INTERVIEW: The Dip continues a rise to the top of blue-eyed soul

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The Dip

The Dip. Courtesy photo.

The Dip is selling out shows. Their second album of upbeat and nostalgic soul music, The Dip Delivers, is getting rave reviews. The band’s spring tour, their longest ever, will culminate at BottleRock. The septet’s growing momentum is predictable given the band’s dedication and chops, but the guys themselves are blown away by the larger crowds and growing enthusiasm.

BottleRock Napa Valley
May 24 to 26
Napa Valley Expo
Tickets: General admission $160-$360.

“I think these shows have been pretty amazing; like we’re still kind of weirded out that people are actually showing up,” vocalist-guitarist Tom Eddy said in a call while the band was making its way to a show in Nashville.

Perhaps the band’s surprise is natural given its humble beginnings. Formed as music students at the University of Washington, the friends evolved from a casual party band into a burgeoning musical force over the course of two albums. But the trajectory was totally natural and grew out of the members’ mutual love of music.

“We just wanted to get something going to play on the weekends in front of our friends,” drummer Jarred Katz said. “And then after we started to write some more songs and we were having fun, we were like, ‘Why don’t we make this more of a real thing?’”

The music on The Dip Delivers is a real showstopper. Technically precise and disarmingly earnest, it draws from the sonic tabernacles of the past, from Motown and Sam Cooke to Otis Redding. Natural comparisons can be drawn to blue-eyed soul acts like St. Paul and the Broken Bones, The Revivalists and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.

While The Dip’s stature has grown, its retained even more control over its creative output by recording its latest album without the help of outsiders. The project was helmed by Eddy and guitarist Jacob Lundgren, who worked out of the band’s rehearsal space in Seattle, which the guitarist said the band has built out. They rehearse six to eight hours a week when not on tour.

Taking charge of the record allowed the band to go at the its own pace.

“Having that time we needed, as opposed to going into a studio and you’ve got three days to bang everything out [is important],” Katz explained. “The clock’s ticking and you know studios are expensive. And that’s how we made our first record. But now with the second one, having that kind of flexibility to work on our own schedule really helped us.”

The band’s comfort in the studio is evident on The Dip Delivers. What isn’t immediately obvious is the complexity of the song-craft. While the music is lighthearted and designed to get you boogying, Eddy’s lyrics are often pointed and acerbic.

“I think these songs are sort of everyday songs that feel good and you could put them on in the car,” he said. “But the messages are just as real to us and our experiences of life and love and all that stuff. I think that for us it works because these are heavy things but they’re also true to life. They’re everyday things and so they should be in a musical context that is palatable in that same way.”

This approach seems especially effective in 2019, when Americans need an emotional uplift at the same time they need to stay engaged with what is happening on a bigger scale.

For myself I find it daunting to go down into the sad voice whenever things are so bad, but also people need like real shit, too,” Eddy said. “Because there’s so much avoidance in our culture. You’ve got to talk about something real because there’s so much real shit to talk about.”

The tension between the band’s sound and its powerful message helps separate them from its musical predecessors and contemporaries. Katz explained how he and his bandmates worked to create different stories and sonic boundaries on tunes like “Advertising” and “Spiderwebs.”

“What we try to do to stand out a little bit is push our songs songs to become stories,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is just copy what has already happened back in the day. That stuff to us is just kind of untouchable, you know?”

On “Advertising,” The Dip is joined by fellow Pacific Northwest musicians Delvon Lamarr (organ) and Jimmy James (guitar), of the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. Together they achieve a vintage sound with almost exclusively vintage gear. Guitars and basses are plugged directly into old tube amplifiers and the band records exclusively on old tape machines. But the band also makes extensive use of its three-man horn section of Evan Smith on baritone saxophone, Levi Gillis on tenor sax and Brennan Carter on trumpet.

As the band gets busier, coordinating schedules and taking care of logistics becomes more complicated, but the members shares the load. One will book the hotels, while another will figure out taxes, Katz explained as an example of the division of labor.

“We’re always saying to take everything as it comes,” Katz said. “We don’t want to look too far ahead. Once you start doing that, things usually don’t happen.” 

Follow writer David Gill at Twitter.com/songotaku and Instagram/songotaku.

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