Skylar and Davis Diamond’s lights shine with new musical project.
The post Very Nice People appeared first on High Times.
Just outside the doors of Mike D’s coastal home, I’m greeted by Skylar Diamond, the Beastie Boy’s youngest son, and am instantly struck by his good manners. Kind, talkative and charismatic, Skylar looks like any other Malibu surf kid—except he’s a spitting image of his dad’s younger self. As we chat about soccer (I mean, fútbol), his brother Davis Diamond strolls up, sun-kissed with dirty blonde locks, and casually joins in the conversation as if he’s used to mingling with adults twice his age. There’s no doubt these boys have been raised right. They’re curious about the world, inquisitive about how to make it better and intent on contributing their genetic gifts in a way that sets them apart. Not long ago, the two brothers embarked on a musical journey of their own called Very Nice Person (VNP), which could theoretically describe their personalities.
When I mention my first impression of their music reminds me of Sean Lennon’s days at Grand Royal, a label founded by their father and fellow Beastie Boy Adam “MCA” Yauch in 1992, they seem genuinely flattered. Davis’ airy falsetto mixed with Skylar’s stirring backing vocals and beats that teeter on the line between trap and electronic synth wave lend for an intriguing listen, and take me back to Lennon’s mellow musings about love and quintessential sunsets found on his 1998 solo debut, Into the Sun.
Unlike most kids their ages, Skylar, 19, and Davis, 21, are up early, whether to smoke a joint and hit the waves, kick the soccer ball around or work on music. Perhaps it’s something they picked up while attending school in Bali, where their musical odyssey began.
“We went to this school in Bali called the Green School, and we lived there for half the year and then would come back here,” Skylar explains. “That was a crazy experience. It totally changes your whole perspective on everything. We’d always loved music and grew up listening to music, but we didn’t play instruments.”
Davis continues, “They had like an Ableton class. We thought that was better than, you know, actual school, so we did that. The teacher gave us all the cracked programs, and we were super into trap music like P’ierre Bourne, so we were making beats like P’ierre and that was our thing, making tight beats.”
As Skylar dove deeper into trap, he felt confident he could make good beats that rivaled those of his contemporaries. At the same time, Davis was discovering how much he liked singing and crafting the music to go along with it. It was inevitable they’d eventually merge the two into one cohesive project, although it wasn’t instant.
“It was so natural,” Skylar says. “It wasn’t just like overnight we were a band. It was a years-long process.”
But in terms of their songwriting process, it’s somewhat atypical. Far from linear, the music is patched together from different sessions recorded on different days, maybe even from different recording studios with a rotating roster of collaborators, and woven into one sonic tapestry, something that isn’t easy to recreate live. For example, two of their most recent singles—“Chi Blockers” and “You’re Right”—are like a rollercoaster.
“It’s all different instruments for every part,” Davis explains. “And every eight bars, there’s a drastic change.” Skylar adds, “It’s literally like the most reverse engineered, opposite process of a traditional band.”
Then again, Very Nice Person has a leg up from most traditional bands in the sense they have ties to American Songs, the music publishing venture established by Rick Rubin, co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, and American Songs A&R Isaac Heymann.
“The first person we started working with was our friend Jason who works for Rick,” Skylar says. “He’s the guy behind the scenes putting it all together. He’s older and he gets excited working with young artists. When he started working with us, we did not have our songs together. But somehow, he found the value in that. It was about let’s just make music and have fun and not worry about a hit song.”
Being the sons of a Beastie Boy has other perks, too—but not in a way one might imagine.
“Oh we use all his gear,” Davis says with a chuckle. “His studio was upstairs and we got into making music in Bali, came back here and he was kind of not using it. After Adam [Yauch] passed, he went through a transition where he didn’t really want to do as much music for a while. I mean, he still wanted to produce, but he didn’t want to be a Beastie Boy or …”
“… a rapper,” Skylar clarifies. Davis continues, “So he produced a few things and had a good time doing that, and there was a little transition moment where he was figuring out what he wanted to do, and in that moment, me and Skylar really started doing our thing. Because he wasn’t doing as much, we were like, ‘Well, there’s all this gear.’”
Skylar jumps in, “It just started happening. You’d come to the studio, and we’d be out here having a sick jam with like, five, six, seven musicians, then all have dinner.”
It’s clear Skylar and Davis strive to establish their own identities, and their dad being one of the Beastie Boys isn’t necessarily a factor—it’s more about Mike D’s musical tastes that helped shape their style. I make a joke about how bad would it have been if our dads raised us on Kenny G and Journey—and Davis concurs, “I think that would have drastically changed our trajectory [laughs].”
For now, Very Nice Person is putting the finishing touches on their debut EP and hope to send it off into the world by December 2023 or early January 2024. But they have an arsenal of music they will satiate their fans for years to come. High Times has the pleasure of premiering their newest video, “Chi Blockers,” which is accompanied by the animation of Hanja Pua. It’s definitely fueled in part by cannabis, something they agree does a lot for their creative process.
“It’s been very helpful,” Davis says. “It’s pretty lit. A lot of music is made at night and I think it’s because there’s a thing that being tired kind of does where you don’t think about things as much.”
Skylar adds, “It’s the same thing with going for a surf and when you’re on a wave. When you got a good wave or you’re in the zone, you’re in the wave. The weed just relaxes you. It narrows your perception and consciousness.”
But believe it or not, they’re not exactly down with the lab-grown weed sold in some dispensaries, so they grow their own.
“There was a weird period where we tried to smoke weed, then we got caught by our parents,” Davis remembers. “Our parents were like, ‘Yeah, no.’ But our mom [director Tamra Davis], the way she was raised, it was always around her. And because of that, she never drank or did any crazy drugs. She’s still never smoked a cigarette in her whole life. When parents make something secretive, everybody wants to know what it is. That’s just a terrible idea.”
Skylar concludes their grandmother is doing it right. He says, “She struggled with stuff before, but she’s on no prescriptions. She just smokes pot. If you can use something that isn’t harming you too much and that can relax you and help relieve stress a lot, that’s huge. If it can help your productivity, that’s even better.”