A Conversation With The Dives

Photo by Mark Weiss.

The Dives is a fantastic new, young rock band that recently released its first EP: Everybody’s Talkin’. This album features four great songs, overflowing with pop-rock hooks and riffs that will quickly get stuck in your head. The harmonies are excellent, and the musicianship is top-tier. If you like rock or pop music, you have to pick up a copy of this EP. It’s that good! Speaking of The Dives, 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.

I first saw you guys live on KISS Kruise VI in November 2016 and you were great! What was it like performing for 3,000 crazy KISS fans on a cruise ship?

EVAN: That comes back to our band’s association with me and my Dad. Obviously, I’m super-proud of everything he’s done and it’s a really wonderful thing. But that’s not what we sound like and, really, where we’re going. We have our own trajectory. It’s an interesting position to be in. Unlike a lot of young bands, we have some amazing opportunities. But then people sometimes don’t understand the fact that with those opportunities comes a lot more gravity to the situation. We’re being judged under a microscope. I don’t know any other band that’s been around a year that gets judged as harshly, whether it’s behind closed doors or out in the world. Whether it’s the industry or the public, it’s a microscope. If we trip and we fall, the fall is a lot farther and a lot harder than most other bands that have only been around a year.

From what I heard, everyone provided you guys with a lot of positive feedback based on your performances on the boat.

SERGIO: Absolutely! We try to give the best show possible by playing music that we love to do. It was definitely cool to see such a positive reaction from people. But, as Evan said, we are under a microscope so we want to make it clear to people that we’re taking this very seriously. So, it’s always great to see people have such a positive reaction to what we’re doing.

Evan, on the boat you had the opportunity to play some Led Zeppelin with Gene Simmons’ son, Nick. What was that like?

EVAN: That was spur of the moment. I ran into him in the hallway and he asked me if I wanted to play a Led Zeppelin song. I said, “Sure!” No biggie. I think being on the boat was definitely a good opportunity for us. It was our first time being thrown in front of an audience that was interested but not necessarily inclined to like us. They were definitely curious. And when you get a lot of positive feedback like we did, it changed the way we approached live shows and rehearsals a lot. It was a great thing and it set us on a course that I’m really grateful for. We’re going to be on the KISS Kruise again this year, and I can’t wait. I think it’s going to be a big surprise for everybody.

Clearly, parents want to show their support for their children and do what they can to help them. Evan, how do you and your Dad balance that with you wanting to do your own thing and create your own distinct identity within The Dives?

EVAN: That’s never been an issue. Luckily, growing up I was never even pushed toward music. My Dad and my Mom, for that matter, have always said, “Find what makes you happy and then do that.” I happened to stumble upon music. I can’t discount the fact that I saw my Dad doing it for about a decade at that point. But when I was 10 or 11 and I picked up a guitar, that’s really what set me on this path. There was no push from my Dad, even now. He’ll come to shows and say, “Good job” or give pointers. Obviously, we had a really good opportunity to go to the UK with KISS. And you’d have to be crazy to turn that down, regardless of the situation. It’s not a hard balance to strike. Between us, I’m really close with him and we have a great relationship. Whether it’s music or anything else, it’s not really an issue. When I say association, I mean expectations or preconceived ideas of what other people think of me and The Dives. Everyone around here knows that this is us and we’re The Dives. We have our own unique sound. We have our own identity and it’s a pretty clear-cut one.

Photo by Mark Weiss.

You mentioned touring with KISS in the UK. I assume that was your first time being on tour internationally. It must have been a great experience. What was that like?

SERGIO: It was pretty amazing. It was a very busy time for us. We had a lot to do, especially with the travel involved. It was an amazing experience to get on the big stage and play for more than 10,000 people. In the O2 it was 20,000+. The small show was 14,000 people!

From an audio perspective, it has to be different playing for such a large crowd on such a large stage versus playing for a smaller crowd in a club, right?

EVAN: It’s something to adjust to, for sure. The stage is so large that you realize, “Oh shit, I can’t hear the kick drum because it’s so far away from me.” I could only hear it in my ear monitor. That was a new experience for me. It’s just stuff you adjust to, but thankfully the crew was great. They were always looking out for us and helping us to dial everything in. A couple songs into the first show we settled in and did our thing. Whether we’re playing to 10 or 10,000 or, eventually 100,000, we try to put on the best show we can and do what we do.

Philadelphia has some great concert venues that I think would be perfect for you guys. Have you considered playing in Philly and other nearby cities?

SERGIO: I think we’re of the opinion that we’re willing to play anywhere. Anything is fair game. We want to play everywhere.

EVAN: I think we’ll play in Philly sometime soon. We try not to put a limit on anything.

Now that the first EP is out there, do you plan on putting out more new music this year or next?

EVAN: We have tons and tons of material. It’s just a matter of how we release it and when. It’s coming.Evan, the first time I saw you perform live was on KISS Kruise III when you played guitar with the fantastic band Vintage Trouble. What was that like?

EVAN: They’re absolutely fantastic. Great dudes and a great band. Like them, when we get on stage, we try to sound great, we try to look great, we try to entertain. So, I think that any experience you have contributes to what you do. And I think that getting to sit in with any great live bands does that. It was a great experience I’m glad to add that to what we do.

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.

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