Lost Tapes of the 27 Club is a musical project that utilizes AI to analyze up to 30 songs per selected musician who struggled with mental health issues and died at the age of 27 — including Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Amy Winehouse — and write and perform “new” songs in their signature style as part of one album. Over The Bridge, a Toronto-based organization aiming to raise awareness about mental health within the music community, created the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club.
“Drowned in the Sun” mirrors Cobain’s songwriting and guitar skills via computers while tapping Eric Hogan, the lead singer of the “ultimate tribute” band to Nirvana, Nevermind, for vocals. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Hogan traced similarities between Nirvana’s seminal albums In Utero and Nevermind, the latter of which is the namesake of his cover band, and the latest Nirvana-esque track he recorded in Cobain’s style.
“[‘Drowned in the Sun’] is accurate enough to give you that [Nirvana] vibe, but not so accurate to where someone’s going to get a cease-and-desist letter,” Hogan claimed. “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.”
Sean O’Connor, who serves on the board of directors for Over the Bridge, explained to Rolling Stone that his staff uses Google’s AI program Magenta to analyze the compositions of these artists’ previous songs as MIDI files that the computers use to create new hooks, vocal melodies and rhythms. For the lyrics, O’Connor & Co. use a generic AI program called an artificial neural network to analyze artists’ lyrics so the program can use a few words as a jumping-off point before finishing the rest by guessing the cadence and tone in a “trial and error” process.
But O’Connor explained why the Nirvana-esque recordings were among the hardest to produce. “You tended to get a wall of sound,” he told Rolling Stone. “There’s less of an identifiable common thread throughout all their songs to give you this big chunk of catalog that the machine could just learn from and create something new.”
Regarding Cobain’s death by suicide nearly three decades ago, Over the Bridge goes beyond honoring the legacies of The 27 Club members. The nonprofit organization encourages music industry professionals to seek necessary mental health help by providing resources on its Facebook page and setting up peer support group meetings over Zoom for musicians, local/road crew and more.
Listen to “Drowned in the Sun” below.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts and/or distress, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.