With a cheerful and youthful spirit, CLIFFDIVER from Tulsa (USA) play music that addresses serious and pertinent topics like mental i...

CLIFFDIVER: Positive Mindset and Clever Melodies

With a cheerful and youthful spirit, CLIFFDIVER from Tulsa (USA) play music that addresses serious and pertinent topics like mental illness, but maintaining a hopeful mindset expressed in their joyful and emotional melodies as well their clever and witty lyrics. 

The use of saxophone and other clever instrumental passages sets them apart from other emo/indie rock bands and provide a breath of fresh air to the independent music scene worldwide, experimenting with ska, indie rock, punk rock and emo.

- CLIFFDIVER is a relatively young band, have you played in other bands before? And how did CLIFFDIVER originate? 
Matt: Totally, pretty much all of us have been in bands prior to CLIFFDIVER. I’ve pretty much lost track of how many bands I've been a part of and I think that’s probably the same story for most of us in the band. Joey doesn’t have a ton of band experience but he is definitely a prolific karaoke artisan. So besides Joey, I’ve been in a band with all of the other members of CLIFFDIVER in various projects ranging from reggae to hardcore. I kind of grabbed the dudes I really liked playing with and who I thought would really bring something to the group – so that’s basically how CLIFFDIVER came about. 

- We read on another interview that the name CLIFFDIVER comes from JD Salinger’s classic, Catcher on the Rye. Are there any more books or authors that were and are relevant in the band’s path? 
Joey: Literature has always had an incredible impact on my life. I was cripplingly insecure and anxious as a child and really found solace through escaping into a good book. Heck, I’ve even been employed by four different bookstores. The full title of one of the tracks on our last release (At Your Own Risk) is a reference to Tolkien (Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost but Can Anyone Help Me Get Out of This IKEA?). A few standout authors that I draw inspiration from would be Bukowski, Edgar Allen Poe, Anne Rice, Chuck Palahniuk, Robert Jordan, Lord Byron, Jane Austen and my main man William Shakespeare.

- We felt there is a contrast between the cheerful and positive melodies and the more serious and introspective lyrics (even though they do contain some humor). What kind of themes or issues do you feel more inclined to express through your lyrics? 
Joey: I really just try to write lyrics as an honest exploration of living with bi-polar disorder and with that there are times of elation, melancholia, hatred and hope. It’s the whole gambit of human emotion that’s experienced intensely through the lens of living with mental illness. I find that humor is necessary in order to deal with the absurdities that come with random mood swings and days of self-loathing and I want to use it to make dealing with pain easier because it takes away some of its power. I like to use the expression “If I wasn’t laughing, I'd be crying – and I'm getting sick of crying.” 
Matt: When I write lyrics, my goal is to grab those deep emotional thoughts and ideas and turn them into something that almost anyone could relate to in one way or another. I like trying to find things in day-to-day life that would be ordinary or mundane to most people and expose them as emotional elements. Being oddly specific about things is also a fun trick to use when writing - I think some people might be like “OK, what is this guy talking about?” but I think there’s a few people that will be like “Wow, I know exactly what he’s saying” and those are the folks that will hopefully really connect with the music. 

- The videoclip for Cameron Diaz has a very cheerful vibe, especially the saxophone part which we really enjoyed. What concept(s) did you want to work in the video? 
Joey and Matt: We wanted to go into this video with a goal of bringing attention to therapy but in a disarming, fun kind of way. It’s a pretty simple video, we really just wanted to show a little more of who we are and some of the things we stand for. 

- You have been playing in a couple of live shows, how do you feel the reception to the new EP has been so far? 
Joey: It’s been really great, humbling even. This is one of the first times I've become openly honest about my past struggles with depression, substance abuse and suicidal ideations. At first, it was scary to put all of this emotional baggage out there but the response has really been transformative for me. People often tell me how they feel heard, how the relate to the album and how our songs make them feel like somebody understands what they're going through. It works both ways, it makes them feel less alone and it makes me feel less alone, being able to share some of my darkest moments and still be loved and accepted. 

- How is the music scene in Tulsa? 
Matt: The Tulsa music scene has come a long way in recent years. There’s always been a great deal of talent in this area, but I think folks are beginning to actually realize it and it seems like the scene’s been revitalized. A plethora of different genres are evenly represented on a weekly basis at a number of local venues and clubs and the musicianship and songwriting just seems to be getting better every time I go out and catch a show. I’d recommend checking out Branjae, Dane Arnold and The Soup, any of Damion Shades projects, Hazelwave, Casii Stephan, The Neighbor$, When the Clock Strikes and Rose Gold. That pretty much covers anything form pop to rap to punk. Another band that literally nobody talks about is Ben Quad. 

- When we use sense of humor in art, we can speak about harsher or more painful topics and issues, does that ring true to you? And how do you balance that in your own music. 
Joey and Matt: Absolutely. It definitely rings true during our live performances as well. We talk about harsh and painful subjects but also tend to pepper in these moments of comic relief and humor. We try to maintain a balance between being the goofballs that we are but also making mention of what’s important and what can really help people. If you make someone laugh, you can make them listen.

- You described your sound as Tulsa Elevator Emo Pop. How can you describe or how do you feel the aptness of that “label”? 
Matt: It’s pretty much the only thing that made sense to me when we started trying to explain what we sounded like to our friends. The emo part comes from most of our influences and the fact that we speak about pretty major emotional and mental matters. The pop part is pretty obvious, we don’t try to over complicate our music - I've always believed in the power behind a simple, driving melody that you can latch onto. Lastly, we had to figure out how to make it obvious that we have a saxophone in our band while also trying to be clever – so that’s where the elevator (elevator music) comes from. 

- What did you want to portray in the cover art for At your own risk? 
Joey and Matt: It’s a photo of an emptied public pool during the off-season. So, it’s meant to be a place where you’d go to find joy and feelings of happiness, but instead it’s empty and desolate. It also brings a bit of a double meaning to the album because the whole theme is about getting better, but this photo kind of portrays your refusal to do so. 

- What can we expect from CLIFFDIVER in 2020? 
Matt: We’re focusing on staying as busy as we can right now. We’ve got a number of tour dates that we’re booking for this spring/summer as well as a new standalone single being released in March. We will be in and out of the studio recording new music, dropping new merchandise, announcing some cool festivals/shows, and hopefully making a lot of new friends in the very near future.

Text & Interview: Cláudia Zafre