Sun. May 19th, 2024

Renowned For Sound

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Interview: Steps

17 min read

Back to brighten a very, very dark 2020, Steps have returned to save the year with a brand new record in the glistening shape of What the Future Holds.

What The Future Holds is the 5 pieces sixth studio record and is out on November 27th. Having already produced two of the years biggest and brightest electro-pop hits in the shape of the Sia written title track and ABBA-esque second single Something In Your Eyes, What The Future Holds is set to be one of the decades most welcomed releases.

Known for their unapologetic brand of flamboyant and camp pop hits like Last Thing On My Mind, Deeper Shade of Blue, Stomp, One For Sorrow and of course, their iconic cover of Tragedy, Steps have released some of the most vibrant hits since their eruption onto the mainstream pop stage in 1997 and are yet again set to conquer the industry with their latest release.

Ahead of the unveiling of What the Future Holds, Renowned For Sound’s editor and die hard Steps fan, Brendon Veevers, got to sit down on a Zoom call with all 5 members of the group to discuss everything from the new recording and 2021 tour (with support by the amazing Sophie Ellis-Bextor), to teenage pop crushes and taking home keepsakes from music video and tour sets. Here’s what the band had to tell us…..

Brendon: Hello everyone. How are you all doing?

H: Oh, are you from Australia, Brendon?

Brendon: No, I’m a kiwi.

Lee: Oh dear, you’ve offended him now. Great way to start an interview (laughs).

Everyone: (laughing)

Brendon: No, no, I forgive you H. Now I know you are all extremely busy so lets crack on with some questions but I first want to say how happy I am to be with you all today. I’ve been a mega Steps fan since I was a young, ginger, gay boy in New Zealand in 1997 so thank you for having me. This is a bucket list item and a major dream come true for me.

Faye: Oh how fabulous!

Lisa: Oh I love that! Ohhhh

Brendon: First of all, as I set myself up here I just have to say that none of you look a day older than you did in 1997 so you are making me look very old.

Everyone: (laughs)

H: Now, THAT is a good way to start an interview, Well done Brendon (laughs)

Brendon: It’s been a tough year with lockdown and politics but Steps are back to save 2020. You have two new singles out and a teaser ballad that is getting us very excited for the release of What The Future Holds on November 27. How does everyone feel with the release nearing? Does anyone get pre-release nerves at all?

Faye: We really enjoy the process of putting the album together and then sometimes you can get a little bit ear blind and question yourself as to whether or not you love the songs and so you get nervous about how people are going to react to them.

The reaction that we’ve had from the first two singles that we’ve put out already (What the Future Holds & Something In Your Eyes) has been really, really fantastic and I think, it’s not pressure to have a number one or global domination; you just really want people to enjoy the music and we’ve got such an amazing, hardcore fanbase and its really for them, so, I think when it comes to nerves, yes, because we want to do the best, but that’s it.

Brendon: I’m definitely seeing the 2 metre rule being applied in your new dance routines. What was it like recording the new music and putting together your videos in this new Covid world?

H: Luckily we had pretty much all of our ducks lined up in a row to release out into the world before lockdown started. So most of our campaign was pretty much in the bag. But since this horrendous situation (with Covid) has started there have been stipulations and regulations and changes along the way so when we recorded the last video there was the role of 6 so we were allowed to do that but we are super, super careful with hygiene and keep to all of the rules and regulations.

We get tested regularly and we obviously adhered to the 2-metre distancing. Yes, its a ball-ache but that’s what we have to do to keep safe and to keep every safe around us.

Everyone’s going through it and its a very dark time but hopefully we are bringing a lot of happiness and a lot of joy to these dark times.

Brendon: Claire, I’m going to fire this one to you. How did it come that a SIA track would land in your laps and did I read somewhere correctly that you had to remain tight lipped about the track for 3 years? How could you sit on such a stellar track for 3 years!

Claire: Yeah it was roughly around 3 years ago. It was when we were on the last tour actually and we started listening to songs that could potentially be for this album because we had made the decision that we had had such a good time with Tears on the Dancefloor that we wanted to do it again and this one one of the songs that came across our managements desk.

Obviously the first time we heard it we love it and with our hands in the air we just knew that it was for us. But it came to us, apparently, directly form her. She wrote it initially for herself but then decided it wasn’t for her but it was her suggestion that it come to us which is a really lovely compliment actually for someone to write a song and for them, I guess songwriters, they have to write specifically for some people sometimes but in this case she didn’t write it specifically for us but she knew it would work with us doing it and it absolutely does. I think its up there….

Brendon: Its certainly up there as one of your best tracks, I have to say!

Claire: Yeah, absolutely. I think so too.

Brendon: Your latest single Something In Your Eyes is quite the full throttle pop track. You all really know how to challenge yourselves? Was that one a hard track to record?

Claire: Sorry, I have all this lighting coming in.

Lee: Your lighting is so wrong. Your just black and all we can see if your pink background.

Claire: (laughs) This is a best place for a signal in my house but it’s right by a window.

Brendon: You have a very angelic aura around you, Claire.

Claire: Sorry, I interrupted you Lee.

Lee: It’s fine. Yeah, the songs we all recorded last year because we did the album way, way before lockdown happened and Covid showed its ugly face and the process is, we never really see each other when we do the recordings. We kind of go in one by one. We all listen to what everyone else has done and we have the lyrics that we’re gonna record and then the producers kind of do their magic.

Sometimes you get the song back and its exactly how you planned it to be and other times you hear the song back and lines are different and things have changed or harmonies are slightly different so its a bit of a work in progress really.

We just go in there and do our job and then the producers put on the magic.

With this track (Something in your Eyes) its a very high, girl-led vocal. Me and H are in there with harmonies, ad-libs and ad-hoc things but your right, its very pop, ABBA-esque, its fun, its fast and the videos out there at number one and doing amazingly well so we couldn’t be more proud of it really.

Brendon: Your last record was built predominantly around dance tracks while so far we have had two up-tempo singles and a couple of ballad teasers from What The Future Holds. Will the rest of the track listing carry that familiar Steps sound or is this record more of a departure from what we have heard from Steps so far?

Lee: Yeah, its about one foot in the past and one foot in the future which is obviously a line from What The Future Holds and I think the album does that; it encapsulates the old style of Steps and what the future could be for Steps and I think, going back to Tears on a Dancefloor, I always said that that album was more like a bullet train; you press play and off you went. There were no ballads on that. It was just party, party, fun, disco, dance, crazy times. This one is more a rollercoaster of emotions I would say. You’ve got your up-tempo tracks. You’ve got your ballads. You’ve got something a bit edgy and a bit cool for Steps and then you’ve got the very cheesy, camp pop fun of Something In Your Eyes. So I think there is definitely something for everyone in this album.

Brendon: You released your first single 23 years ago. I still remember the day I went to buy 5 6 7 8 from my local record store in NZ. First of all, I have aged and all 5 of you look incredible so clearly havent aged a day ……Back in the 90’s the industry was very different. What would you say are your fondest memories of the 90’s and being a pop group in that era?

Lisa: Gosh, well, it was just so much fun. And a lot of hard work.

H: All the TV shows used to tell us we were the hardest working band in pop because we did everything, didnt we?

Lisa: Yeah, absolutely. I was just in an interview before and I was going to say exactly that. And I think its one of the reasons that we have had our success because we really did graft. We were working 7 days a week most of the time and we were determined to make a success of Steps.

I think we were all so young and passionate and had all these dreams and I just look back with find memories because we were so lucky that it all came true for us and 23 years on people still love what we do which is just mind-blowing. It’s incredible. And I think as well it was probably a good time because we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have social media and so maybe we had to work even harder to have that outreach and to get that message across and win the fans over. It wasn’t as instant as it is nowadays.

So, yeah, I think it was just great times and Ill always remember the 90’s with a big smile.

Brendon: There aren’t many acts out there that have stuck together with all original members and still going strong after 23 years. Your unapologetic pop with an open invitation to everyone that wants to come along for the ride. Do you think that is a fair description of Steps? What do you think has been the key to the success of Steps and what would you most like Steps to be remembered for?

Lisa: I think its that exactly.

Claire: I think it is probably exactly that Brendon, yeah. It is still the 5 of us and we don’t apologise for what we are and we aren’t trying to be anything were not. Its not like we’ve come back and recorded a load of music that we just never would have in a million years just to try and compete with what is in the charts.

I think we are unique in the fact that we are the only ones kind of doing the kind of music that we are. And it is pop music. Its still that unashamed, total and utter pop music. We’ve brought it into this decade or this era but not by copying everybody else. We’re out there on our own, if you like.

And our fanbase: we’re so lucky with our fans who are just the most – and I know everybody says its – but they’re just the most loyal to have stuck with us for 23 years and still be as enthusiastic about us and what we do now as what they were in 1998, or 1997. Its pretty awesome.

Brendon: You are planning a huge arena tour next year to celebrate the release of What the Future Holds and you have support from Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Your Party on the Dancefloor Tour in 2017 and Summer of Steps Tour in 2018 are pretty hard to beat. The production value of the Party on the Dancefloor tour must have been staggering. Is there anything you can tell us about the What The Future Holds Tour?

H: You know what? I’m really proud of all of our tours, as I know the rest of Steps are. Touring is when we get to have complete creative control and we just love giving the fans what they want but your right; I think every show has got bigger and better every time weve done one especially the last one so weve got some initial ideas for the next one and technology and ideas, theyre constantly changing and there is so much you can do and thats why we have some incredible creative people that work with us and bring our ideas to life. It’s really exciting isnt it. I cant wait to get this one on stage.

Brendon: Your sets and costumes are so much fun. Has there been anything anyone has snuck away from a video set or a tour that they keep at home now? Maybe one of those cool Stomp disco ball helmets or a wedding dress from the Tragedy video?

Everyone: (mischievous giggling)

Faye: You’ll need to forward that one to Claire first (laughs)

Claire: You know what, first of all I have got all my costumes, apart form the ones from the last tour. I don’t know where they are (laughs). I need to get those. But I HAD…and its probably from the one tour that there is no video evidence of apart form what H might have…but we did a Christmas tour and I had this giant picture frame made and so during the song I had on one outfit, and during the song, it was meant to be like a mirror, and me and the dancers went through it and ripped off our outfit and came out in a different outfit and I was determined to keep that frame (laughs). I mean it was made out of paper mache. It was a big ornate frame spray painted gold and I had it in my garage in my house for probably about ten years because I was determined to get it in my house at some point but my house just wasn’t big enough. I kept it for all that time and eventually I just had to skip it which was such a shame.

H: Do you have the shoe Faye?

Faye: Well, I’ve got two stories actually. My first one is from the Deeper Shade of Blue video. I had like a metallic breastplate in that video. That hung on my wall in my house in London for years.

Claire: Did you take that?

Faye: Yeah I got to take that home. Someone nicked the glasses. Somebody form the crew or whatever had already nicked the glasses. By the end of the day they had just disappeared but I managed to salvage the breastplate which hung in my wall in London but that got damaged on the way to this house which is a real shame. But then I had my giant shoe form the last tour. And we were all trying to figure out how I could make a slide out of it for Benjamin (Faye’s son) or put it in the garden somehow. But because of the material it was made out of its gone into storage. I think you can actually hire it but its being recycled for other things, for other uses.

H: My boys will have it in their play room.

Faye: I know, right! I don’t know if it would fit in the boys playroom. It was very tall wasn’t it.

H: I could put it from my room and then into the playroom, maybe (laughs)

Brendon: Do you feel any pressure to replicate past successes in terms of chart positions, sales figures and ticket sales as there was earlier in your career?

Lee: Yeah, I think the number 1 is very difficult nowadays because there are so many different charts. You know, you can put a video out there and it can go to number one on iTunes which is great and then you can have a single out which is number one on iTunes but it might only go Top 30 in the Official chart because of all the streaming and the downloads and physical sales and radio plays and everything else that happens so I think the number one is, its nice to get it and its nice to get it on one certain platform but I don’t think we are always aiming for that as such. Maybe for the album we would obviously like a nice high chart position. I think that’s more important than the singles.

But yeah I think, I don’t know really, the pressure, I think maybe selling out a tour, because we’ve always sold out our tours – we’ve always had really big, huge successful tours. Me personally, I think that might be more of a pressure than a single going into number one because that’s our baby. That’s what were all about. We want all the fans to come and to have a good time with us. We’re about putting on a show. So obviously I think it would be nice to sell as many tickets as possible for the tour and keep up the Steps show we do.

As you said yourself, we always put on a big, extravagant show and I think we have to keep that going and try and beat the next one then try and beat the next one because they’re all so good and we just want the fans to come along and enjoy that so obviously we want to get as many fans in as possible and if COVID allows that next year then that’s what we want to do and continue that success really.

Brendon: Final question as I know you are all busy with your schedule today and this is a more personal coated question. As a gay man and as many fellow gay and lesbian fans will also say, Steps played a very big and positive role in my younger years as I became more accepting of myself and your music played a huge role in that. But before I was an out and proud gay ginger boy in New Zealand, I haven’t admit that one of my biggest crushes was – Faye.

Everyone: Ohhhh

Brendon: I hope you don’t mind me telling you that Faye.

Faye: I absolutely adore that! I really do. I seem to have turned quite a lot of gay men (laughs). I’ve got lots and lots of lovely and wonderful gay fans and friends who have a similar thing to say so I’m not sure what that means.

Everyone: (laughing with Faye)

Faye: There are some that didn’t realise and others that wanted to be me and there are also now drag queens of me. I take it all as a compliment.

Brendon: For me it was the white dreadlocks in the Tragedy and Heartbeat videos that really won me over.

Faye: Ah great. I think its something to do with just being yourself and taking chances and getting out there and being a little bit flamboyant. I don’t know.

H: I think I text you Faye but did you see that drag queen out there called Slay Tozer.

Faye: Yeah, he’s quite a big fan. Comes to a lot of my theatre stuff and he does little interviews and stuff, bless him.

Brendon: Leading on from that little admission to Faye, who were each of your teen pop or film crushes?

Faye: Can I go first on this one? I guess, when I was growing up, my first crush – and this shows how old I am – was Adam Ant. Adam Ant was on my wall. In his outfit with the stripe across his nose so I was definitely going to be in some big and flamboyant and theatrical. That was definitely my bag.

Lisa: Mine was Michael Hutchence.

Brendon: Of you like the bad boys.

Lisa: Yeah, I was in love with him. I loved INXS and I played piano so I played all the songs because I just loved INXS. Its such a shame he’s not with us anymore. I remember when he passed sadly and we were all together because we were on the road somewhere and I cried and I remember H said “stop being so stupid”. Do you remember that H? I was crying because I was in love with him.

H: No I don’t remember that but obviously you would remember that because it was significant to you (laughs)

Lisa: (laughing) so yeah, he was mine.

Lee: Yeah, I wasn’t one of these, you know someone who has all the posters on your walls and following all the bands. I didn’t have anything on my walls other than one person and that was….Helena Christensen.

Claire: Oh, nice choice there.

Faye: That body.

Claire: Mine was….

H: (shouting out) Peter Andre!

Claire: No, the first poster that I had on my wall was Rick Astley (laughs). And there was a boy at school that I thought looked like Rick so I had a double crush; with the boy at school and Rick Astley and (the poster) was right next to my bed.

Faye: And little did you know that you would meet him one day.

Claire: I know.

Faye: The perks of PWL (Pete Waterman’s label).

Claire: We had a Chinese together.

H: Do you remember my birthday, when we had my birthday at Wembley because it landed on the day and we did an 80’s party and Rick came along to the party because he was friendly with one of our writers. Do you remember that?

Claire: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

H: I was obviously very similar to you actually Brendon. I was very unsure of my sexuality and I didn’t know where I fit in. So, deep down I knew so I would pretend I fancied Kylie and Tiffany and Debbie Gibson but my main teenage crush, do you remember there was a show called Saved By The Bell?

Brendon: Yes

Claire: Oh yeah, what’s his name, Zach?

H: Yeah, Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Oh my god.

Faye: Which one was he?

H: He was the blonde one and he was every gay man and every teenage girls dream. Do you know what one I’m on about Brendon?

Brendon: Yeah, I do. I thought you were going to say Mario Lopez.

Faye: Yeah, see I would like him. He’s more my type.

Claire: Me too.

H: Oh and I loved it when, one of my favourite movies, Elizabeth Barkley went on to do Showgirls which was a tragedy. Actually, remember when me and Lisa Lee were living together we had a Showgirls night and we watched Showgirls.

Lisa: Yeah, Lovely memories.

Brendon: Faye, Claire, H, Lee and Lisa, thank you so much again for your time and we cant wait for What The Future Holds and the tour.

Steps sixth studio album What The Future Holds is out November 27th and you can see Steps on tour in 2021 at the following venues (support by Sophie Ellis-Bextor):