives’ history. So what is each member’s earliest music memory and similarly, what was each of your first gigs attended?
DIVES: [Jimmy]: The first memories of music that I can remember are of my dad blasting Shania Twain in his pick up truck while we drove around. My first concert was on the complete opposite side of the musical spectrum, tagging along to an N’Sync show with my sister and her friends. My musical shmorgishborg has only gotten fuller since then, but I think it’s good to expose yourself to lots of different genres and to learn what you like and don’t like about all of them. [Mikey]: I would say my earliest musical memory was actually getting to see my dad play bass with a band for the first time. I must have been 3 or 4 years old and he hasn’t played in many years so this was my introduction and his reintroduction to music! My first concert (besides that one lol) was Ringo Starr and his All Star Band at age 9. What could be cooler than seeing a Beatle as your first concert?! [Sergio]: My earliest musical memories have to be of my Mom playing Motown tracks in the house and in the car. I come from a Mexican household but my Mom was the only one of all her siblings that was born and raised in America. Specifically Gary, Indiana and that's all she listened to growing up. Though I do have this hilarious memory when I was a wee lad of my Uncle, who rarely drinks, getting good and drunk with my Dad and blasting Mexican ranchera music and singing (horribly). That was my first experience of memory Mexican music. First concert was actually a musical also thanks to my Mom. She took me to see Jesus Christ Superstar at the Chicago Theatre and was one of the coolest experiences. David Bedella, who’s from my hometown, was in that cast and my Mom was friends with his sister. So he was kind enough to show us around backstage and meet some of the other cast members. Sort of life changing as I think that experience is what made me want to do music.
RNRR: Wow, some immense ones there especially seeing Ringo Starr! While we are on the theme of gigs, we are of course waiting across the world until we can return to attending them thanks to the COVID pandemic. What gig is each of your dream shows that you have yet to attend? What act are you desperate to see and what venue/festival would it just have to be at?
DIVES: [Mikey]: I’ve seen almost everyone I want to that’s still alive lol, but I have tickets for Billy Joel that keep getting postponed because of Covid. So when I finally get to go to MSG that will be a dream come true! [Jimmy]: Any concert. Any venue. I’m just so excited to be able to see live music after not seeing it for so long. [Sergio]: Had tickets for Rage Against the Machine but I’ll sadly have to wait another year for that one. Aside from that, I’m with Jimmy on this one. I’m pumped to see live music again in any venue.
RNRR: So aside from the music, what do you guys like to do in your free time? Do you hang out as a group or is it very much a music only type of bond?
DIVES: Not only are we bandmates but we're also friends and love to hang out outside of band related things. Whether that’s movie nights, dinners, horror movie and comic cons. The pandemic had made our hangs super limited for the better part of a year, but we've all been fully vaccinated and are so ready to hang and play live more actively again!
RNRR: You mention movies there and I wanted to know, do you think the film scene is as vital as the music scene in the entertainment industry? How much importance do you place on films in relation to that you place on music?
DIVES: That’s a fascinating question, and being film buffs, we definitely place as much importance on films as we do music. In many ways they are very similar mediums, it’s just that music evokes pictures and films are actually pictures. The stories we see on film are both a reflection of our world and can also help guide us in our lives. Much like music, an audience can view a film as purely entertainment, and that’s fine. But when music and film become art, then we place a huge importance on them in the stories they tell, the statements they make and what we can learn from them.
RNRR: Great answer, really maps out how much you value the entertainment industry as a whole. Obviously with us all being self proclaimed film buffs, I can’t let you get the next question until each of you all tell me your favourite film and why it’s got the top spot on your personal lists!
DIVES: [Mikey]: ‘Jaws’! The perfect blend of suspense, thrills, and comedy. An iconic score, the first summer blockbuster, an amazing cast and groundbreaking effects. What more could you want? [Jimmy]: ‘Frequency’. I was younger the first time I saw it, and the weaving in and out from past and present blew my mind. Always the first film that enters my mind when I’m asked my favourite. [Sergio]: ‘Big Trouble in Little China’. A brilliant John Carpenter film and highly under-appreciated IMO. As Mr. Carpenter puts it “an action adventure comedy Kungfu ghost story monster movie”. It is so absurd and so glorious. The score is rad and unique, crazy fun special effects that were ahead of its time, and I can’t get enough of the Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) monologues and one-liners.
RNRR: Some amazing picks there, all true classics with their own individual merits. So quickly swinging it back round to music for the last few questions now. What does the rest of 2021 hold for The Dives? In the way of releases planned and live shows, what are you thinking or even hoping to get out of this year from now?
DIVES: We have plans for more releases and videos throughout the rest of 2021. We're also super excited that we'll be able play live shows more actively again as venues open up more and more. We had missed playing live so much and were super pumped to have finally been able to do so last month in NYC. Really emotional and fun for us and for the people who were able to attend. Proved how much people NEED live music and human interaction. There's nothing else like it.
RNRR: There truly isn’t. Well guys that just about wraps her up, it’s been a pleasure having you on. However, as you know from previous Spotlights, I can’t end this until I ask a very special question that every guest gets asked right at the end. Desert. Island. Discs. One album you’re allowed for the rest of your days on the island and one album only. What are you all picking and equally importantly, why?
DIVES: [Mikey]: One album is simply impossible to choose. There are far too many to pick from. However, the one that still means the most to me in my growth as a musician is ‘Rubber Soul’ by The Beatles. It was the first time I had ever really conceived that an album could be more than just a collection of songs, but actually have a deeper meaning to it. It’s the perfect combination of folk, rock and pop all in one album. So while it pains me to omit so many other favourites, I would have to choose that one. [Jimmy]: I’m not the only one of us to pick a Beatles record but I think I’ll be the only one to choose ‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’. My uncle burnt me a copy of it and I think I listened to it non stop for MONTHS. Little did I know then the significance this album had on popular music and how it would affect me as a musician, recording engineer, and producer later in my career. I probably still have the CD with his handwriting on it somewhere. [Sergio]: Peter Gabriel is one of my favourite artists, performers, and songwriters of all time. So if there was one album I had to choose, it would be ‘So’ by Peter Gabriel. To me, it is a perfect record front to back. Brilliant songwriting and so beautiful sonically. It had a huge impact on me growing up even before I ever entertained the idea of becoming a musician. Not to mention, it’s responsible for probably one of the greatest music videos of all time in ‘Sledgehammer’. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched that video. So it’s unique in that I always have an awesome visual to go with the song every time I listen to it. Rare that any artist can pull off something like that.
RNRR: Expert choices all round guys! Well that just about wraps things up, thank you for coming on Spotlight, it’s been a pleasure chatting. Everyone at RNRR wishes The Dives all the very best for the rest of the musical year.
If you would like to find out more about The Dives or keep up to date with the band's latest releases, their social medias are all below via the icons: