DICK DIVER took their name from a character in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, but the title of the Australian band's third album, Melbourne, Florida, was partly inspired by another heavy drinker in American history.
"Melbourne, Florida, is where Jim Morrison was born," says guitarist Alistair McKay. "It's an old trivia question: 'What do Jim Morrison and Kylie Minogue have in common? They were both born in Melbourne.' One in Florida, one in Australia."
Fortunately, Dick Diver sound nothing like Jim Morrison or Kylie Minogue—their compact, slice-of-life songs are probably more closely related to Fitzgerald, with a critical eye on the delights and delusions that can often distract one from the essence of life. The sound of their songs, however, pushes numerous pleasure buttons, and unabashedly so. The dueling guitars of McKay and Rupert Edwards chime together warmly, and they trade vocals with the group's other two members, bassist Al Montfort (also of Total Control) and drummer Steph Hughes, lending a communal, democratic vibe to the album.
Melbourne, Florida is Dick Diver's first proper release in the US, but that wasn't something they were thinking about when they settled on the title. "It certainly wasn't strategic," says McKay. "Maybe we wanted to make the album... not less Australian, because I don't think we ever really tried to make an Australian album, but I think maybe we were thinking a little broader now that some of us are living overseas. When we were making the record, we knew that I was going to move to London and that Rupert was going to Sweden, so maybe some of those ideas kind of crept through. And we were coming up with some ideas last time we were in the States, so maybe that's part of it."
From the opening rush of "Waste the Alphabet" to the more languid "Percentage Points," the band has made an album that's catchy on first listen, but also bears a subtlety and depth that earns repeat visits. Songs like "Leftovers" are some of the best and most indelible songs of the year, a year that's seen Dick Diver's home city of Melbourne, Australia, receive an international spotlight on its fertile music scene.
"I think it's like a lot of big cities where there's a lot of stuff going on," says McKay when asked about the so-called "sound" of the city. "Courtney Barnett's been amazing. She's exploded. She's a mega star. And she's definitely shone a light on Melbourne, so that's really great. We were all playing in bands in Melbourne. Steph and Al play in a bunch of other bands. And we'd all go to our friends' shows and stuff like that—kind of like anywhere else, I suppose."
McKay and Edwards are temporarily living abroad, but the band stays together by touring the globe. "We've been together since 2008 or so, and even when we were in Melbourne it's not like we would rehearse every day or anything like that," McKay says. "You rehearse before you record or when you've got some shows coming up. It's a bit of a bummer that we aren't together as much, but we get to tour. And we'll go home for Christmas. We just make it work."
Their excellent new album's namesake—a place the band has never visited—isn't on the itinerary for now. "We asked if we could get down there, but it just didn't work with the dates we cobbled together. We also have a song about a town in Australia called Alice Springs—the song's called 'Alice'—we haven't played there yet. And Melbourne, Florida, we have to play there as well. It's a good reason to come back, I guess."