A Fiendish Conversation with Deep Sea Diver's Jessica Dobson
Deep Sea Diver has resurfaced. After bursting onto the Seattle rock scene in 2012 with its superlative LP History Speaks (one of the best albums of that year and our first Album of the Month), the band—led by spousal duo Jessica Dobson and Peter Mansen—has spent most of 2014 preparing new music. The first taste came this week with the release band's new EP Always Waiting. Fans should be pleased with the results, as the four-song collection features even more of Dobson's sweet vocals and shredding guitar work and Mansen's propulsive drumming. Deep Sea Diver celebrates the release of Always Waiting this weekend with two sold out shows at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center (September 5 & 6).
For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Dobson about the varied sounds of the EP, plans for a full-length record, what's it like to be in a band with your spouse, and Greenwood isolationism.
What is your favorite thing about the Always Waiting EP?
I think the thing I enjoy most about it is its diversity. There’s like a singer-songwriter side of the EP and also like more of like the band collaborative side. I kind of like that EPs allow you to put songs together like that, whereas, it wouldn’t work so well on a (full length) record. I think it kind of showcases a lot of the last few years of work, as well as some of the songs I wrote a few years back. I think one of the songs is at least four years old. Also, it’s kind of a foreshadowing to the full length. But then again, like not really at all, because the full length is much more collaborative.
Speaking of that, is there any crossover between the songs on the EP and the upcoming full length?
The full length will have “Always Waiting” on it. What’s really exciting is that we were planning on putting the EP version of “Always Waiting” on the full length, but then when we were in the studio we came up with this idea of doing an alternate take, or an alternate version, of it. I remembered I always loved this one Bjork song “All Is Full of Love.” There was a different version—I think it was a radio version, or maybe just a remix with someone else—and then the album version. And each one of them is really special to me. And somehow, we were in the studio for six days and we were on a time crunch, but we came up on the spot with this alternate version of “Always Waiting.” And it’s beautiful and it’s completely different than the EP version, which is a lot longer, and a slower build, and very powerful at the end. And this one’s very short and kind of packs a punch in like two and a half minutes.
So then is the recording for the LP done or are you still on the process of finishing that?
We’re still working on it. It’s definitely balancing spinning plates right now because we’re trying to get ready for the EP release shows and like not wanting to get lost cause we’re still doing everything on our own in terms of like acting as a label. So it’s a lot of figuring out promotion, working with publicists, and things like that. And it’s easy to get lost in like the social media promotional world. We have to keep focused, “Okay, we’re doing this EP and we have to finish this record.” I’ve never done it this way, and that’s why it’s been a trip, but also exciting.
Where are you recording the new record?
We recorded most of the record in L.A. at this studio called the Bank. And we worked with—on the engineering side—this guy Darrell Thorp, who is one of our favorite engineers. He’s done like a lot of Beck and Radiohead stuff with Nigel Godrich. He’s just a heavy hitter. And then we’re finishing the record in Seattle with our producer Mr. Luke Vander Pol at his studio.
I know there’s at least one new song I’m looking forward to that isn’t on the EP. At a show you played at Nectar Lounge earlier this year you played one I believe was called “Wide Awake.”
Yeah, it’s funny that you mention that song because it took a lot of convincing—out of all the songs that are new—for me to get into it. It reminds me… I was just driving back from somewhere listening to KEXP and they were playing something off of Wilco’s Kicking the Television live thing. And they were playing a song off Ghost is Born, and it just has that layered jam-y… it’s a lot of feedback on guitars and soloing. And it’s very simplistic, but driving. And for some reason that was a hard one for me to understand and own. But now I’m doing my best, and we’re trying. We’re really pumped to play that one live and it came out really, really good on the record.
Are there any up-and-coming local music acts that you think people should check out?
Kind of our favorite artist right now is Ben von Wildenhaus. He plays guitar like Marc Ribot, Tom Waits’s guitarist. And he like has this kind of Andy Kaufman thing on stage too, where you don’t know if he’s serious or if he’s joking. He really engages the crowd in that kind of way. It just kind of feels like you’re in a David Lynch movie when you’re watching it.
If you weren’t a musican is there any other line of work you think you might’ve wanted to pursue?
I’ve been told two things that people think that I could take on if I didn’t do music. One is event planning, and I would agree, because I somehow inherited the type A/type B gene. And so, like I am fairly good with details and I love putting on events. Like for my birthday party we had a Twin Peaks party. And then I also really love to cook, and that’s a common thread with a lot of musicians. It’s working with my hands still but it’s totally different. And you can see an outcome right away; it’s like either the food tastes like shit or it’s great. (Laughs)
Do you have a favorite concert you’ve seen over the past year or so?
Yeah, Janelle Monáe. I saw her at Showbox SoDo. And I had just gotten into her music like a few weeks beforehand. My friend gifted me with the ticket, and I was blown away. I had heard the “Tightrope” song, but her new record is just very Bowie-esque. She takes on a character. And she is that character when she’s playing live. And her band—they performed everything live. Like, no backing tracks. She had backup singers; they all looked so cool. And you could tell she put so much effort into her live show and just have the audience in the palm of her hands. That one was amazing and I danced the whole time.
How do you feel like Seattle—the city and the culture overall—has impacted your music?
The city’s pretty spread out and we live in Greenwood, which, you know, I feel is a bit more isolated. Like, we don’t make it up to the Hill as much as I would want. From where I came from it was from—in Long Beach—I was constantly at friends’ houses. Everything was in like a half-mile radius of walking or riding your bike. And so, in a good way I think I’ve been a bit more isolated. Like, the studio is at our house in our basement, and it’s been good to try to focus. And then also, I think the biggest thing that changed for me when I moved up here was that I’m like constantly more outdoors than I was in California. Going and walking to Carkeek and to the ocean or to the Sound and like being able to go to Gasworks; things like that definitely effects my artistic mood. Just being able to observe things other than smog and lots of cars.
What’s the experience like being in a band with your spouse? Are there any sort of highs and lows that differ from being in a band with friends?
I think the highs come from how we have such different approaches to songwriting. Neither of us can write on our own what we do when we collaborate. And I mean, that obviously goes for anyone that comes together—different voices bring out different aspects songwriting—but we truly do have such a different approach. He’s more percussive and he sparks ideas. And I see more big picture, and finishing, and arranging, and writing the lyrics. And so, the roles really do go hand in hand for finishing a song. And the highs are seeing that work. We’re really, really proud of this EP; especially the song “Always Waiting.” That’s one of our proudest moments of just the truest form of collaboration between us. It’s something to celebrate and be stoked together about.
And then the lows… they happen when we are overworked. We also live with somebody that’s in our band too, so it’s hard to know when to kind of cut off band and creative time, because it feels like we’re constantly working. Even if we don’t get a lot done, it just feels like we’re always on the clock. And that’s strange cause you know, normally you can leave your work at your work, but it’s at our house. (Laughs) Our studio’s here, and we’re writing, and finishing, and promoting and things like that. And so it’s very hard—especially for me—to like shut off my brain and just to kind of enjoy each other and go out, and be normal. (Laughs)
Beyond getting to play the new songs, is there anything you’re specifically excited for regarding the Abbey EP release shows?
Yeah! There’s a few things. We were able to work with one of our friends, local designer Cory Smith, on a limited edition screen printed poster for the show, and I think it turned out amazing. We’ve actually, oddly enough I have never done a screen print for any of the local shows, and that’s kind of big and special for us. The last show we played was a Christmas show, and we put a lot of work into make that not just a show but an event and something memorable. And of course we wouldn’t want any different for a release, and so there’s definitely going to be a few surprises. And we chose the Abbey because that is the place off the beaten path—at least for rock bands. It’s not the Crocodile, it’s not Neumos… and we love those places but we wanted to do something a little bit more intimate.
Deep Sea Diver: Always Waiting EP Release Shows
Sept 5 & 6, Fremont Abbey Arts Center, Sold out