Today (April 5) marks the 27th anniversary of Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain’s death, but thanks to the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club, there’s a Nirvana-esque track titled “Drowned in the Sun” to share created by artificial intelligence.
“Drowned in the Sun” is just one of many AI-aided tracks created by the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club, a project founded by Over the Bridge that assists members of the music industry struggling with mental illness. They’ve actually used the Google AI Magenta program to analyze the works of musicians like Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and more to try to predict and create what a current song from the artist would be.
Their program takes in 30 songs from each act, digs into the vocal melodies, chord changes, guitar riffs and solos, drum patterns and lyrics before using all of that data to create a new track. Magenta analyzes the songs as MIDI files, translating the music into a digital code that can be fed through a synthesizer to recreate the music. The result for Kurt Cobain’s catalog with Nirvana is the song “Drowned in the Sun,” which seems to fit perfectly in the wheelhouse of what you’d expect.
“I don’t care / I feel as one / Drowned in the sun” is the song’s chorus which likely sounds and feels a bit familiar to Nirvana fans. Nirvana tribute band singer Eric Hogan provides the vocals for the song as well, but he’s performing what the artificial intelligence has provided.
“What if all these musicians that we love had mental health support?” said Over the Bridge board member Sean O’Connor to Rolling Stone. “Somehow in the music industry, [depression] is normalized and romanticized … Their music is seen as authentic suffering.”
Speaking about the process of creating the songs, O’Connor states, “It was a lot of trial and error,” but after they had their compositions prepared they turned the music over to an audio house to help arrange the different parts to sound like the musician.
Hogan, who fronts an Atlanta tribute band titled Nevermind, said he was surprised by the project and the invite to take part. “After the conversation, I still didn’t really think it was a real thing,” he says. “And then they sent me files and money.”
“I was like, ‘I don’t know how to [sing] this,’” he remembers. “I had to have the guy who came up with the AI track mumble and hum [the tune]. I would feel weird trying to assume what [Cobain] would do. They had to give me a little bit of a roadmap, and then from there, it was fine.”
He continues, “If you look at the last quote-unquote Nirvana release, which was, ‘You Know You’re Right,’ this has the same type of vibe. Kurt would just sort of write whatever the hell he felt like writing. And if he liked it, then that was a Nirvana song. I can hear certain things in the arrangement of [‘Drowned in the Sun’] like, ‘OK, that’s kind of an In Utero vibe right here or a Nevermind vibe right here. … I really understood the AI of it.”
Have a listen to the AI-created “Drowned in the Sun” below and learn more about the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club here.