History Speaks, and Jessica Dobson is Listening: Deep Sea Diver
If I was a bass guitarist, I am not sure who I would rather be in today’s alternative rock scene than Ms. Jessica Dobson. Over the past ten years she has joined Beck, Conor Oberst, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Shins. Her band Deep Sea Diver released their debut full length album History Speaks this February, and are on an additional West Coast tour this month. The band played LA over the past two nights, and are headlining Bottom of the Hill Tuesday night (Nov. 27th) before heading to Portland, their home city Seattle and Vancouver.
Their sound pierces you with it’s freshness– Dobson’s voice and band member John Raine’s bass lines demand attention, some rip into action like a Karen O dance number, such as on “You Go Running”, with her husband Peter Mansen keeping a tight drum beat. Other tracks are melodious and dreamlike, with Dobson on piano and often Vox, such as the fantastic title track “History Speaks”. Although there are pop music elements to these songs, I think their sound also has a unique rawness that gives it a slightly punk edge, in songs such as “Weekend Wars” where Dobson wails “I wont meet my end/ At the hands of the dead/ Because I hear them call/I hear them call my name/I hear them call!” These songs will certainly be a thrill to dance to live– I had the pleasure of seeing Dobson perform with the Shins last month at the Shoreline Amphitheater and she was totally on point and rocking out like every female bass player would dream of alongside James Mercer and his crew.
“Playing in a band with my husband is probably the hardest job I will ever have- it’s incredibly intense,” she said in a phone interview from Seattle. “It is kind of bone baring, you can’t escape if you’ve had a bad day,” she laughed. “Musically it can be a very prideful thing, depending on who you are playing with. Once you get past pride, that’s where sweet stuff is. Our songwriting process starts off very White Stripes-esque, just piano and drums. We have a lot of conversations about books we are reading–a line, image or one thing sparks an image of what the song could be about. Sometimes it is abstract, detached and pieced together over years.”
“I really love touring in the van– we are all kind of managing and we all love the gratification of seeing the fruit of our labors. We are not so big still as a band so we can still really connect with our fans and not get too overwhelmed. It’s no fun anyways to just hang out backstage, we love talking to fans. Especially with social media, there is always an identity apart from the stage presence. If people are always speaking to their fans over Facebook or Twitter, it’s just different, I am not trying to get down on that. I just remember as a teenager, I had a huge Radiohead poster covering my wall, and they are the type of band where you had to imagine what their lives are like. It’s totally different when you are in person with somebody. I love musicians like Tom Waits–he will just go into the most decrepit diners in LA and that is where his stories come from. He wouldn’t be a songwriter anymore if he didn’t put himself out there.”
Dobson is inspired by a lot of U.K. bands, although she “went out of her jangly pop phase. I still retain it a bit. I now tend to a lot of darker musicians and writers like Nick Cave and Tom Waits. If I could collaborate with Nick Cave that would be amazing. He has done some pretty badass collaborations with different musicians like Kylie Monigue, for a cover of an old birthday song.” I dare say I could certainly see a David Byrne & St. Vincent-esque duo between powerhouse Dobson and the infamously strange Cave in their future (*fingers crossed*). “We have collaborated with the bands Strange Vine and also Delta Spirit, those are two I am very proud of.”
Photo Credit: Aya Sato, Matt Wignall