The Dip, an eclectic seven-piece from Seattle, refuses to be boxed into any single category. Started in 2013 as students at the University of Washington in Seattle, the group’s original members still make up today’s lineup: Tom Eddy (lead vocals), Jarred Katz (drums), Mark Hunter (bass guitar), Jacob Lundgren (lead guitar), Brennan Carter (trumpet), Levi Gillis (tenor saxophone), and Evan Smith (baritone sax). At first, the band was less of a band than it was a just-for-fun side project between a group of friends with a shared passion for music. While this early love of the craft still persists—that much is reflected in their vibrant sound—their humble beginnings have developed into international tours and nearly a decade’s worth of music
Their latest record, 2022’s self-produced Sticking With It, carries on the laid-back, multi-instrumental sound they’ve been developing since their 2015 debut LP, The Dip. While this sound is certainly unique to the band, attempting to slot it into a specific genre is tricky. This is due in part to the sheer size of the group—seven members means seven sets of influences, styles, and musical strengths. But also because the band, as told to us by lead singer Eddy, takes issue with the concept of genre altogether. “I would venture to say that the question of genre produces anxiety for most working musicians,” he says. “It’s like being asked to name your favorite child, maybe you could try to pick one, but it wouldn’t be very fun and kind of misses the point of being a parent in the first place. It’s reductive by nature.”
The band’s vibrant use of horn instruments is what sets them apart, but it also leads many listeners to associate them with a variety of genres—jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, and so on. While these associations are not altogether incorrect, the band is cognizant of the limitations the concept of “genre” can put on musicians. “In our band The Dip, we view the concept of genre not as a static list of describing words, but as an area of study. […] With seven individuals in the group, we draw from a varied knowledge base. For example many in the group have studied extensively in the “Jazz” idiom, (perhaps the most egregious in the sea of problematic genre misnomers). In “Notes and Tones”, a collection of candid interviews with some of Jazz’s biggest names by accomplished drummer and author Art Taylor, most of Jazz’s pioneers couldn’t make heads of tails of the genre name. Some outwardly disdained its use. This illustrates, a central failure of genre. To paraphrase Taylor, the naming of things is often undertaken by individuals and entities outside the sphere of those that created the thing. Therefore from the onset, there is a baked-in reductive and appropriative element at play.
Fast forward to The Dip, people come up to the horn section after the show and say sincerely, “I love your Jazzy horn parts”. What they might hear is an attempted allusion to the jagged and close knit harmony of a Count Basie arrangement, or a Thelonious Monk tune. They hear a cursory use of the building blocks these pioneers of harmony invented and perfected within a music style all their own, along a timeline of innovation emblematic of the perseverance and defiant ever churning creativity of black americans. We utilize these musical elements, with an understanding of where and who they came from and are cognizant that as white men, our engagement with those important musical ideas are not intrinsic but reverential. The same can be said of many elements we draw upon. The story telling and whit of a “blues” singer like Taj Mahal, (who by the way can hardly be contained in one genre) or the driving backbeat of a Wilson Picket tune. The nonchalant melancholy of The Velvet Underground or the hopeful poetry of Joni Mitchell.
The question of what role genre plays in The Dip is the central and most important question for our band. It is the engine for learning and understanding what came before, and where we fit in. The aim is to explore the margins between the categories, to acquaint oneself with the historical significance of one name over another, the times and places, the people. And to use that knowledge to make choices on your own musical output, hopefully with greater honesty and a deeper resolve.”
In lieu of boxing The Dip into a genre, here are a few words that come to mind when shuffling through both Sticking With It and their full catalogue: groovy, joyous, laidback, boisterous, honest. There is a radiance to their use of language, which is reflected even in their song titles (“Paddle to the Stars;” “Apollonia”), as well as their horn-infused sonics. At once introspective and easygoing, songs from Sticking With It explore themes of love and society, grief and (the illusion of) the American dream. Over the years, the band has earned a reputation for putting on a stellar live show. Don’t miss your chance to see it for yourself at Roots N Blues Festival, where The Dip will take the Equipment Share Stage on Saturday, October 8th at 5pm. Get your single-day, weekend, or Friends Access passes here: https://rootsnbluesfestival.frontgatetickets.com/
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