w/ Echo and Drake. Thu., June 7, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Free. Downtown Thursdays, McLevy Green, Main & State sts., Bridgeport. (203) 335-3800, downtownthursdays.com.
The Stepkids won't have to travel far when they play the first Downtown Thursdays show of the season on McLevy Green in Bridgeport — it's just a stone's throw from their studio at the Read's ArtSpace. That's where they're currently crafting the follow-up album to their extremely-well-received, self-titled debut. (FYI, Stone's Throw is also the name of the record label they're signed to.)
The band recently returned from a six-week tour with Mayer Hawthorne, and only have a short time before they hit the road again to play a string of West Coast dates with Stratford-based indie-rock darlings Mates of State.
"They kind of liked what we were doing, and we really like what they've been doing for a long time," says Stepkids drummer/vocalist Tim Walsh, about the Mates. "They're really successful and they make great music. And they're both just sweet people."
When it comes to being a working band, the Stepkids reached critical mass some time ago and are currently in a self-sustaining state of artistic perpetual motion.
"We kind of live in a hole at this point," says Walsh. "We're not home, we're home, we're not home… but when we are home we're trying to spend a lot of time in the studio working on stuff. We focus really hard on our own thing, so unfortunately we don't have much time to branch out too much."
A new single will be released in late July or early August for the song "Sweet Salvation," and a video has already been shot for it. (The band is well aware of the importance of videos with the You Tube generation, having filmed four for the first record, all of which are posted on thestepkidsband.com.) The entire new album should be finished before the summer is out, and it's slated to hit stores in early 2013.
"We love all kinds of music," says Walsh. "We're not restricted to one kind of genre, and we don't want to be. The first album, a lot of people called 'psychedelic soul.' There's an influence from Stravinsky in there, Sly and the Family Stone, Rotary Connection… ironically, a lot of music that we didn't discover until after we made the album. It's kind of a good feeling… We wanted to make some new funk music."
Much of the first album's warm and relatively lo-fi sounds were achieved using analog tape machines. The sophomore offering will continue this trend.
"All the sounds you're hearing have gone through tape," says Walsh. "We just wanted to be purists about it."
For many Connecticut fans, the Stepkids just kind of exploded onto the scene without much warning. But all three members have roots in the state. Walsh grew up in Danielson and attended WestConn in Danbury. Bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Dan Edinberg grew up in Fairfield and played bass for the well-traveled band Zox. Guitarist/vocalist Jeff Gitelman moved to New Haven from Maldova in Western Russia when he was eight years old. He most recently spent some time playing guitar for Alicia Keys.
In the past year, the Stepkids have made quite the national (and international) splash. They toured Australia and the U.K. for the first time. They were heavily buzzed-about at SXSW. They befriended VJ/DJ Matt Pinfield (of 120 Minutes Fame) at CMJ in New York. Thom Yorke of Radiohead listed the band in a playlist of his current musical interests. Not a bad year for a working band.
Bridgeport has proven to be an ideal incubating pod. Though much of this is owed to the city's affordability, its location and the ability to be insular there, Walsh credits the tightly-knit artistic community for spreading the warm vibes.
"I know everyone from the Acoustic Café, the folks that hang out there," he says. "We live in the Read's ArtSpace so we're close with a lot of the people who do work out of there: Liz Squilace, Chris Cavaliere and Marcella [Kurowski]… We've known all these people for a long time and they're friends of ours. We go to City Lights to the gallery openings. At Knowlton Street Gallery, I really want to check out the markets they do there."
When they've got some free time and have finally finished their new record, the band plans to do some production work for other artists.
"That's something we're really drawn to," says Walsh. "We'll be spending some time in Los Angeles to work with some folks out there."
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