To passersby, muffled music emanating from the basement of The Mind Palace is a sign that a band practice is in session. The house, and frequent music venue, is the main creative space for the local band Step Dads.
The band is comprised of guitarist and singer Nate Kahn, bassist Nick Barker, drummer Isaac Petersen and guitarist and singer Zach Sullivan. They have been playing music together as a group for just a few months, although the the band started back in Kahn and Petersen’s attic.
“Isaac and I have been living together for a while, and he didn’t want to bring his drums from his house in Seattle up to Bellingham,” Kahn said. “I finally convinced him to. We got the drums up into the attic of our apartment, and we started playing music, just him and I. We were really bad. We did Sublime covers.”
Following a few noise complaints from their landlord, the duo decided to move their practice space to The Mind Palace.
“I really like supporting the DIY culture. I really like the ethics behind people having performances in their house and performances in spaces where people of all socioeconomic backgrounds are welcome.”
Nate Kahn, guitarist and singer
Within eight months, Petersen and Kahn joined forces with Barker and Sullivan, recorded an EP (Extended Play album) and even went on a multiple-stop tour in Washington and Oregon earlier this spring. They traveled to music venues of all different sizes with local bands Chimney and The Dawn Bombs.
“We seek out really all types of venues. We like DIY spaces, and we’ve played at some bars too. I think we have a show at a wine room set in Long Beach,” Barker said.
DIY shows are less traditional and usually take place in a community space or someone’s own home as opposed to a conventional venue like The Paramount Theatre or the Wild Buffalo. This allows bands to charge fans less entry fees.
Since none of the members are 21 years old yet, Step Dads also seek out locations that can accommodate fans of all ages.
“I think our music appeals to people of all ages,” Kahn said. “I really like supporting the DIY culture. I really like the ethics behind people having performances in their house and performances in spaces where people of all socioeconomic backgrounds are welcome.”
Step Dads recently played at the Bellingham Arts and Music Festival (BAMF!) on Saturday, May 6. The 24-hour event hosted a multitude of local artists at the Lookout Arts Quarry.
“It was really cool, and just a treat to play there,” Petersen said. “At the stage we played at, there was a floating dock for a dance floor. Everyone was swimming and just having a great time.”
Kahn said getting to see familiar faces at BAMF!, not only in the crowd, but among the other performers, showed the thriving music community in Bellingham.
“There’s definitely different nooks and crannies of the Bellingham music scene, and we have our own kind of nook, where we have a lot of people who go to Western and Whatcom [Community College] coming to our shows,” Kahn said.
The band said as members have come and gone, their sound has changed. Barker is the newest bass player, while Sullivan is the most recent addition overall.
“I’ve been calling ourselves indie garage,” Kahn said. “Our music has been changing, because of changing bassists. People might not think like, ‘Oh having a new bassist is different.’ But Nick has a completely different style.”
Petersen said they have shifted their sound away from pop, and toward what he calls, “groovy surf.”
“It’s weird for me to play old songs that Jack [previous bassist] wrote, because he [had] such a different style,” Barker said. “I like to be a bit more groovy.”
In addition to maintaining their newly developed sound, the band says it makes a point of not taking itself too seriously.
“[It’s] obvious we are serious in our intent to play music and go places,” Kahn said. “But in terms of day-to-day communication, we want to be silly and lighthearted about it. We try to put the ego behind and be team players, which is something a step dad would say, actually.”
In the coming months, the band plans to continue having fun practicing, writing and recording before another tour later this year on Aug. 24. They will have shows at The Mind Palace, located at 800 N. Garden St. as well as at various events on Western’s campus and throughout the Bellingham community.