Step Dads: Garage rock young guns

by McKenna Cardwell

photo by Louis Atkins

The house is packed. As soon as you enter through the front door you barely have enough room to stand, let alone dance. Slowly you squeeze your way through the crowd of sweaty college students to get a glimpse at the band playing in the living room.

Every weekend, select houses open themselves up to college students aching for a taste of Bellingham’s music scene. Local band Step Dads recently entered this arena and are loving every minute of it.

Nate Kahn, Zach Sullivan, Isaac Petersen and Nick Barker all gathered on a worn sofa out on the front deck of what’s affectionately known as The Mind Palace. The student house turned practice space and house show hotspot has seen its fair share of music.

The band has been together nearly five months, with Barker on bass as the latest addition.

Sullivan met Petersen and Kahn, who were roommates at the time, during a house show at Mosh Eisley. Barker had been long-time friends with both Petersen and Kahn. One day over the summer, Petersen brought his drum set up to their apartment and they all began jamming together.  Drummer Petersen and guitarist Kahn reflect on their experiences playing music in Bellingham.

“It’s so accepting and loving, there are opportunities around every corner,” Petersen said.

“You’ll have a show with a bill where there’s a weird noise band, a pop punk band, a thrasher hardcore band and then us,” Kahn said. “So there are all of these variety shows and people love it.”

As a project that began in the spare attic space of Peterson’s apartment, Step Dads worked to develop their sound, despite the occasional noise complaint.

“We never really even talked about what kind of music we were going to play, it just kind of came out,” guitarist Sullivan said.

Embracing stoner metal and sludge pop influences, Step Dads describe their sound as, “not too heavy and not too light. Medium rare with little bit of blood in the steak.”

“We are often referred to by our melody lines, and we like to be catchy, but we also like that crazy head banging house show, drunken sprawl vibe,” Kahn said. “I had recorded and produced a lot of my own songs in a bad, hip-hop beat kind of way, but then I started taking those songs and putting them into a band setting.”

Although the stereotypical beach scene doesn’t typically come to mind when you think of Bellingham, Step Dads also takes influences from California’s beach music.

“We are bums who don’t surf,” Barker joked.

“We do live on a beach, even though it’s not very nice, and I like to think of myself as a surfer even though I’ve only ever ridden a surfboard once,” Kahn said.

Inspired by Seattle band, The Naked Giants, Step Dads say they have been focusing on transitions and creating the illusion that their entire set flows as one song. This means concentrating on finding a good combination of on stage banter and musicianship.

Currently, Step Dads is finishing their first four song EP titled The Cat Mask, recorded and mixed through Champion Street Studios. They are also getting ready to take their music out on the road, playing nine shows in 10 days with fellow bands The Dawn Bombs and Chimney. Cramming 10 people into one caravan, they head out on tour March 17.

“It’s hard taking a step into the dark and not really know how people are going to receive you or your music or your attitude,” Kahn said.

Petersen agreed that sharing something as personal as music can be difficult. “It’s your heart on your sleeve, our music is who we are,” he said.

However, when asked whether or not all of the late nights, planning and hard work were worth it, there was no hesitation in their response.


“It’s about finding an outlet to be able to experiment and express emotions you may not be able to express in other situations” Kahn said “I could live out of a tent in the forest for the rest of my life, but I just want to get good enough to tell the world how cool the Bellingham music scene is.”

Catch Step Dads at Mind Place on March 4 and The Swillery on March 28, or online at