HIGH DIVE HEART
Think of the Grunge era, and a few iconic elements come to mind: angry guitars, angst-ridden laments, well-worn flannel shirts. But strip away the rage and rebellion, and what you’re left with are classic songs with unique, timeless melodies and meaningful, poetic lyrics. Those are the elements that husband-and-wife duo High Dive Heart bring to the fore on their new album, Grunge Lullaby, unearthing these iconic rockers’ meditative core from beneath layers of raucous noise.
Make no mistake: Grunge Lullaby (due out June 16, 2017) is no kids’ album. It’s intended for listeners whose cocaine-fueled youth has ripened into a marijuana-mellowed maturity. For a generation whose formative years have been spent shouting along to Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins, these songs still resonate – but the blistering volume and furious energy can feel like overkill given the frenetic pace of modern life.
At the heart of Grunge Lullaby are the sweet voices, tender harmonies and blissful arrangements of Jason Reeves and Nelly Joy. The album was recorded in their home studio and is steeped in a calm and intimacy that is unmistakably the result of a married couple making music in the comfort of their own home. That sense of serenity and ease – not the usual feelings that arise in Grunge music – is deftly transmitted to the listener, rewarding both those who want to enjoy these classic songs in a new way as well as those just looking to chill out without sacrificing their edge. This is music that’s about growing up, not growing old.
“We live in such a fast-paced, crazy world,” Nelly says. “Even adults need help relaxing these days. We don’t necessarily want to rock out to these songs any longer, but that doesn't mean that we don't love them or that they didn't impact our lives.”
The nine tracks that comprise Grunge Lullaby include many of the songs that defined their generation – two each by Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, both Nelly and Jason’s favorites, as well as favorites by Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Bush. The repertoire is also broad enough to encompass songs that don’t necessarily fit the “Grunge” category but nonetheless contributed to the period’s diverse and complex sonic landscape – indefinable bands like Radiohead and The Verve Pipe. In the duo’s well-crafted renditions, each of these becomes a soothing and enticing bedtime story for listeners who don’t mind their dreams taking on a darker, more complex tone.
“We all need ways to mellow out or decompress from the chaos that we’re all spinning in every day,” Jason says. “We were both surprised to find how beautiful some of these songs were when we stripped them down. On the original recordings the music sounds as grungy as the visual that these bands were projecting, but underneath they were actually writing good songs with great melodies and strange lyrics.”
This is a duo, after all, that knows what goes into a successful song. Both are GRAMMY-nominated songwriters who’ve collaborated with the likes of Colbie Caillat, Katharine McPhee, Lenka, Kara DioGuardi and others. Jason has also released several solo albums, while Joy started out as one half of the country duo the JaneDear Girls, whose debut single “Wildflower” was a Top 20 hit on the Hot Country Songs chart. The two began working together on Jason’s 2011 solo album The Lovesick and soon realized that their personal spark was as powerful as their musical one.
Both Nelly and Jason grew up listening to the songs of the Grunge era. “I was in junior high and early high school while these songs were current,” Jason says, “which is the most defining point in most people’s lives. This music is very nostalgic for me.” Nelly remembers hearing Nirvana for the first time at 6th grade party: “I just stopped and went numb,” she says. “I felt the emotions that I think they were feeling when they performed their songs, which was a game changer for me. I was raised on music that was a little more mellow, like the Beatles and Jewel, but Grunge definitely tapped into something that I’d never been able to express before.”
With those defining experiences in mind, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was an obvious choice when Coca-Cola invited High Dive Heart to participate in a livestream with Moe’s Southwest Grill paying tribute to artists who were no longer living. Fans immediately seized on the duo’s unconventional transformation of the Nirvana classic, making their performance Coke’s first livestream to break 100,000 views in 24 hours. Nelly and Jason were besieged with requests for more songs in the same vein.
They quickly discovered that many of the era’s songs were diamonds in the rough that could be polished to High Dive Heart’s alluring sheen. The songs are utterly transformed in a way that retains what made them classics while reshaping them to fit the duo’s gentle, romantic sensibility.
“We don’t normally do cover songs,” Nelly points out, “but we believe that when a door opens and it feels true to who you are, you should do it. These songs were a part of our childhood, so it was a nostalgic experience to make them our own. These songs definitely sound like High Dive Heart - the only difference is we didn't write them. We’re just trying to bring them to life in a different way.”