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Virtual Session: Deep Sea Diver

Deep Sea Diver: Virtual Session
Deep Sea Diver: Virtual SessionPhoto by Matt Wignall / Graphic by MPR

by Jade

November 09, 2020

Playing three tracks from their latest record Impossible Weight, Jade catches up with Jessica Dobson of Seattle's Deep Sea Diver for a virtual session. The two discuss vulnerability, being straightforward in your music, and what they've learned by flexing new creative muscles in the past year.

Interview Transcript

[JADE] Hey it's Jade welcoming you to another one of The Current's virtual sessions and today we are joined by Deep Sea Diver. This Seattle band has their third album.


[JADE] Hi, and the third album is called Impossible Weight it just came out about a week ago now. Frontwoman Jessica is here joining us. How are you doin'?

[DOBSON] I'm doing awesome, and thanks for having me. I love your station and it's a treat to be on so thank you.

[JADE] We're so happy to have you. I'm so happy to have your ghost or your skeleton friend in the background as well. Do you have a name for your skeleton friend?

[DOBSON] I haven't a named him yet. I was doing, like, a telethon that I was shooting a Halloween thing for and I should probably think about that. Everything else has names in my studio so I'll get on that.

[JADE] Thank you, next time we check in we'll need to know skeleton's name. Something I've been thinking about a lot in the sort of covid-era that we are living in 2020 - and that means something huge to everybody pretty much right now - but how vulnerability is a big theme for everyone this year. Because people are feeling vulnerable and raw and in several of the interviews you mentioned that there was a lot of vulnerability that went into your new album and I think that even if it wasn't written for this time, vulnerability is so important and I feel like so center-of-focus to people, that these songs can't help but kind of connect in that way. Could you tell us a little bit about what went into that vulnerability and where you were at when you were recording these songs?

[DOBSON] Well first of all, I'm glad that you're recognizing that and it's so interesting that this album is coming out in this time because the album was finished for a year and I had no idea it was gonna come out in the middle of a pandemic. It was painful to sit on it like that but it just makes sense now that it's in the world. Grateful for that. At the time that I started writing this record I was just not in a very good place and kind of just questioning a lot of things. I think it's a scary thing for artists and musicians and bands who have been doing music for a long time to kind of pause and start asking yourself those scary questions of like, what do I want music to look like moving forward? Should I be doing it in the same way I have been doing it? Not "Will I keep doing it?" but what does that look like and there was just some stuff that got unearthed in me that kind of like really brought me to a halt and life got colorless for a while. I couldn't explain it. It was a lot of anxiety and depression that I was dealing with. It didn't make sense for, the highs that I was coming off of from our last record, and getting read to go in the studio and I just kind of, yeah, slowed down to a halt and kind of like needed to take time to ask those questions of myself. So once I started writing and getting to a place where I felt joy again and ready to be vulnerable just felt more prepared, in a more bold way than ever. Just kind of like take off the veil and just say things a little more simply too because I think sometimes I can be a little too veiled and poetic in my lyrics and I just needed to say some mantras that I was, y'know, sang to myself. Don't be afraid, don't be ashamed. This is an impossible weight lets all carry it together. There's the long story short.

[JADE] [laughs]

[DOBSON] I'll ramble if you let me. [laughs]

[JADE] I happily ramble so this is gonna be a twelve hour session, you're all welcome to enjoy.

[DOBSON] Yeah, it's a marathon. Welcome.

[JADE] So you mentioned, it's an "impossible weight" which is the name of the album and I heard that it was the last song that you were recording for this album? How did that end up and did you know you wanted Sharon Van Etten to be a voice on it or was that something that came super late?

[DOBSON] Everything, I was literally just talking about this a few minutes ago with Peter, my partner who plays drums in the band, of just like how serendipitous it was that Impossible Weight came to be after we thought the record was finished and that it ended up being the name of the record because I think it was always in my subconscious of just like, it's like I knew what the record needed to be called but it hadn't been written yet and I think it's so beautiful. So anyways, so when we wrote this song, I co-wrote it with my friend Jen DeSilvio and she's incredible. When we went to the studio the night before I saw Sharon play at the Neptune, and I've been a big fan of hers for a long time and so it was a no brainer to go see her play when she played in Seattle. In a fleeting moment Instagramed a story saying, "There's no place I'd rather be the night before we finish the record." So the next day we went in and I literally said out loud to my co-producer Andy Park, I was just like, it would be so amazing if Sharon sang on this song because I just heard, I could hear her harmonies and her vocals on it. And it was just like a pipe dream comment, y'know? Then a few hours later she ended up messaging me on Instagram, like, god bless social media, y'know? The good and the bad, I'll take it.

[JADE] That's amazing.

[DOBSON] Which, you know, and I did tag and I reached out and I had messaged her before but we hadn't connected yet. So that was the first time we connected and I didn't, you know, immediately after her messaging me say, "Will you sing on my song?!" We became friends and..

[JADE] You played it cool?

[DOBSON] Yeah totally. I at least tried to. Not in person, if she saw me just like, oh my god. Sharon messaged me, that's amazing. So anyways, we became friends and the song ended up connecting with her when I sent it and the process was so natural and beautiful and, would've never guessed in a million years that collaboration would've happened and so, yeah, what she brought was just a strength and boldness and intimacy to the song that I can only dream for. Yeah. Love you Sharon!

[JADE] It's beautiful on the album but I do want you all to hear the version that we got from Deep Sea Diver just for you, so let's check that out right now. We'll chat some more in a bit but this is "Impossible Weight," it is the title track from the new album from Deep Sea Diver and it's on The Current virtual session.

[Music: "Impossible Weight" by Deep Sea Diver]

[JADE] That is "Impossible Weight" which is also the name of the new album out from Deep Sea Diver and we're lucky enough to have Jessica from the band her with us. I kind of wanted to circle back to something that you said a few minutes ago about how when you were creating this album a couple of years ago you were in a place where you were questioning a lot of things, you kind of put pause on the band and were trying to figure out what you were gonna do. And I almost feel like that's ahead of the curve because there are so many bands now that are forced to kind of pump the breaks, put pause on everything because touring's not happening right now and so a lot of people are questioning, "Alright, how do I really want my band to sound? Who am I in this? How does the music industry work these days?" And do you feel like you are further along on those conversations because those were the questions you were asking three years ago?

[DOBSON] I think in a sense yes there is a new found sense of confidence that I got from being able to go through that journey with my band and together and I had everyone's support when it came to wanting to produce the record for the first time. I ended up co-producing it but that was a huge step for me and we just wanted to sharpen the tip of everything in songwriting and recording and producing and I really felt that support. I think now we are indeed like asking the same questions as so many other bands are of just like, how do we make this work and how do we keep momentum going? It's so tricky but I am very grateful that we went through those hardships a few years back.

[JADE] It's such a strange place, I think for everybody. I mean outside of the music industry too, but inside the music industry I know you were just saying you were doing a telethon and I saw that you edited and created the music video for one of your songs as well, so kind of branching out and discovering new things about yourself. Is there something, maybe it is the music video, but is there something that you've really learned about yourself as a creative person in the past couple of months?

[DOBSON] Yeah I think that instead of getting down on myself for, in the past I would kind of hear the critic voice of why am I not prolific as I should be songwriting-wise. I think a lot of artists deal with that. You're on this two year cycle of: you put out a record, you tour, you do that for two years then you have to go straight back in the studio and do the whole thing again. So for me, I kind of fall into the Feist world of things where record are a little more, y'know, spaced out. And I appreciate that about myself now but one of the things that I've taken from this time is because we learned how to video edit and, 'cause you couldn't hire a crew to do these things in person or to be there. We've just learned how to do so much more on our own and to flex a different kind of creative muscle which I think is just as valuable and helpful to my own songwriting as well. To have our hands in different pots or whatever.

[JADE] I think that's weirdly, it's going back to like, old school MTV where everybody's just being really creative at home and trying to come up with something fun and engaging for their audiences.

[DOBSON] Totally.

[JADE] You've toured with a bunch of artists. You've gone on tour playing guitar with The Shins, with Beck, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and I'm wondering if all of those years, if there was something that you took away from those artists that you try and implement for your own self when you're on tour or when you're making music - you just said you have kind of the Feist style of releasing music but is there something from those artists that you've worked with?

[DOBSON] Definitely. It's like, I think all those years it was just me and osmosis of taking all the different characteristics and performance elements. I think of Karen, Karen O - I learned how to be a better frontwoman from watching her every night while playing her songs. Their songs. With the Shins, all that jangly guitar playing and getting into James' head as a songwriter, and he has a lot of fun with lyrics and his parts and there's a lot of call and response guitar parts. I think that kind of naturally started flowing out of my guitar playing and in my own voice and songwriting. With Beck, he's such a chameleon and I think I learned how to not be afraid of genre-hopping or emulating someone else and then figuring out how to turn that into your own voice. Yeah I've learned so much. And then, you know, from being on different festival circuits with all those bands I've seen My Morning Jacket and Jim James and Nels Cline from Wilco, Jeff Tweedy. All these people that I'm always trying to keep my antenna up and gather as much as I can because it's just more fun that way anyways.

[JADE] There was a really great thing you said and I think it was Guitar World where you were talking about this album specifically and the style of guitar but specifically talking about guitar solos and how, I don't want to get this wrong, but you said, "It's 100% me getting out the depression and anxiety and all the things I felt bubbling to the surface." I'm wondering if guitar is your first musical language. When you're working on something or thinking about something or having deep feelings, is the guitar the first thing that you reach for?

[DOBSON] You know it depends, I think there's different kinds of emotions that I feel from different instruments. With piano it's often when I'm feeling a little more somber. Guitar is a little more punk, y'know behind me is a Nick Cave poster. I'm a big fan of the Birthday Party and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and that punk frenetic angsty energy. I pendulum swing between both of those instruments depending on what I'm feeling but with guitar solos it just feels like an extension. I've been playing for a long time and it, I love the feeling of it being an extension of my voice where there's no delineation or marker between what I'm singing and then playing the guitar and it feels like a lyric or something like that, if that makes sense.

[JADE] And you can feel it in the album. And I do want to get to some more music here because as we were saying earlier I could ramble on for quite some time. But you recorded some more songs for us previously and I want to make sure that we get to those. So here are a couple more songs performed live from Deep Sea Diver off the new album Impossible Weight. This one is "Shattering".

[Music: "Shattering the Hourglass" by Deep Sea Diver]

[Music:nn "Switchblade" by Deep Sea Diver]

[JADE]You're watching The Current virtual sessions this is Jade and we're joined by Deep Sea Diver. That was "Switchblade" and Jessica I just want to say, I'm in love with the album. I think this is so great, it's such a bizarre time for everybody to be releasing music but I'm just so grateful that you guys are releasing music and playing it and allowing us to listen to it.

[DOBSON] Aw thank you so much. Thank you for spinning it and thank you to everyone in Minneapolis who's tuning in. Thank you guys.

[JADE] Heck yeah, and hopefully we'll have you on tour and back in Minneapolis and St. Paul sometime soon.

[DOBSON] Yes that would be amazing.

[JADE] Heck yes. So Deep Sea Diver's new album Impossible Weight is out now if you're enjoying those songs. Jessica, again, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. And I just want to say thank you to our technical producer Jesse and Derrick and engineer Erik, and thank you for watching another one of The Current's virtual sessions and keep checking back for the next one.

Songs Performed

06:43 Impossible Weight
17:35 Shattering The Hourglass
22:49 Switchblade


Host: Jade
Producer: Jesse Wiza
Technical Producer: Eric Romani