ALMOST IMMEDIATELY after Seattle's Deep Sea Diver released its debut full-length, History Speaks, vocalist/guitarist Jessica Dobson was whisked away on a national tour as the recently anointed guitarist in the new build of the Shins. The LP, self-released in February, was given a somewhat reluctant backseat during its incubation period, aside from Deep Sea Diver doing a few opening slots on the Shins tour. But, as Dobson explains, the quiet wellspring of positive attention the album earned in the interim ultimately has proven to be a boon.
"I had no idea what was gonna happen with it," says Dobson, who's also logged time as guitarist for Beck and as bassist for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. "It almost came as a big surprise when we actually did get it finished and put it out, and that people connected with the songs."
History Speaks follows Dobson's jangly-pop EP debut New Caves in 2009, her first release under the Deep Sea Diver moniker, but far from her first recorded material. Dobson was originally signed at the ripe old age of 19 to Atlantic Records, writing and recording two albums under her own name. Disputes over the finished product led Atlantic to shelve both albums. The experience was an epiphany for the young Dobson, and opened up a much more independent avenue for her.
"That was definitely a weird chapter in my life," Dobson says. "[Major labels] were ready to turn in a pretty penny left and right, and that doesn't really exist anymore. That's why we felt very adamant about not waiting on anybody and self-releasing."
Business aside, the avant-garde quilt of pop found on History Speaks benefits greatly from the collaborative efforts of the collective Deep Sea Diver crew—drummer/husband Peter Mansen, bassist John Raines, and guitarist Michael Duggan. Dobson's bawling vocals pepper the first half of the record, linking arms with intricate, mangled moments of brilliant outsider pop, as found on opener "Ships."
De facto single "NWO" saunters through your headphones with sedate, sparse piano before shifting rhythms and gently exploding into a creepily catchy post-chorus refrain, replete with xylophones and excellent drum patterns.
"Peter was trying to emulate Aesop Rock," says Dobson of "NWO." "These influences were coming out, but they're so masked because there's so much collaboration going on."
Those kinds of compositional expansions resulted in uncertainty for Dobson. With everything from Bowie's Scary Monsters to Robert Fripp, Moondog to Philip Glass infiltrating their microcosmic headspace during writing and recording, the band wasn't even sure if the record was any good.
"I literally had no idea if it was a good record or not," says Dobson. "We were trying to find what our sound was, because this was the first collaborative record. We didn't know what to compare it to when we were done."
Deep Sea Diver finally has the chance to hit the road for a West Coast tour with the great record in tow, and Dobson says the band is in discussions about lots of touring next year, as well as the possibility of future label support. All in all, it's an exciting time, even if they're not currently sweating the small stuff.
"We don't have a two-year plan," says Dobson. "It's just like, 'What are we doing today? Let's play music!' We're just gonna roll with it."