A traveler from a time period passed, it sits quietly in the back of nearly every bowling alley. If you can find spare change floating around your pockets or at the bottom of your purse, a mere 25 cents can send a song of your choice soaring through the speakers. A jukebox, the embodiment of a historic staple still beloved in modern times.
Written by: McKenna Cardwell (What’s Up! – Bellingham’s Music Magazine) Date: June 2019
Yet when Ethan Rainwater, bassist and keyboardist for High Step Society, went searching through a bowling alley jukebox for a swanky jazz hit, he was shocked to find out that jazz wasn’t even a category to choose from.
The fall of jazz from mainstream music society is what Rainwater said was an influencing factor in the formation of the High Step Society. “There are definitely still places where jazz is prominent and respected,” Rainwater said. “But overall I was pretty sad about the state of jazz in America. Jazz can be considered as the founding music here, but it’s really been lost from pop charts.”
A fusion of modern electronic and old timeless jazz, High Step Society’s electro-swing music marries good-natured dance music from different decades. The genre of electro-swing music has been a popular choice in Europe for some time now, but they’re working to bring it to America.
The good-time band is made up of Rainwater, Alex Misar, Nora Reicher, Phil Allen Wrench, and Parkpoom Aempoo. Their music is driven by the same care-free dance vibe of jazz in the roaring 20s.
“The way swing worked in the 20s was to help them forget their troubles and just have a good time and dance,” Rainwater said. “Electronic music is kind of the modern version of that, so what we do is a combination of both.”
The band is currently preparing to head out on tour, hitting the Nectar Lounge in Seattle on June 26 and the Wild Buffalo here in Bellingham on the 27th. Traveling with Zion I, their retro, swing sound provides a unique paring to a hip-hop, rap heavy lineup.
“We don’t really know how audiences will react to this combination,” drummer Wrench said. “But surprise is good and I think that’s what Zion I was going for when he asked us to tour.”
High Step society is in the works of creating collaborations with various artists like Zion I as well as other singers. Caela Bailey from Seattle and Betty Jaeger are two out of a handful of singers appearing on their upcoming album set to release in 2020. Three years after their debut album in 2017, High Step is looking to mix in different flavors to their solid musical core.
The band will also be returning to the region this summer for the Summer Meltdown Festival. In the meantime, they’re stoked to be in Bellingham this month.
“Bellingham was one of the first places where we really had people turn out and jive to our music,” Rainwater said. “We can’t wait to come back.”