Seattle seven-piece The Dip writes original songs that recall the classic soul music of record labels such as Stax and artists similar to Wilson Pickett. The band plays the Gothic Theatre on Sunday, April 24.
“We really love that music and just the emotion of [classic soul],” says frontman Tom Eddy. “It harkens to that feeling. It’s just part of what we listened to growing up. It’s what my parents listened to. The emotional element of it, that backbeat, the storytelling of it.”
Although the band takes inspiration from rhythm and blues and soul bands of the 1960s and 1970s, Eddy balks at calling himself a soul musician, because the band is made up of “seven white dudes from Seattle.” The Dip traffics in a definite musical style, but one far removed from what the term “soul” originally meant.
“I hesitate to appropriate that name,” he says. “I’m very cognizant that our music is inspired by that music, but I hope we do it in such a way that’s not problematic and pays respect to that music. But I hesitate in any circumstances to call ourselves soul musicians. … I just want to be respectful of that term. I feel like it’s been kind of forgotten.”
The genre originally merged elements of gospel with rhythm and blues music through an intense vocal presence and often a lot of horns. It’s secular music with a church vibe. Eddy adds that the passage of time has equated to any kind of music with a certain sound being referred to as soul music, but it once had a more political connotation.
“From a historical standpoint, I feel like the movement in the ’60s of Black power and anti-establishment music was meant to reposition that community in the popular understanding as a form of self-liberation,” Eddy continues. “I associate ‘soul’ with that movement.”
Personally, Eddy says he’s drawn musical inspiration from artists such as Donny Hathaway, Al Green and Wilson Pickett. He loves to write and perform music with a strong groove and backbeat. But his biggest idol is probably blues musician Taj Mahal because of the honesty in his songwriting.
“They just feel good from front to back,” he says. “He doesn’t really do soul music. He’s more of a blues musician, but he has done all kinds of cool music and collaborations throughout his career. He’s kind of all over the place.”
Eddy says Seattle has a bit of a scene for bands playing soul-inspired music. One that immediately springs to mind is the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, which plays Booker T and the MGs-influenced songs.
“[The scene isn't] super robust, where every bar has a band like ours playing,” he says. “But I think there’s a deep appreciation for that music here, so we’ve got bands that play that music or benefit from a listenership that’s pretty serious. People go out for it.”
The Dip has so far released three full-length albums and two EPs. Its most recent offering, Sticking With It, was released in March. While the music is definitely inspired by older soul music, the band keeps it fresh and never feels as though it's a tribute band you’d catch at a casino on a Tuesday night. Eddy says the collaborative effort keeps the music interesting and new.
“We make it sound like our group by being very democratic about the arrangement,” he explains. “The harmony and the way the horns interact and trying to just not do the trope, to take the path of least resistance and recapitulate some other ideas. But we have a sonic vibe in mind, then make a song that doesn’t just copy some other stuff.”
Eddy says he tries to weave narratives into the lyrics with a little more thematic depth than the standard “Ooh, baby” motifs in so much popular music — not to bash on “Ooh, baby,” he adds, because there are plenty of great songs that aren’t necessarily deep. But while the latest record delves into heartbreak and love, it also covers contemporary issues, including social justice and the COVID pandemic.
“We try to keep it light,” he says. “But also, I feel like you couldn’t have lived through the last few years and not been inspired to be a little deeper and write about something with a little more social context.”
He notes that in a live setting, “there’s a lot going on on stage,” and as the frontman, he tries to direct the audience’s attention to the different elements occurring as the show goes on.
“We have the horn section and the rhythm section,” he says. ‘There’s the lyrics in the songs, and there’s a lot of improvisation going on. It’s a lot of sound a lot of the time. I’m kind of the one who can move around and try to bring some movement to the situation and direct people’s attention to the element that’s being showcased at that moment.”
Like so many bands, the Dip had to reschedule its current tour two or three times because of the pandemic. It’s been good to be back on stage after no live music for so long.
“The first three weeks were incredible,” Eddy says. “So many people, a lot of sold-out shows and just people singing along, even to the newer stuff. It was very humbling. I just feel very fortunate.”
Sticking With It is now available to stream on all platforms. The Dip plays the Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway in Englewood, at 8 p.m. Sunday, April 24. Tickets are $20. Visit thedipmusic.com for more music and information.
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