If you’re going to be a member of the High Step Society, then you better know the requirements. First off, you have to be musically gifted and open-minded. Secondly, you best not be afraid to experience new and exciting musical stylings and combinations. And, lastly, you just need to be able to have a good time. Got all that? Ok, good, now we can move on. High Step Society isn’t actually a society in itself, but rather a group of like-minded musicians based in Eugene, Oregon known for their use of eclectic instruments and one-of-a-kind sound. In fact, it’s the same sound as heard on their new single “Back To The Roots” taken from the upcoming EP, Perception, which drops on May 1st via Gravitas Recordings.
You’ll be blown away by all of the different sounds contained in Perception. From its foray into EDM and electronica along with its hallowed jazz tones, there is a lot to sink your teeth into. You’ll even notice the influence of swing music that dominated the United States in the 1920s and 1930s before the dawning of the age of pop music. If you like dancy rhythms, you’ll also find lots of those on Perception, particularly on the EP opener “Side Step.” It’s a full-on fusion that, even in just five tracks, will consistently catch you off-guard and leave you curious for more.
With such exciting musical diversity and nostalgia found on Perception, we were dying to find out more about the EP and how the whole thing came about. I mean it’s not every day you hear EDM beats along with jazz instruments, right? So we scratched that itch and spoke with High Step Society’s Ethan Rainwater, the bass and synth aficionado of the bunch, to learn more about the varied musical approach, and how Perception came about.
I love the fusion of many styles that you hear on your new EP. I hear everything from jazz, to modern electronic, to EDM, to even a little pop. How do you go about writing your songs? It seems like it would be a very time consuming and challenging process.
Ethan Rainwater: “All great things take time, right? The creative process in this group is such that by the time we’ve finished a song, everyone in the band has touched it in some way. We also have the dynamic interplay of traditional composition with digital sound design and production to reckon with. Many times the tune will start with a riff, then bounce back and forth between producers and instrumentalists. It often ends up taking a lot of time to complete a tune, but hopefully, you’ll agree, it’s worth the wait.”
I also noticed a swing music influence, particularly in the first track “Side Step.” It has a real 1940s kind of vibe to it which I found to be fun within the scope of the rest of the song, and throughout the EP. Is classic swing a type of music you’ve grown up on or your still actively listen to?
“Speaking for myself, I do totally love jazz and am always listening and exploring the rich legacy we’ve been left by the greats. Particularly the early stuff, Duke Ellington, Sidney Bechet, Jellyroll Morton, Fletcher Henderson. This music is so important, and I feel like it’s been a bit lost in modern times. I don’t want this music to exist in a museum, or in a stuffy jazz club. We are bringing jazz back to the party, where it belongs. It’s very gratifying to be bringing this music to bars and clubs and music festivals, and watch people lose their damn minds over it.”
I really feel like every song on Perception stands out as a result of the production work and how the songs were recorded. Did you produce the record yourselves or did you work with any outside people?
“We had some help with a few of the recordings, and had the mix done professionally by Justin Phelps at the Hallowed Halls in Portland. But otherwise, we produced and recorded all of these tracks ourselves.”
With such a fusion of styles, I’d think that probably each of the tracks on Perception would take a while to write, record, and produce. How much time did you spend from start to finish with the whole EP? Did you record other tracks that you considered including on the EP? Was anything left off or was it always going to be these five tracks?
“I’m going to answer these last two together. It was a long road to finishing this EP. We had these tunes, and several more, in various states of ‘finished’ for over 2 years. We were coming out of a bit of a traumatic period where we had to switch lead singers. Luckily, we found Betty (our new singer, and the lyricist for ‘Perception’ the track) at just the right time for all of us, and she has really stepped up and has been great to work with.
Last summer came in the middle of producing these tracks, and so touring season put a big hold on it. During that season we met Jessica Fleet, who ended up on two songs on this EP, ‘Back to the Roots’ and ‘Number 9.’ Fall 2019 we had to pick up the pieces, select just the right tracks worth finishing, and polish them to a high gloss. Definitely lots of bits and pieces got left behind, but we are totally stoked about the tunes that rose to the surface.”