On a typical day in their charmed and sunstruck lives, Davis and Skyler Diamond will slide across waves on finless boards by morning and make music in their home studio by afternoon and into the night. They live in the groove. Well, in fact they live in Malibu, but their heads are often in that flow state of high trim to sideslip to slo-mo 360 to percussion beat to guitar riff to vocal intonation to pithy lyric. Which is to say that surfing and music blur into and feed off each other.
Music runs in the family. Dad is Beastie Boy Mike D. Mom is celebrated film, TV, and video director Tamra Davis. Surf pals include seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore and finless devotee Harry Henderson who, after twirling on the water, might slip into the studio with Davis and Skyler to jam.
Davis and Skyler’s band is called Very Nice Person. Before we sat down to the below chat, they showed me their work-in-progress, an animated narrative video to accompany their soon-to-drop EP. It was epic, psychedelic, autobiographical. We sat at the dining table in their living room, an artwork by John Baldessari to our left, a bouncy German shepherd named Zuma at our feet. Davis and Skyler were tanned, salt encrusted, beaming vitality. They not only finished each other’s sentences; they made a sort of music as they did so.
How did you guys get into making music?
Davis: We were going to the Green School in Bali, and they had an Ableton production class. Ableton’s the software we use to record and edit all the music. And we kind of got into it from there; we started making bad trap beats and stuff at first.
Skyler: And it started out like Davis would kind of do his own thing, and I would kind of do my own thing. And then there would be crossover. Davis would sing, and I would send him the little beats that I was working on. And for a while it kind of lingered as that, until we realized, ‘All right. Let’s just do this together.’
Davis: Yeah, yeah. We were just naturally working together because we’re both into the same kind of music. Also, I sang, Skyler didn’t sing. And I made not good drums, and Skyler has a really good ear for drums.
How long have you been collaborating now?
Skyler: Four years. Something like that.
Growing up as the sons of a Beastie Boy, there would have been plenty of music around the house?
Davis: Yeah, yeah. Totally.
Skyler: We were on tour with our dad when we were little—
Davis: Super little.
Skyler: Super, super little. Our mom has videos of us wearing these earplugs and headphones as little kids on the backstage watching it.
How did you get into surfing?
Davis: I don’t know why, but for some reason our parents were like, ‘They’ve got to be surf kids.’ They just put us around surfboards and surf movies all the time. Neither of them surfed then. Now our dad surfs with us all the time.
So on a typical day, you go from the surf to the studio, a sort of seamless crossover.
Skyler: Yeah. I think it’s a very similar thing where you can just go into those zones, and it’s kind of all that fun play, just having fun and doing what feels right or what sounds good, and then, yeah, the experience of those two things is just so amazing.
Davis: Also, musicians will stay up crazy hours, because when you get kind of sleep-deprived, sometimes in music, it can actually help it out. And if you surf for four hours, five hours, you come home and you’re so tired and out of it. And a lot of the time that can actually service the music.
Skyler: We have this amazing studio, and we can just open the doors and kind of be indoor/outdoor and work with such amazing, talented musicians and create awesome stuff together and have it be something that’s really cool. And also, it’s like finless. You’re just flowing with it. We’re not really trying to get too heady about it. Just kind of in the moment having fun with it.
Davis: Me and Skyler aren’t crazy at any single instrument, so we work with a lot of talented musicians. So a lot of the times our songs will come from a segment. We’ll do jams where we’ll have, say, two to 10 super-talented musicians come over and just play—they just play their own respective instruments, or they’ll play all instruments. And then they just kind of f--k around and just make shit for six, seven hours and jam and just have a great time.
Skyler: And then we take all that and go through it with fresh ears.
Davis: And that’s when we can be heady about it. During the jam, it’s anything goes. During the jam, it’s just feeling. It’s…
Skyler: Skitsing out.
Davis: Yeah, just skitsing out for a few hours. Just, whatever you feel, play it. Whatever feels the best, just go for it and just try. And for us, we’re just trying to record everything. And then later we figure what works together and what can we do with it: Oh, all right. This is really sick. Let’s come up with a vocal line for this, and dial in these drums, and then make this B section and write another chord section. Then that will be a really sick song.
There’s a free-flowing element to your music-making the same way there is in your surfing.
Davis: The waves are not great here, and there’s only so much you can do on a shortboard when it’s one foot and the wave doesn’t have enough power to hold you up. But the finless opens all kinds of possibilities.
Skyler: Yeah, it’s explorative. Random stuff happens because you’re so on the fly, just being like: whatever happens, happens. And with finlessing, there’s a certain element of control once you really get good at it, but especially starting, there’s zero control. You’re just kind of like, ‘Oh, don’t slide out.’ And that’s just kind of the goal: don’t slide out and make it to the end of the wave.
Davis: It’s about jamming, improvising, in the water and out.
Check out @vnpveryniceperson.
And check out these clips: