Held as one of Toronto’s best breakout bands of 2013, DIANA continues to elevate their stature among the city’s sound waves. Signing with indie-powerhouse, Jagjaguwar in early 2013, their signature contemplative synth-pop sound serves as constant justification of why the band’s potential stands parallel to label-mates and popular indie music makers like Bon Iver and Foxygen. Recently, I spoke with DIANA’s saxophonist/ keyboardist and past Destroyer member, Joseph Shabason to get some insight on the band’s evolution.
Heavily present in the band’s persona and artistry is the theme of abstraction: “The elegant first name creates this veil that allows people to create their own image of who or what DIANA truly is.” This abstraction plays a key role in the band’s visuals in music videos and album art, giving music lovers a counter-narrative to over-saturated stock images like band members leaning up against a brick wall. “The idea is to evoke an emotion rather than beat people over the head with some sort of singular statement. It’s more effective to engage audience perspectives,” says Shabason.
DIANA was formed in September two years ago, as the brainchild of Joseph Shabason and Kieran Adams. After the disbandment of their first project, Everything All The Time, they were eager to pursue the responsibility of more creative control after years of playing a more supportive role on the stage. They enlisted the help of drummer Paul Matthews, once a member of The Hidden Cameras, who like Shabason and Adams had studied Jazz at the University of Toronto’s revered music program. Despite being fluent in the language of classical styles, the threesome’s passions lay with still-evolving styles of music like Rock and Punk. Shabason comments, “I no longer loved Jazz enough to pursue it as my life work. Jazz is this weird internal scene that’s not particularly progressive. The scene felt stale and when I made the switch music felt new and special again.”
DIANA’s youngest edition came after contacting Army Girls singer and guitarist, Carmen Elle. Being over six years younger than the rest of the band members, her age is not a reflection of her experience, standing centre on Toronto stages since before she was even of the legal drinking age. Shabason says, “Carmen is wise beyond her years. I didn’t even realize what her age was until well after we started playing together.”
The band’s first full-length release, Perpetual Surrender, came last year after connecting with Roger Leavens of Boombox Sound. The album was written inside the studio, creative exploration taking precedence over time limit, as Adams, Shabason and Leavens experimented with technology to create a sound that was entirely their own. At the time of recording, Paul Williams had not yet been included, Shabason and Adams believing that at times strict band formation can be counter productive to quality. Originally set to release as a self-title, DIANA changed the name to coincide with the single, stating, “It really fit the vibe and the feelings the record evoked. The song’s about being your own worst enemy and doing something in spite of yourself.”
Although starting out as a studio project, the success of the singles Born Again and Perpetual Surrender, pushed the band to a North American tour, sputtering from Webster Hall in New York City to as far as The Echo Theatre in LA, driving in a “pile-of-shit” ’99 Chevy Blazer. After breaking down in the middle of the desert, DIANA survived the proving-ground of life-on-the-road, just making it for their sound check in Seattle.
Currently, fans of DIANA can look forward to a new album in the works and the coming announcement of summer tour dates on the band’s website. Upcoming shows include appearances at Guelph’s Kazoo!Fest, and St. John’s Lawnya Vanya. With the band’s saxophone-infused synth-stylings, smooth vocals and iconic visual appeal, it’s safe to say that if you are not already familiar with DIANA’s music, you soon will be.