The Dives are a new 4 piece rock band out of New York, who have been riding a strong industry buzz based on the quality of their debut EP Everybody’s Talkin’. It also doesn’t hurt that a bullet point on their bio tells you that singer, songwriter and guitarist Evan Stanley is the son of Kiss frontman Paul Stanley. However given the excitement surrounding the band’s songs and energetic live shows, hopefully it won’t be too long before that bullet point merely becomes a trivia item rather than the media focus. Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips caught up with Evan Stanley and bass player Sergio Ortega to discuss the band’s progress.
Jakob Dylan, Julian Lennon, Jason Bonham, Justin Townes Earle, and Ziggy Marley are just a few of many talented artists who have had to work extra hard to earn acceptance in the shadow of their legendary musician fathers. You can now add Evan Stanley of New York based band The Dives to that list. Evan is the son of Kiss singer guitarist Paul Stanley but like the aforementioned list of musicians, he’s intent on forging his own path with his own style of rock ‘n’ roll. Evan, along with Dives’ bandmates Mike Lefton (guitar), Sergio Ortega (bass) and Jimmy Meier (drums) have just released an impressive 4 track debut EP titled Everybody’s Talkin, and the music media is indeed talkin’ this band up. The Dives have unearthed a swaggering, punchy style of rock that we haven’t heard out of New York City for for quite some time. With the release of their debut EP featuring four contagiously rockin’ tunes and despite coming from both sides of the American coast, they seemed to have tapped into a classic New York rock sound in the spirit of The Strokes, Springsteen and even Mink Deville.
“Oh man Mink Deville is a name I haven’t heard in a long time,” a surprised Evan Stanley tells me. “That’s really cool that you picked up on that. We all listen to a ton of different stuff but that creeps into what we do and I like to think you really go back to the pillars of rock music, The Beatles, The Who, The Stones, Zeppelin but we also have our hands in a lot of different jars and pull from everywhere to bring something that is a little bit fresh. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel, we’re a rock n roll band and that’s what we love doing and that’s what we are all about but we want to develop our own unique voice within that. We want somebody to listen and immediately go, this is a Dives song. I think listening to a lot of different things allows us to do that.”
The Dives came about basically because Evan had a bunch of solid songs written but nobody to play them with. A New York sound engineer friend who had his ear to the ground suggested to Evan that guitarist singer Mike Lefton might be a possible starting point. With nothing to lose, Evan gave him a call and organised a jam session.
“Within a couple of minutes of playing we knew there was something there,” says Evan. “We started singing a Simon & Garfunkel song and we clicked. It’s one thing to play with someone but to sing and play well together that’s something else. So Mike brought in Jimmy and I brought in Sergio and from there it went off. Again it was one of those experiences the first time all four of us played. It was a little loose and uncertain of where we were all going at the moment but we knew there was a spark there that I think none of us had ever felt before with any other group and that’s something we want to grab onto and never let go. There was never really a question of what we are going to be or what’s the band’s identity, we were all on the same page and operating on the same wavelength from the get-go. It was more, how can we get as good as possible and be the best version of us that we can be.”
The hallmark of this band and the biggest indication that they’re set for a long and fruitful career is the fact that their sound is based on strong, catchy songs, great guitar tones and self-made dynamics, created by clever chord changes and great riffs. There is no gimmick element. They’re also the ingredients for an exciting live show, something they’ve been working hard to hone since their formation barely a year ago. Do they see the live show as more important than recording?
“To connect with someone in the moment live and exchange that energy with someone, I don’t think that is rivalled by any other experience,” says Evan. “By the same token, to be able to try to capture that feeling of playing live and preserve it in recorded form is really and truly a different art but just as gratifying for different reasons. We started as a live band, well most bands do … you play live before you record. At this point we are trying to do both. I think the most disappointing thing is to hear a really great record and then going to see the band and they don’t live up to expectations or vice versa. You see a really great show and buy the record and it doesn’t capture that magic. We really strive to pull off both. We never want you to listen to us and be disappointed leaving a show, our goal is to knock people off their feet no matter what way they are experiencing us.”
The band can be seen regularly at famous New York rock haunts such as Bowery Electric, Grocery, Gramercy Theatre, and they recently played the Irving Plaza. Perhaps their biggest litmus test though was a recent tour of the UK. “That was amazing man,” says an excited Evan Stanley. “Talk about feeling some energy, 20,000 people focussed on you is a pretty ridiculous feeling. It’s a sensory overload in the best way. Not to get too sippy dippy or esoteric here but you steal people’s energy and you feed off that. There’s no denying that there’s a feeling you get when that many people watch you and it’s very gratifying. It’s one of those things that is trial by fire. They might be all there to see you but they are not all there to like you, you have to earn that. It’s one thing if you mess up in front of a hundred or 200 people but the fall is a lot harder and a lot longer in front of 20,000, so you kind of have to make sure you bring it and I am very proud that we did.”
Conscious of the fact that Evan is going to be spending a hell of a lot of media time talking about his father, I tried to keep this conversation on topic. However, knowing that Paul Stanley has accumulated an amazing amount of guitars and pedals over his career, I had to ask if Evan had been lucky enough to ‘borrow’ any of dad’s gear.
“I usually use and own all of my own stuff but come to think of it, my main Les Paul was the guitar he used on the Hot In The Shade tour. I guess that’s the only connection. I always loved that guitar more than any other guitar I had ever played. It plays so perfectly. It’s an ’88 or ’89 protoype for the Gibson 59 re-issue, from when the custom shop wanted to make great guitars again. They made a few of these and showed them around to artists and different dealers. The specs are just not right at all for a ’59 but it plays like nothing else and sounds fantastic, so that’s my main guitar which I got for my 21st birthday. I walked in and my dad said, well you’re always begging to borrow it and it’s always in your room and you’re always playing it so take it, it’s yours now. That is the one bit of gear we share but other than that, I have my own sound and my own taste in gear so I usually run a Les Paul through Marshalls and Mikey runs Gibsons through Marshalls. Jimmy is a Hendrix Drum endorser. We all use Mono cases. They are great people and thankfully dug the EP and they’ve been helping us out. Also Carlino Guitars, make the sickest guitar straps. Again he heard our stuff and called us up and said I love the music, how can we help and they make gorgeous straps that we all use.”
“I just secured an endorsement through Hartke amps and I’m real excited about that too,” chipped in bass player Sergio Ortega. “Right now I’m playing a P Bass Special. It’s kinda Frankensteined a bit. I’m using Dunlop strings on it … Superbrights, they really suit it. They add quite a bit to the sound of the band”
A recent social media post showed that The Dives’ pedal boards were made up mainly of overdrives, distortion and a bit of reverb, things that make the sound louder, dirtier and bigger rather than altering the sound too much. “I think Mikey and I are very much into getting a guitar sound,” says Evan. “I think there are some guys that … well Edge is a perfect example … he uses the guitar like an orchestra. His effects are so much a part of his sound and that is cool but it is definitely not what we do. We are much more plug and play kind of guys. We use pedals for practicality sake but when we record it was guitars and amps turned up loud. We both like delays a lot. I use a time delay on a ton of stuff and Mikey likes to use reverb but other than that, like you said just an assortment of drive pedals.”
With the Everybody’s Talkin’ EP out and about, you’d expect a full length album to follow soon after but The Dives are in no hurry, preferring instead to issue singles and EPs and continue to develop their live show. “Well there’s no shortage of material,” says Evan. “That was one of the really nice things … that we had material before we had a full band. I’ve been constantly striving to top the last song all the time. We’re never at rest. We’re always trying to get a better song, better performance and trying to get better at everything we do. There’s a lot of material waiting but right now, we are focussing on playing as much as we can. There’s going to be a steady stream of stuff coming out, hopefully over the next few months but in terms of a full length, when we feel the time is right we’ll tackle that but right now we’re releasing EPs and singles and playing live. There’s no substitute for playing live and making sure you deliver.”
And as for an Australian tour?
“Hopefully very soon. We’re dying to get out there. It’s on our bucket list of places to play because we have heard nothing but rave reviews. It’s just a matter of when.”
Everybody’s Talkin’ available on iTunes
The Dives’ website