University of Washington house shows often pound with DJ prowess or rock 'n' roll grit. But what the Dip brought to parties was a funky beat with a blasting horn section. It was enough to stop some inebriated students in their tracks.
"The parties were pretty wild, our set caught people off guard," drummer Jarred Katz recalls of early 2012, when it all began. "Not many people have seen a [baritone] sax at a house party; they didn't know what to make of it. That was the mystique, that's what got people interested."
And for a bunch of college guys mostly involved with the U-Dub jazz department, playing the shows was a way into the music mainstream. Once the initial shock wore off, people danced and wouldn't stop until late in the morning. Crowds grew; eventually, that led to booking gigs at local watering holes and music venues. Now out of the college scene, the past year and a half has been impressive for the Seattle-based group. They've released a full-length album, an instrumental EP, played Capitol Hill Block Party and Sasquatch! and are currently on their second tour.
Katz, a Spokane native and Lewis and Clark High School graduate, answers the phone from somewhere near San Diego last week. He says that traveling down the road with seven dudes in a 15-passenger van isn't as bad as you'd think; driving shifts are short and there's a lot of sleeping involved. At one point there were nine members, but Katz says the current lineup is invested.
"We're all friends," says Katz, 26. "All we want to do is play all of the time."
Making things more complicated: three of the members of the Dip, including Katz, also play in the indie pop-rock group Beat Connection, which has played the Bartlett multiple times. This leads to some booking nightmares, but as in the case of this year's Sasquatch!, it also made it easy for both groups to play on the same day. Last month, Beat Connection played a show in Seattle, then later that night, drove down to Olympia for a gig with the Dip.
"I can't count the number of times we've gotten emails from people for both bands for the same date," Katz says.
The Dip finishes up their West Coast tour on Saturday with their first Spokane gig, and later this summer, Beat Connection hits the road. With so much action, you'd think the bands played full time, but most of the Dip's members are teaching music lessons and doing outside projects just to get by. The band's horn section, known as the Honeynut Horns, often plays guest spots with other groups.
"I thought this was going to be easier," Katz admits. "But we hope to take this full time in the next year or so."
In the meantime, the Dip keep writing songs. Ones that dig into the past but don't sound like a complete copy of tunes that came from the 1960s and '70s, when funk and soul music soared.
"Even if you tried to sound like Al Green or someone else, it won't work, so don't," Katz says. "It's about getting the spirit in the process, but making sure you sound original."
Singer-guitarist Tom Eddy brings smoothness to the work, while the rest of the instrumentalists blast through groovy rhythms and crunchy melodies. It's cool and showy, but doesn't get wrapped up in overtly complex lines. Shows move between vocal-filled and instrumental songs. Katz says they attempt to feel out what the audience wants.
"We all have a solo in our normal sets," Katz says. "The audience vibes off the solos, but it's important to not get too long and jammy. Nobody wants that."
Katz says his group is grateful for bands that are showing the way in the genre (think Fitz and the Tantrums or Allen Stone), taking the sound to a wider group of music fans.
"Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, they're famous now, but they've been grinding," Katz says. "They are working and creating to showcase the music. It's all stemming back to the original stuff, but their spin is on it. Soul groups are getting popular, and it's helping people like us a lot."
He thinks he knows why this music is resonating. "This music evokes a good feeling with people," Katz says. "People are just smiling. It has a powerful effect." ♦
Soul Night feat. the Dip, Super Sparkle and 45th St. Brass • Sat, July 9, at 8 pm • $8/$10 day of • All-ages • The Bartlett • 228 W. Sprague • thebartlettspokane.com • 747-2174