The Dives is a fantastic new, young rock band that recently released its first EP, Everybody’s Talkin’. I recently interviewed two of the band’s members, lead singer Evan Stanley and bassist Sergio Ortega.
Evan, as the lead singer of the band, how do you preserve your voice for an entire set, night after night?
EVAN: It’s endurance. You just build up to it. Do the vocal warm-ups and try to stay on top of taking care of your voice. Don’t drink too much, don’t smoke—the basics.
Does talking in between songs help or hurt?
EVAN: On stage, I’ve never noticed. But one thing I don’t like is when we’re in a noisy club and people try to talk for an hour or two before the set. You end up shouting. Talking is totally fine. Regular talking is nothing. But when it gets to the point of shouting, it becomes a problem. I can sing for a really long time, but shouting will wear down my voice very quickly.
When did you guys form The Dives and what brought you together?
EVAN: About a year ago. Mutual friends brought us together and we could tell there was something intangible there so we kept going.
When you decided that you wanted to move forward as a band, did you start off by playing cover songs or did you already have original material ready to go?
EVAN: We had a full set. I spent a summer down in Nashville, while I was in college. I spent a lot of time on writing and singing. Got back and I was dying to start a band. So, I had everything ready to go. Of course, we have more stuff now. But we had songs ready to play when we started.
SERGIO: Yeah, it was very organic.
When it comes to songwriting, what’s the process been, so far, for The Dives?
EVAN: I write the majority of the stuff right now. Usually, I’ll bring in a voice demo and pass it around. Everyone, kind of, vibes on it. Then we’ll start playing it. The first step is making sure it passes the test and that everyone digs it.
SERGIO: Everyone has to dig it for us to move forward with it.
EVAN: I’d say once a week or so I bring these voice demos in, pass them around and ask everyone, “What do you think?” A lot of times, it’s, “Well, work on it.” And then other times it’s, “This is really cool!” And everyone thinks it’s cool, we start to play it and then it really takes shape. We sit down and really start to work out an arrangement and everyone brings their own perspective. That’s when it really takes shape and becomes The Dives.
How do you figure out who’s going to sing what in your songs?
EVAN: During the live shows we all wind up singing the chorus and the harmonies. Thus far, I’ve been singing lead and we all sing harmonies. Literally, half the time I’m singing lead, Mike’s singing a harmony to it. There are a lot of harmonies in what we do, which is what I think sets us apart from a lot of bands now. We’re a rock and roll band that’s got catchy hooks. We’ve got four guys that can sing together, and we spend a lot of time working on how our voices blend. I think the art of harmony, especially live, is a bit lost now. When you go back and listen to The Who, The Beach Boys, The Beatles—those guys had real harmonies. The Birds, forget about it! That was the selling point. The way those voices blended was like nothing else. So, we put a lot of effort into that. I’ll sing the leads on the songs but then it really depends on everyone coming in on the choruses. That’s when you really get that sound.
You recently released your debut EP, Everybody’s Talkin’. When you went into the studio to record this music, how did you make sure it captured the signature sound of your live shows?
SERGIO: In a recording, something might not translate the same as it does live. We’re constantly working on parts that might not work live or in a studio. It’s quite the process to get it right.
EVAN: The goal was always to give people the impact of our live show through the EP. But, as Serg said, certain things translate differently live versus in the studio. So, we spent some time not only performing the stuff, but sitting down and listening to it afterward. We’ll listen back to it and say, “This part’s too long” or “This part’s too short.” You want to get the same impact, but the way you get there is different since the medium is different.
Was this EP released on a label or are you doing it on your own?
SERGIO: This is on our own. There’s no label attached to it, so it’s very DIY.
EVAN: Yeah, man, I think a lot of young bands are—or at least they used to be—focused on getting a record deal. But with the way things have shifted recently, it’s not always what you need, especially super-early in your career. That’s not to discount it. A lot of people bash record companies now unfairly. There’s definitely something they can offer. But to jump into bed with them before you even have a first release out…you don’t really come to the table with that much leverage. It’s a lot of, “Trust us, we’re good.” We think it’s important to prove the concept—in any business you’re in. Because it is the record business, as much as it’s an art. Unless you have leverage, you’re gonna get screwed over. So, we figured, let’s do the best thing we possibly can. Let’s do it ourselves, to start, to build an organic fan base. The rest will come when it comes. And we feel that the time will come. For now, we’re doing it on our own.
When it comes to playing guitar and singing, who are your top influences?
SERGIO: I’d say John Paul Jones from Zeppelin was definitely a big influence on me. Definitely McCartney.
EVAN: The guitarists that have had the most influence on how I play are Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, and Peter Green. When it comes to singing, the guys I love are McCartney, Steve Marriott and Graham Nash. You also can’t beat Plant and Roger Daltrey.
SERGIO: Definitely John Entwistle too. I gravitate toward melodic players who are multi-instrumentalists.
Michael Cavacini is an award-winning communications professional, and his arts and culture site, MichaelCavacini.com, features additional interviews with iconic artists.
The Dives will be playing at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ on July 24, the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, NY on Aug. 3, the House Of Independents in Asbury Park, NJ on Aug. 16, and the Highline Ballroom in New York City on Aug. 17. For more information, go to thedivesmusic.com and facebook.com/thedivesmusic.