Jessica Dobson of Deep Sea Diver gets vulnerable with new record ‘Impossible Weight’ [Interview]

The city of Seattle has sprung up some of the greatest American bands of all time – Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, and Fleet Foxes, to name a few. It’s a city known for its left-of-centeredness, its enthusiasm for coffee, and for being the rainiest city in the country. Out of that gloomy, yet sparkling city comes an established and talented band called Deep Sea Diver marshaled by bandleader, Jessica Dobson. The Emerald City rock band has just officially dropped their third album, Impossible Weight, that reflects the sliver of greatness that comes traditionally from their hometown.

“Impossible weight – everybody carries that. There’s some way, shape, or form that manifests in people’s lives of what that is,” explained Dobson over the phone in an exclusive interview with EARMILK. She shared that our impossible weight is the burden that arrives in different ways throughout our lives. She continued, “For this one, it was just getting over the hurdle of my own critical voice, and what I’ve been through over the course of my career, and wanting to let people in.”

Deep Sea Diver was able to score a collaboration from the wonderful Sharon Van Etten on the album’s title track and single, “Impossible Weight”. Van Etten compliments Dobson vocally adding a deeper layer of sound to the second verse with her signature dynamic voice.  The blend of hushed and powerful vocals come together well over the underlying synths through the polyphonic rock song. On the collaboration, Dobson shared “She did it from New York, it was remote, and I’ve never done anything like that. Usually, when I’m collaborating, we’re in the same studio – it was so serendipitous how that all worked out.” The singer went to Van Etten’s Seattle stop of her tour after releasing her 2019 album, Remind Me Tomorrow. The next day, they were recording “Impossible Weight” and as a fleeting thought, she figured it would be so cool for the two to sing on the song. The pipe dream became a reality a month later.

Mainly recorded at Seattle’s Studio X and The Hall of Justice, Deep Sea Diver worked on Impossible Weight with Andy D. Park (Pedro the Lion, Ruler). Dobson, who’s worked as the lead guitarist for Beck and The Shins, co-produced the album. According to her, the entire album has actually been finished since June of 2019. Sitting on it for over a year, they grew tired of waiting out the abnormalcies of the current state of the world. They finally decided to deliver this 10-track body of work to a world that “needs art right now…and beauty” (quoted from their comment to the post below).

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Well, the tears are already flowin today. I barely slept last night because I knew that this album, comprised of humbling lows & mangled beauty, tremendous time & effort, stalled timelines, relentless hope & a new kind of boldness & vulnerability… was coming out. And here it is. Impossible Weight is yours now. This album became an album after two “failed” attempts to record it. It became an album when I was at my lowest & wasn’t sure how to move forward. It became an album when I started writing songs again after a hiatus & Peter came downstairs after hearing a few and said “You are going to produce this record”. I instantly started crying. It felt impossible… as I was still searching for the vocabulary for this album and trying to find my voice again as a songwriter. Although I didn’t feel ready, I knew he was right. I needed to step into a new realm, one that existed wholly outside of the burdensome expectations I had put on myself. This became an album when we started making plans with Andy Park who would become my co-producer & right hand partner when it came to sharpening the songs & making sure we didn’t sabotage ourselves in the studio with too many takes and overthought decisions. I felt a freedom & a joy that we hadn’t experienced before throughout the recording process. Much of the album was recorded in the same live room, together. In real time, I could see everyones talents, greatly elevated, and wonderfully alive. Peter, Gary and Elliot, I love you. I love what we went through together. I love every iota of sound that you contributed to this album. SHIIIT I’m crying again! There are so many people to thank & I will start with those who brought this album to life @andyrecording – my co-producer & engineer extraordinaire. @slamrosson – asst. engineer @dfthorp – mixing @jlaportamaster – mastering @blackbeltmastering blackbeltmastering – vinyl mastering @seantlane – drum tech @mattwignall – album 📸 @mr.babies – album cover art @strange.practice – art direction & design @sharonvanhalen – badassery & vocals It feels completely backwards but also totally right that the album is coming out in this moment (cont in comments)

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Lyrical sentiments of low feelings and raw despair can be discovered all throughout the album in songs like “Switchblade” and “Wishing.” Many of the feelings expressed throughout the record are personal yet, many are also influenced by the life experiences of others.

Stirred by Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Brett Kavanaugh, “Eyes Are Red” is one of the album standouts as it displays a conglomerate of unique sound arrangements. Three or four minutes of sheer instrumentation from every component of the band is heard. Dobson’s husband, Peter Mansen (drums), Garrett Gue (bass), and Elliot Jackson (guitar, synth) shred openly in their own space for a collective rhapsody of energy and emotion. There is an immense amount of balance in texture and tempo within “Eyes Are Red.” 

Another standout on the record is the head-nodding, “Lightning Bolts”. The musical tirade is a mix of soft and intense undertones with crescendos and decrescendoing instrumentation. The wonderful use of retro-sounding synth keys is united with the resounding lines, “Never wanna be alone again.” An acoustic number to close out the lively album, “Run Away With Me” is another great raw lyrical moment of pure introspection and intimate songwriting.

“An ‘impossible weight’ is also indicating that it’s something that’s impossible and is not yours to carry alone,” said Dobson. “So, this was me dealing with it, and letting other people in on very different and a more fundamental level. That includes being way more vulnerable than I’ve ever been in my entire life.”

A class showing of musicianship and vulnerability, Impossible Weight is a phenomenal album ensuring indie rock is as secure as it has ever been. Intriguing by way of its production but forcibly connecting social commentary by way of poetic songwriting, this latest album is a phenomenal new record worth diving into. 

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