The Steps
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The Steps

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"Austinist"

Every once in a while a band manages to completely surpass the local initiation, breaking out into the national or international scene seemingly out of the blue.

You might not have heard of them, or maybe seen their name in passing, but that's just because you haven't been paying attention. They've toured the world, they recorded their album here in Austin at the Bubble with Frenchie Smith (Jet, Dandy Warhols), and they played at the New American Music Union in Pittsburgh earlier this summer with Dylan. Besides, they're huge in Japan. That's not a joke, by the way. They are really, really huge in Japan. On first glance, they appear to be another Brit-rock influenced pseudo-garage act, oozing into tight jeans and Chelsea boots each morning with a smirk.

But here's the thing, the one pesky, obnoxious and all-together irritating reality of the Steps' eponymous full-length (out now on Kurofune Records): it's good. It's not a little bit good, or tolerable, or even qualifying party music for American Apparel staff parties. It's really, really good. Opening track, "Pull the Cord" is an incredibly loud, prismatic ode to guitar noise and thinly-veiled psychedelia, "Dagger" is a jangly, almost Westerbergian tune fueled by an incredible bass line that weaves in and out of Will Thompson's sexualized drawl. "Cold Floors" echoes MC5 and the Modern Lovers, utilizing some old-fashioned 'oh yeahs' and 'woos' alongside rock'n'roll harmony to great ends. These songs are dying to be bar room singalongs. Sure, there are bits of the Strokes (and others like them) in here, and pretty undeniable longings for Mick Jagger, but a few tracks into The Steps reveals the undeniable appeal. These guys are loud and snotty, and if they actually spend some time playing around town, will probably end up being worthy of their self-appointed titles. It's a great time for real rock bands, too, as the local scene can at times seem choked up on sickly pop and dance rock. We look forward to seeing and hearing much more from them.
- Paige McGuire


"XL"

“Once upon a time, rock music was made by, for and about the young. The various Beatles started in bands as teenagers. Jimmy Page quit school at 14 to play rock 'n' roll. Hard-core punk pioneers Minor Threat even made a band name out of their underage status. As hip-hop and R&B seem the music of youth, young rock bands are few and far between nowadays. The closest thing to young rockers you'll find on the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart are the Plain White T's, and they're approaching their 30s.

The Austin quartet the Steps, all of whom are between 17 and 19, would like to bring classic rock back to the kids.”

“These young men from Austin sure seem like the Strokes – wealthy-looking classicists who love the Stones and the Kinks. As the Jam once said, 'The kids know where it's at!'” - Joe Gross


"The Austin-American Statesman"

“[The Steps] sound like AM radio in the '60s. With a heavy emphasis on British garage/glam rock.”

“What a way to kick off Saturday at [Austin City Limits]! The BMI stage is usually the domain of singer songwriters, but Austin’s great teen hopes, the Steps, rocked like they were headlining Wembley Stadium. Guitarist/ singer Will Thompson displayed a Roger Daltrey-worthy screech on “Carousel” and his cousin Sam Thompson threw out serpentine leads on slow builder “Velvet Prison” and “Miss High Heels,” but it was the rhythm section of Z Lynch on drums and bassist Stephen Lynch that gave the Steps their strong footing. Good name, great drummer- they’re ahead of the game even before you consider their sturdy songwriting. One thing young bands are saddled with is that critics are prone to spending the set trying to figure out who they sound like. But even limited with the standard guitar/guitar/bass/drums lineup, the Steps are truly original. OK, set-closer “Cold Floor” was a rip of “Loose” by the Stooges, but if you’re gonna steal, it helps to have good taste. This was a filler-free 30-minute set that throbbed on pure passion and the audience- many of whom mouthed the words- really soaked it up. A cool breeze blew across Zilker when the band opened with “Belle.” A refreshing start to a day that promises to be even hotter than yesterday.” - Michael Corcoran


"Onion Music"

“Inspired by rhythm-and-soul dinosaurs like The Rolling Stones and The Faces- and unavoidably tainted by those bands punk and proto-punk followers The Stooges and The Clash- The Steps are wise beyond their years, but with the cocky swagger that comes with the invincibility of youth. Rock 'n' Roll high school forever!” - Onion Music


"The Morning Paper"

As I've lamented many times, the Brits seem to discover the great American bands long before we do at home. The Strokes, White Stripes, Orson - all examples of US bands that had huge success across the pond before finding an equal audience in the land of their birth.

Add another band to that list. Austin's rocking combo The Steps have released a single in Britain to be followed by a short tour in support.

Impossibly young (in their late teens) for the level of competence and maturity of their sound, The Steps draw on a collection of influences from a wide time span to create a new and fresh sound. Listen closely and you can hear tinges of the aforementioned Strokes, a dollop of the Stooges, some Stones, Beatles - clearly a band with a hell of a good record collection. But that's only where it starts.

The combination of these listening tastes in the hands of the band (William Thompson on guitar and vocals, cousin Sam Thompson on lead guitar, Stephen Ross on bass, and Z Lynch on some thundering Texas drums) is wholly original.


Lead track on the single, "Outlaw", rides a sinewy guitar line, through the verse before being hurled headlong into the chorus. Thompson's raspy, emotive vocals claw across the top propelled by the rhythm section's hard charge forward.

The Stoogey riff that drives second song "Cold Floors" is less similar to the actual Stooges sound than married to the propulsive primal urge of the originals intent. When the call and response chorus line "Oh, yeah" kicks in it brings a pop sensibility the Stooges lacked. Even more pronounced is the slowed down blues-break thump of the bridge that sounds like a reconfigured Beatles "I Want You" on a sex date with the White Stripes.

The overall sound is a muscular offensive mounted on the shoulders of what has come before. William Thompson's vocals particularly give the band a stiff shot of originality - winding their way around the melody line much like Sam Thompson does in his complementary lead guitar breaks.

The Steps have built a solid and rabidly enthusiastic following in Austin by all accounts. And judging by this first single, Britain should be soon to follow. The Brits can tell a great band when they hear one.
- Bodie Plecas


Discography

7" vinyl on Young and Lost Club included Outlaw and Cold Floors

Photos

Bio

Born under the influence of classic rock in the Live Music Capital of the World, The Steps chisel through modern rock with 60's sensibilities. The band made their recording debut with a 7" vinyl single brought by Young and Lost Club Records (UK), followed by a tour of London. Their eponymous full length, produced by Chris "Frenchie" Smith ("Explosions in the Sky,"Jet, Dandy Warhols) set up a short tour of Japan, where the band made several television and radio appearances.

KEY HAPPENINGS:

- Won Dell Lounge's The Sound and the Jury Contest, surpassing over 700 bands with industry judges and online voters

- Toured England (Fall '07) and Japan (Spring '08)
- Performed at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2007 and 2008

- Shared the stage with The Raconteurs, Gnarles Barkley, and the Black Keys at the NAMU Festival in Pittsburgh, PA

- Radio play in Austin's KROX, KLBJ, KGSR

- Appearances on Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC, METV, Best Hit USA, Asahi TV Japan, MTV Japan

- Featured in Paste Magazine, Rolling Stone Japan, Rockin' On, Sixties, Austin Chronicle, Austin American Statesman, Austin Monthly, The Morning Paper ( Los Angeles)