When The Dip arrives in Cleveland on June 25, it will be not with a bang but with a rhythmic snap and a brassy finish that the band slides into the comforting confines of Beachland Ballroom. This is how the seven-piece rolls: They are a wonderfully tight soul outfit from Seattle, and they do things like perform upbeat numbers like “Sure Don’t Miss You,” their sunny single from 2017, to groovin’ and bobbin’ audiences across the fine land of ours.
The group is anchored by Tom Eddy (vocals, guitar), Mark Hunter (bass), Jacob Lundgren (guitar) and Jarred Katz (drums). The Honeyhut Horns round them out, with Brennan Carter bringing the heat on trumpet, Levi Gillis laying it down on tenor sax and Evan Smith holding it steady on baritone sax. They deal in tight, rhythmic soul, and you’d best come prepared with your finest pair of dancing shoes.
The group came together as students and friends in the jazz program at the University of Washington. Five members were studying there, each finding his own way into the world of professional music. They had friends across campus, and, before long, they wanted to take their creative kicks to the streets.
“We were all just hanging out and playing so much together,” Katz says, “and there was sort of an outlet that we weren’t really getting to fully exercise. Sometimes with school and all the regimented projects and assignments you have to do, we were kind of – I don’t want to say stuck, but we were busy trying to get school done and stuff like that. We needed a creative, new outlet to play music and play shows at a house party where our friends would want to come listen.”
The house parties allowed the guys to take their lessons to the masses, where stages lent an ability to improvise and jam—to play to the crowd and develop their senses of songwriting and skill.
“A lot of us were playing more experimental, avant-garde, free jazz—that was pretty prevalent at the music school we were at, which was super awesome,” Katz says. “Part of starting The Dip was a need to get a project going outside of school, just for some fresh new outlook and just to have fun.”
Those early shows turned into the band’s first EP, which was followed by a debut self-titled full-length and another EP, Won’t Be Coming Back (released in 2016). Through several years of increased touring and plenty of Pacific Northwest shows, the guys in The Dip began chiseling away at their collective voice, at their sound.
The process mirrored what they had been through in school. Kats, for example, entered the jazz program as a young student interested in the drums—but more intent on studying business. Under the tutelage of program director Cuong Vu, he says he really took to the jazz program and eventually flagged it as his major. Vu had the sort of pedigree that inspired younger musicians like Katz and the other members; he’d played with Pat Metheny and other enticing musicians in the scene, and he urged his students to push the boundaries of their instruments
“It was super open and flexible,” Katz says of the school. “That’s part of the reason why I think we all liked studying there, was because the program was so open to you finding what you were interested in and taking that and jumpstarting that process and giving you the tools to work on that. Everyone there was being taught how to be a successful musician afterward. … As a drummer, I didn’t know what I was getting into there, but coming out of there, I feel like a better listener.”
Those sorts of chops laid the foundation for the band, and, as house parties evolved into full-on touring in Katz’s mom’s Chevy Suburban, the band came together. Katz and his bandmates looked to the past to find their own future, shedding their on-stage noodling in favor of what has become, in fact, The Dip.
“I think all of us were a little more into and inspired by groups like the Dap Kings or great soul groups of the past where the songs are a little bit more concise and there’s a story to be told,” Katz says. “The jamming— or a little bit more extended instrumental portions—would happen naturally, and that wasn’t always the main focus. We kind of just started to focus on songwriting. After doing some successful house parties, we decided to do a little EP that we recorded.”
Taking care of everything in-house in those early days, Katz says, allowed the band to develop the skills needed to actually function as a band. Guitarist Jacob Lundgren took care of a lot of the recording work, and the EP led the band to its LP. The band had a product to show people, which led to more recording sessions together and more shows. “There’s such a joy—we were just sort of naïve in, like, ‘Oh, we love playing this music so much and we like hanging out as a band. Let’s go out there and try it,’” Katz says of that time. “We didn’t think much of what was going to happen.”
Chief among the self-titled album’s tunes is “I’m Lonely,” a smoky late-night lounge number that perfectly highlights the best of The Dip: Tom Eddy’s vocals wrap snugly around snappy percussion and bright bursts of brass. The six-string rhythms are undeniable. It’s in compositions like this that listeners will find The Dip’s inherent crossover appeal. Jazz technique is on full display, but the song structure here lends itself well to FM radio play.
Next up? The band is working on another album, and they’ve been workshopping the tunes onstage for a while now. As American soul continues to ride a revival in the mainstream, on Spotify—and in smaller clubs all over the U.S.—the guys in The Dip are doing their part to push the grand musical arc further into the future.
with Collin Miller & the Brother Nature
8:30 p.m., Monday, June 25, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $10-12, beachlandballroom.com