how sky ferreira channels kim gordon in new diiv track ‘blue boredom’
The alt-pop provocateur guests on her boyfriend Zachary Cole Smith’s eagerly anticipated sophomore DIIV record. Though the couple often draws Kurtney comparisons, here’s why their musical efforts are straight up Sonic Youth.
Over the weekend, DIIV frontman Zachary Cole Smith treated fans to a first listen of his band's sophomore album Is The Are -- a record four long, turbulent years in the making. Ahead of its February 5 release date, Smith streamed the entire double LP on Friday. Is the Are features 17 tracks in total, five of which are previously released efforts, including manic lead single "Dopamine" and upbeat shredder "Under The Sun." As Smith explained in a recent Tumblr post, both of these tracks relate to his longtime girlfriend, Sky Ferreira. But the singer slash Saint Laurent muse also features on the record in what appears to be the pair's first official collaboration, "Blue Boredom."
"Sky listens to music so differently than I do," Smith told me when we spoke about the album back in October. "She's a very lyric-based listener, so it was important to put extra focus on this record's lyrics." Is the Are is a product of the rocky period that followed the band's explosive debut release in 2012, years in which the couple were arrested for drug possession, and in which Smith got clean. "On 'Dopamine,' I say about Sky, 'you're the sun and I was your cloud,' which is literally how I felt so many times we were together," Smith wrote on Tumblr in reference to Ferreira's enduring support through his battle to overcome addiction. "I guess I also kinda carried it over to 'Under the Sun' which deep down is just a love song, meant to be a moment of levity amongst the heaviness of a lot of the rest of the record," he continued. "I don't think I would have made it out if it weren't for love."
Smith frequently draws comparisons to Kurt Cobain, and Ferreira -- by extension -- to Courtney Love. The pair even covered "Asking for It," a 1994 Cobain-Hole collaboration, during a Los Angeles gig in 2014. Though "Blue Boredom" proposes a similarly compelling edge as the Kurtney track, Smith and Ferreira's collaborative effort more directly channels another iconic musical couple: Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon.
Exploring the seminal Sub Pop outfit isn't new turf for DIIV (you can hear it helping shape Oshin's standout tracks like "Past Lives"). But Is the Are more explicitly embraces the presently disbanded no-wave legends' aggressive ebb and flow. Smith cited the band's own sophomore record, Bad Moon Rising -- which arrived just over 30 years ago in 1985 -- as Is the Are's major touchpoint. And nowhere is Sonic Youth's incendiary influence more apparent than on "Blue Boredom."
DIIV opens the track with a nod to Sonic Youth's trademark blistering guitar feedback before plunging head first into a very propulsive hook. But what's most engrossing is how Ferreira truly taps into Gordon's signature spoken-word ethos. Ferreira's stark lyrics hit two words at a time, like an imagist poem. Though her voice is smoother, smokier than Gordon's, Ferreira still pursues the fearless frontwoman's unflinching directness -- seeming to also inhabit intersections between sex and power. Ferreira's title interjections "Blue flower/ Blue boredom!" are intoned much like Gordon's (think Kim's opening chatter in "Teenage Riot" or "Tunic" monologue). And like Gordon, Ferreira decides when they arrive; while the band dives deep into melody, Ferreira punctuates the instrumental with a burning energy, but deliberate control.
Though only two and a half minutes long, "Blue Boredom" is one of the triumphant album's most captivating moments. We're not sure if Smith will make an appearance on Ferreira's forthcoming (also sophomore) album, or if more collaborations are in the works. But if they've got anything else so daring in the pipeline, we seriously hope so.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Jai Odel
Styling Britt McCamey