“This album took me back to my roots as a songwriter”, reveals Deep Sea Diver’s Jessica Dobson when delving into the creation of the band’s dazzling third record impossible Weight.
“I had grown accustomed to writing more with the band on the spot, but for this album, I wanted to rediscover my voice as a songwriter. Every decision and song came from a place of deep discovery for me, where I had to do some excavating to know myself better. Who am I? What do I want out of life? What are my fears?”
The decision to take a step back and explore from within with makes the Seattle-based pour-piece’s latest LP a revelatory listen.
Impossible Weight is a 10 song wonder that beautifully weighs its grandiose and explosive guitar-led tracks with tender, absorbing moments through themes including vulnerability, loss and hope, and the reclamation of emotional freedom.
Right from the off with the synth-driven, cascading opener Shattering the Hourglass, Impossible Weight leads you on a journey through Deep Sea Diver’s imaginative and sonically expansive musicianship and Jessica’s alluring, other-worldly vocals.
Track after track, it conjures another pathway to follow. Lights Out is a pulsating, modern day indie rock anthem while the album’s huge title track, which saw them collaborate with Sharon Van Etten, could be one of the year’s best.
Its creation stemmed soon after they’d toured their previous record, the acclaimed Secrets. The time that followed saw Jessica volunteer at Aurora Commons – a drop-in centre for drug dependant and unhoused people living in Seattle.
Here, she learned a new depth of empathy and freed her to start writing songs in a way she’d never done before.
“I know that this album came out of real self doubt, anxiety, depression, searching, but also out of joy, longing and beauty”, adds bandleader Jessica, who’s previously worked with a host of music royalty, including Beck, The Shins and Spoon.
“I hope that people can have this album to accompany them in their struggles and their successes.”
Impossible Weight is one of 2020’s essential listens.
Daily Star Online’s Rory McKeown caught up with Jessica to talk about Impossible Weight’s creation and themes, its influences, working with Sharon Van Etten, and her hopes ahead.
Hi Jessica, It’s been a strange year. How has 2020 treated you so far and what has it been like navigating lockdown as a band?
“I’m very very grateful that we toured for about five months off and on before quarantine happened. It was definitely very jarring to come home from the road and immediately go into lockdown, but we tried to make the most of it through connecting with our fans through weekly live streams in the beginning.
“We knew that a lot of people were experiencing loads of anxiety, fear, question marks about the future, their own jobs/health, etc… and we wanted to give a sense of rhythm to their weeks, a little bright spot to help them cope with an unknown situation.
“That connection allowed us to know that waiting to put out our album was not an option for us—cause people needed something other than virus. Something other than Trump. But it’s been hard. Hard to not have the ability to play shows and just connect with people in person like we normally would.”
You’ve just released your new album Impossible Weight. What was its writing and recording process like?
“This album took me back to my roots as a songwriter. I had grown accustomed to writing more with the band on the spot, but for this album, I wanted to rediscover my voice as a songwriter. Every decision and song came from a place of deep discovery for me, where I had to do some excavating to know myself better. Who am I? What do I want out of life? What are my fears?
“A lot of questions found their answers on finding where I knew my own sense of security. In meeting my birth mother, in volunteering at a drop in center for unhoused and drug dependent neighbours in Seattle. Things that brought me deeper into knowing others and also myself and realising how much we have the same longings and struggles.”
The idea behind the album’s title is that “pain is not a burden that’s meant to be carried alone”, touching upon a number of emotionally-charged themes. How do you take experiences and events around you and turn them into song form?
“I think it’s my way of processing. Sometimes it’s harder for me to take a situation and say ‘this is what I’m feeling right now—and this is how I’m processing it’. Sometimes with those situations, the only way I know how to deal with them is through writing. Through music. And that’s the beauty of it. It’s so mysterious and magical. And it allows me to feel everything without knowing any right answers.
“I also know that music is a vehicle that can bring messages of hope to people that are experiencing something hard. And in ways that just communicating a sentence verbally could never do.”
One of your hopes from the record is that it might help people reclaim a sense of freedom in their emotional lives. How important is it for you that those who experience the album and your output take away something that’s personal to them?
“It is important —and while writing, recording and finishing this album— we would remind ourselves that ‘this album may not be for everybody… but it will be for those that need it’. And I like that. It took the pressure off of thinking that we had to please everyone.
“I know that this album came out of real self doubt, anxiety, depression, searching, but also out of joy, longing and beauty. I hope that people can have this album to accompany them in their struggles and their successes.”
You also mention that it’s a record “to give people room to feel whatever they need to feel” as the world tackles a traumatic period. How important is music and the creative arts as an outlet for guiding people through difficult times?
“Extremely important. Beauty, art, music and comedy give us relief from the everyday struggles. They give us a little escape to know that life is bigger than what our current circumstance is.
“While on a boat in the middle of the ocean, if you are feeling sea sick, it is said that it is the best idea to look at something on land. Something unmoving. And that solidity allows you to feel grounded in something bigger than just waves and rocking ocean. Music does that for me. It makes me realise that what I’m feeling currently—is real—but also that there is something more solid than what I currently feel.”
Is there a song on Impossible Weight that you’re particularly proud of?
“Eyes Are Red is one that I go back to a lot. It allowed me to break my own rules. To simplify my lyrical message and just sing ‘Don’t be afraid. Don’t be ashamed’ and be okay with it. It’s a pop song that ended up being 7 minutes long. And there is something freeing about not having to worry if a song will ever be on the radio. We can explore in different ways. And getting to see people react to that song in real time while touring was very special.
“Some people would start weeping when we would play it. I love when we allow ourselves to go beyond what we’ve previously done—and this one does that—I think.”
Its title track saw you collaborate with Sharon Van Etten. What was it like working with her and what did she bring to the song?
“Sharon is the real deal! So damn talented and incredibly kind and down to earth. I have loved her music for quite some time and never thought I would have the opportunity to collaborate with her.
“She was in the middle of touring on her last album when she recorded her vocals, and she sent me the tracks from NY. I remember listening back in my studio in Seattle, and just smiling for an hour. They brought a whole different layer of emotion and depth to the song. I’m so grateful we got to work together.”
Were you influenced or inspired by anything when creating Impossible Weight?
“Feist’s album ‘Pleasure’ was a huge inspiration. Leslie Feist plays by her own rules. Her own timeline. Her own everything. And I wanted that same spirit of boldness to pervade this album.
“A lot of the sonic textures were influenced by Brian Eno and Jon Brion… especially his soundtracks like Magnolia & Eternal Sunshine. I was also influenced by Wim Wender’s films, especially Paris, Texas.”
You’ve worked with a variety of artists including Beck, The Shins, and Spoon. What did you take from these experiences and how did they mould you as the artist you are now?
“I cherish all of those experiences deeply. I learned so much from Beck, James Mercer & Karen O & Britt Daniels. They are all phenomenal songwriters and performers and I tried to absorb as much as I could from the experience of playing guitar with them on tour and learning their songs inside and out.
“I think a lot of their influence is now in my subconscious and I’m always happy to see it come out in my songwriting in unique ways.”
What are your next steps and your hopes for the future?
“I hope that very soon the world can be healed of this virus. I hope that we will replace the disaster of a president that we have currently and that we can travel and promote this album in the way that I think it deserves to be promoted.
“With the intensity and ferocity of real living humans experiencing something together. I want to see people’s faces. See their smiles. Give them hugs. But until then, we will be as creative as possible. We will make more videos, do more live-streams, keep going. Cause I know that what we’re doing means something… so we’ll keep doing it.”
Deep Sea Diver’s Impossible Weight is out now via High Beam Records