Interview: The Stepkids
Published on September 11th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
When Rocksucker spoke to Connecticut trio The Stepkids just over a year ago, they were just about to take to the stage of London’s Cargo for the group’s first UK show. It was the best live performance we saw all year, and the eponymous debut LP that followed – a supremely colourful and multifaceted cross between ’60s psychedelic pop and ’70s porno soundtrack – went on to finish 2nd in our list of 2011’s best albums.
Suffice it to say we were rather excited to welcome them back to these parts when they played another consummate, ecstatically received set at the Shacklewell Arms last Thursday, and the early signs are that their forthcoming follow-up Memoirs of Gray will consolidate their burgeoning reputation as one of the most mind-blowing bands going.
They’re certainly a firm Rocksucker favourite, so we were honoured to once again be granted the opportunity to sit down with Tim Walsh, Jeff Gitelman and Dan Edinberg, as well as their live projections guru Dave Pond; first, though, check out why we loves ’em so much…
How’s the tour gone so far?
Jeff: It’s been very relaxed. Like an all-expenses-paid vacation.
What have you been up to in London?
Jeff: We’ve been hanging out with a friend who has this crazy castle.
Dan: We did an all-night video shoot there which lasted until about 4.30am. Our friend is an insanely talented director who outworked us that night. That was the first night, and we’ve been doing a little recording as well.
Jeff: This place [the castle] is crazy: he has doors from like Ancient Egypt or Ancient Rome, and these crazy, crazy paintings.
Tim: Specifically he’s a classicist and collects Ancient Latin, Greek and Egyptian art in particular. It’s amazing walking around his house and seeing all these life-size statues of different gods and goddesses. That whole Greek mythology, you know.
Jeff’s amazing falsetto (at the Shacklewell Arms)
What are your memories of the show at Cargo last year?
Jeff: That was fun, really cool.
Dan: It was the beginning of our career in Europe, I guess you could say. Our career in Europe or lack thereof.
Dave, how long have you been doing projections for The Stepkids?
Dave: I have no idea. How long have I been with you guys?
Dan: Too long!
Tim: Probably about four years now.
Dan: Jesse Mann designed most of the visuals and he trained Dave. They have a really good working relationship. Dave learned how to do it all and now Dave’s our touring dude. He’s also starting to design some stuff himself for our new songs.
I noticed a few music industry types bigging up tonight’s gig on Twitter. Will there be any eminent folk in the audience?
Jeff: Snoop Dogg. He’s like the prophet Elijah during Passover: you start drinking the wine and he appears!
I was going to ask: did Snoop really retweet you?
Dan: Yeah, for sure. One day we looked at our Twitter and out of nowhere DJ Quik, Xzibit, Snoop Dogg and Snoop Lion had all followed us.
Jeff: This was all in the same time frame so maybe they were all together at the time!
How do you think they came across you?
Jeff: Probably through Stones Throw, but we also did a showcase for Snoop’s management company Cashmere Agency at SXSW. Snoop performed too, hours after we were on.
Dan: It could also be through Krondon from Strong Arm Steady, a great act on our label.
Jeff: Krondon actually did a lot of the writing for a lot of rappers; he did most of Xzibit’s writing, for example, and some of Snoop’s writing, so he’s a great ghostwriter as well. He’s on one of our remixes that’s going to be coming out soon.
Who did the remix of “Suburban Dream” with Pharoahe Monch on it?
Jeff: That was this group from France called Union. They’re a really good production team.
Dave: They have a new album out.
Jeff: They do, and I think it has DOOM and Talib Kweli on it.
Dave: On a side note, Jesse actually did a music video for Union. It’s like the kind of art he does for The Stepkids interpreted as a music video. It looks different but, you know, it catches the vibe.
Anyway, were you aware that your debut album came 2nd in our list of 2011’s best?
Jeff: Thank you, I appreciate that. Not that it matters, but who was the…
Tune-Yards. 2011 was a Connecticut-dominated year.
Jeff: Oh, we love that record. (Rocksucker says: Jeff even recommended her last time we spoke.)
I’ve listened to your album more since then, though, so in that respect you could say you’ve been hard done by.
Jeff: You know why, it’s because our album’s shorter. You can listen to it twice without realising it.
Tim: We really got lost in the Tune-Yards record. I remember flipping the sides numerous times every chance I got to listen to it on vinyl. It’s really good.
What can you tell us at this stage about album two?
Dan: It’s almost done. It’ll be out very soon.
Jeff: The first single’s going to be out in two weeks and the video, directed by Jesse Mann, soon after that. The album should be out at the top of the new year, maybe February, and there’s a good chance it will have a special guest on it…
Dan: …whose name is undisclosed at the moment.
Is Memoirs of Gray a longer album than the first one?
Jeff: Yes, much longer. It’s almost…one hundred per cent longer.
Dan: You mean “twice as long”.
The minute-long clip of “Bitter Bug” reveals all sorts of lovely colours in the mix. Did you consciously up the ante in terms of production this time around?
Jeff: Yeah, we’ve been nerding out quite a bit.
You’ve been playing “Sweet Salvation” live for a while. Do many of the songs date back like this?
Jeff: “Sweet Salvation” has evolved quite a bit. That’s pretty much the only new song we were playing in our first album cycle, because the album got pushed back and we wanted to keep writing songs, not let it hinder the creative process.
How often do you guys Jean-Claude Van Jam?
All: (General un-isolatable murmurings)
Erm…like I said I’ve been perusing your Twitter account with interest as last time we spoke I don’t think you had one. Do you still plan to record a jazz EP?
We’re just thinking of saying fuck it and recording a jazz EP. Probably do it as soon as we finish this album
— thestepkids (@thestepkids) August 7, 2012
All: (Various affirmations)
All: (Another round of affirmations)
Excellent news! And how about a reggae Christmas album?
We will be releasing a reggae Christmas album…
— thestepkids (@thestepkids) July 26, 2012
Dan: I noticed this last time [we spoke], and this is just props: you keep the best tabs! You know our Twitter feed better than we do.
Thank you, but Rocksucker is duty-bound to leave no stone unturned. Incidentally, which one of you is it that tweets?
All: All of us.
The 2 Bears were amongst those to tweet about tonight’s gig. How do you know them?
Dan: That’s through James Endeacott. He’s probably our biggest fan in the whole universe: it’s impossible to be a bigger fan than James is. He’s amazing, been supporting us from day one, waving the flag. We got into The 2 Bears through him and those guys are the shit.
What’s the best description of your music that you’ve heard so far?
Tim: I know the best one… (Rocksucker says: Tim wasn’t allowed to finish as everyone started talking at once at this point, and I didn’t notice this until I listened back to the interview later. Tim, if you’re reading, please make this description known to us somehow!)
Dan: “Supercalifragilisticexpiali-BRO-cious”! You don’t have to write that.
Oh, I’m going to write it.
Dan: Okay, I approve. I like it.
Tim, did you manage to finish the entire Italian combo super hero sub?
Tim: I had to finish it the next day. I couldn’t eat the whole thing in one day. It was two feet long!
Have you heard the new Animal Collective album?
Tim: We actually listened to it in the castle, on Spotify. It was through computer speakers but I definitely heard some nice stuff.
Dan: It sounded like ’90s grunge at some points.
Tim: I love it. They make romantic music but in a very barbaric fashion.
Last time I asked you guys to list your top three albums and you chose to narrow it down to a particular year, in that case 1967. Would you care to choose another year and do likewise?
(After some conferring they settle on 1994)
Dan: Well, if it’s ’94 we’ve got to include Elixir by Fourplay.
(At this point, the band’s tour manager Daniele enters the room)
Daniele, what’s it like being out on the road with these guys?
Daniele: (Yelling) I hate it! I HATE MUSIC!
Can I write that in capitals to convey the volume?
Daniele: Yes. And in Gothic.
I have one final question: could you each describe your new album in just three words?
Dan: ‘Meaningful to me’.
Jeff: I can’t commit. It’s hard enough committing to fifty minutes of music, but committing to three words? That’s tough. (Rocksucker says: In retrospect, we’ll accept ‘I can’t commit’.)
Tim: ‘It’s really big’.
Do you have any parting words for our readers?
Dan: Departing is a necessary venture for us all.
The Stepkids, thank you.
For more information please visit thestepkids.com