Get dreamy with Deep Sea Diver

by Rodney Lotter

Suffice it to say, Jessica Dobson’s music career has been quite the crazy one. Dobson is the primary songwriter for Seattle-based band, Deep Sea Diver, but beyond that her resume is a list of some of the best and most influential bands and musicians of the last decade. She has played guitar in Beck’s touring band, shredded for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as a touring guitarist, did the same with Conor Oberst  (of Bright Eyes fame) and the Mystic Valley Band, and played with Spoon. Oh yeah, she is also a full-fledged member of The Shins as well and was signed to Atlantic Records when she was 19 years old.

With a resume like that, it would be easy to overlook her work with Deep Sea Diver – IF the songs weren’t pure pop perfection on so many levels. The band consists of Dobson on guitar and vocals, her husband Peter Mansen on drums, Garrett Gue on bass and Elliot Jackson on guitar.

The band consists of Jessica Dobson on guitar and vocals, Peter Mansen on drums, Garrett Gue on bass, and Elliot Jackson on guitar. COURTESY PHOTO

The band consists of Jessica Dobson on guitar and vocals, Peter Mansen on drums, Garrett Gue on bass, and Elliot Jackson on guitar. COURTESY PHOTO

Her first brush with the music industry did not start out very well. After signing with Atlantic, she then moved to New York to record her debut album, which was shelved. Her second attempt at an album met the same fate, to which she packed her bags and started working as a touring musician. While on the road and touring with such notable musicians, she picked up quite a few lessons and inspirations that lead her to Seattle, and the eventual creation of Deep Sea Diver in 2007.

“Anytime you play with other artists, whether they are notable or not, you are fueling your creativity,” Dobson said. “Learning to collaborate and play well with others was key for me to keeping [Deep Sea Diver] alive. I also really appreciated all the schooling I received from playing with bigger bands and seeing first hand what I dislike about the music industry and many business people and what to steer clear of. I admire the artists I’ve worked with who don’t buy the bullshit and are still carving their own paths and going about making records on their own terms.”

Dobson has been carving her own path for quite a while now and the latest evidence of that can be heard with Deep Sea Diver’s newest 4-song EP Always Waiting, released earlier this year. The EP is a sampling of what’s to come with the band’s second full-length release on the way this spring.

“I think the EP reflects the more singer songwriter and electronically experimental side of my writing while the [full-length] record showcases more of a band dynamic and contains more a punch in the gut in the rhythm section,” Dobson said. “It’s dreamy and it’s hard hitting.”

“Dreamy” is a pretty apt description of Deep Sea Diver’s music. In many ways the combination of awesome, hooky guitar riffs, glitchy electronic sounds and dubby, funky bass lines on the band’s latest single “One By One” echo the best aspects of bands like early Postal Service and Annie Clark (better known as St. Vincent, who Dobson cites as an inspiration in interviews). The music is definitely very dreamy in the pop sense, back also packs an indie rock punch to it – perhaps due in part to her experience playing with the bands mentioned above and her affinity for Nick Cave. Early on, Deep Sea Diver was often compared to the music of PJ Harvey and Cat Power in musical publications.

“Playing with Beck was such a treat because that’s when I was introduced to a playground of new pedals and guitars that I’d never played around with before. I was definitely influenced by Beck’s songwriting, but that’s also because I learned how to play guitar by learning Beck songs when I was in junior high,” Dobson said. “It was such a trip to start playing with him at 22, and playing “Loser” to thousands of people and realizing that my junior high self would never have imagined doing that.”

LOCAL SHOWTIME: Deep Sea Diver performs Dec. 11 at The Shakedown. This will be the band’s first time playing in town, and Dobson’s first time ever stepping foot in Bellingham. Bellamaine will be opening, and the cover is $10. “I’m told that I must go brewery hopping,” Dobson said. “I’m a sucker for a solid IPA.”  For more about Deep Sea Diver, see www.thedeepseadiver.com or follow them on Facebook.

Published in the December 2014 issue of What’s Up! Magazine