🎧 Local Music Lowdown: Warren Dunes

I’m not sure when it started, but my mom jokingly refers to the music I listen to, as “sad beach music.” The more I think about this, the more I realize how it might just be a reflection of growing up in the often gloomy PNW. 

I tell the band about this because they describe their sound as “post-modern beach music” so their sound is sort of right up my alley. Julia Massey, the band’s lead singer adds that she wonders how growing up here affects folks. Julia has a son with her husband Jared Cortese, the lead guitarist for the band, making the little one a rare Seattle-born resident.  

“We were at Golden Gardens today and it was so foggy, it was so dreary today,” Julia says. “I was like, ‘this is the dreariest place on earth but it’s so pretty!’”

Seattle: A Mecca for Musicians

All three band members ended up in the city in ways that seem more like kismet than anything else. Jared’s brother Dom remembers getting into 90’s bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam. His fascination with Seattle only grew after repeatedly watching a video on the city’s grunge movement. 

“It felt like a spiritual place that I had always been drawn to and I wanted to be a part,” Dom said. 

After finding an opportunity through Americorps in Seattle, Dom finally made the move. It was helped by the fact that Jared was already in the city having moved after college. 

Chicago is just a really intense place, it just wasn’t for me as far as making art,” Jared said. “It just was a very different place that thinks about art in a different way, and I just needed something new.”

While Jared’s reason for moving had less to do with the city’s music scene and more to do with his love for the culture, Julia took a chance on the city after being promised it was any aspiring musician’s dream.

They were like ‘there’s a venue on every corner of every street, there are people carrying guitars every other block, this is the musical epicenter of the world’ so I was like ‘well I guess I have to move to Seattle,’” Julia said.

Julia intended to only stay for a month and then visit some friends down the West Coast. She’s still here 12 years later — with a kid, a husband, and a band.

Becoming Warren Dunes

The three of them met after Julia posted an ad for a bassist on Craigslist. One of the guys who responded was Dom and Jared’s bandmate in The Jesus Rehab and introduced the brothers to Julia. 

Despite meeting shortly after Julia and Dom’s arrival to Seattle, the three of them didn’t play together immediately. That didn’t happen until after Jared and Julia got married in 2012 and after Dom and Julia’s band Five Finger Discount released their final record in 2017. 

Since then, they’ve released an EP, and most recently — as of today — they’ve released a visual collection of songs in collaboration with Bad Habit Media.

The three-song visual EP entitled “Every Human Heart” are songs that the band had written and recorded that didn’t quite fit on their next album, which is scheduled for a 2021 release date.

“It’s really important to me to remember that every human heart counts — even the ones that I’m frustrated by and really really angry with,” Julia said. “There’s still a heart inside that human and we’re still on this planet together at the same time and I have to accept that.”

Murals and Music

Over the summer, the band set out to record all three songs in front of three different murals around town, with Julia and Jared’s kid in tow, in one day. The result is an EP that not only showcases both the down-to-earth charm of the band but also their mission and desire to champion the city’s art. 

“The day was definitely about recording these songs and making this video happen but it [also] felt like we were touching base with our city,” Dom said. “We were putting our hands to the ground so to speak and that felt really good.” 

In a time where live music has stopped, what Warren Dunes offers with this EP is a glimmer of what once was and what will be again. 

It feels like the essence of life itself is live music,” Julia said. “I mean of course we have to eat and shelter ourselves, but is any of that worth it if we can’t express ourselves through vibrations?”

Watch “Every Human Heart”: 

Favorite venue to play/see a show:
Dom: The Sunset
Jared: The Sunset, The Tractor Tavern, Conor Byrne Pub, The Crocodile
Julia: Clock-out Lounge, The Royal Room, Columbia City Theater

Favorite song by a local artist or about the PNW:
Dom:Always Waiting” by Deep Sea Diver
Jared:Let Them Eat Cake” by Robb Benson
Julia:Seattle” by The Jesus Rehab

Song that got them through 2020:
Dom:End of the Line” by Traveling Wilburys
Jared:What Are You Doing” by Tres Leches
Julia: I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd