he nouns ‘revisionism’ and ‘revivalism’ may roll off the tongue in a similar fashion, but as Jeff Gitelman – guitarist, co-songwriter, vocalist and producer with Connecticut trio The Stepkids – is quick to articulate, the two couldn’t be further apart, especially when used to ascribe musical tendencies.
“I love that word ‘revision’,” he urges, chatting over the phone on the eve of The Stepkids’ debut Australian tour. “I feel like so much of the writing and recording process is a kind of revision, and that in itself has allowed us to really develop what we're doing in a kind of unique way.”
He’s referring to The Stepkids’ distinctively modern take on a sound rooted in soulful 60s and 70s – one which played out stunningly on their self-titled debut, released via left-leaning Los Angeles hip-hop label Stones Throw back in September last year.
“We did want to revisit a certain era, but we really wanted to make sure that when we did revisit that era, we didn’t just copy it,” he says, his Stepkids band mates long-time friends Tim Walsh and Dan Edinberg chattering in the background. “We didn’t just want to make a photocopy; we wanted to make a collage.”
Spending time with the self-titled record, it’s easy to hear what he’s talking about. The Stepkids may visit classic 60s soul, R&B and washed out 70s psych, but they never fall to straight pastiche. Recorded to analogue tape, the record sees the trio pepper flowing grooves with nimble, channel-swapping production touches, sharp guitar grooves and Beatles-esque harmonies with dense, alien synth atmospheres, searching soul melodics with sharp string arrangements. It’s an odd, nonetheless familiar joy.
“For us, it was basically about getting ourselves into a position where we were able to create a photocopy if we wanted to – we were able to replicate the sounds and the forms of music we were referencing – and then taking it a step further by using that photocopy as part of a collage with all these other photocopies and some more modern stuff as well,” says the 29-year-old.
“We tried to makes sure that every single one of the songs had that collaged element, that it was never just coming from the one place.”
The trio go back a long way. Having grown up playing music together in the small town of Fairfield, Connecticut, each set off on their own musical pursuits. While all three wrote their own material, worked on film and commercial scores and produced various record, they made a name playing with others. Where Walsh and Edinberg went onto share stages with anyone from 50 Cent to Lauryn Hill, Gitelman spent the last few years as Alicia Keys’ full-time guitarist.
Suffice to say, when they finally decided to bring The Stepkids into being, they certainly had musical the smarts to do so. “We were all individual songwriters and all really respected each others’ stuff and worked on each others’ stuff, so it felt like it was only natural to take that next step and form a band,” says Gitelman.
“People were all finishing up their other commitments and stuff like that, so the stars just sort of aligned scheduling-wise so it was only a matter of time before we started to combine that individual creativity and those individual skills we all had.”
But while their shimmering debut was set in a historic analogue world, it’s not to suggest that’s the only way they know how to function. “It all really sprung from that analogue thing,” says Gitelman. “But now, it’s funny, because we still use analogue but we tend to combine it with a lot of digital stuff too, especially on the new record we’re working on right now.
“Back then, I did definitely think it was all about the equipment – and it has a lot to do with it – but at the end of the day, the most important part is what’s inside your head.”
The Stepkids play the East Brunswick Club this Saturday January 28.
We have a double pass to give away to the show. To win email us at email@example.com with the subject 'The Stepkids'.
Arts & Entertainment
10054Moomba’s Past and Present: 60 Years of Parade Floats/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/moombas-past-and-present-warehouse-stores-60-years-parade-floats/media/cache/3a/0c/3a0ca8a147b1992bf931b8685d4f97ad.jpg
10069A Labour Day Long Weekend: The Broadsheet Guide/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/labour-day-long-weekend-broadsheet-guide/media/cache/76/fe/76fe0960bc82e0e6feca7cce1fc65ffd.jpg
10051Making Tracks With Rick Smolan/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/making-tracks-rick-smolan/media/cache/29/ca/29cacd488190249097236727c3219d50.jpg
10045A Snapshot of Self-Publishing at the Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/snapshot-self-publishing-asia-pacific-photobook-archive/media/cache/b9/a7/b9a7c314e18612845c05ba70ac0a9941.jpg
10046Merci Perci Makes Colourful Headdresses for Your Wall/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/merci-perci-makes-colourful-headdresses-your-wall/media/cache/83/f9/83f947cec2629952b5586d523c750038.jpg
10027Mikhael Paskalev: Oslo, Liverpool and all Points in Between /melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/mikhael-paskalev-oslo-liverpool-and-all-points-between/media/cache/bb/df/bbdf1d5f9fe69de1fa027c6acfa70bb2.jpg
10028Alison Bechdel – The Reluctant Troublemaker/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/alison-bechdel-reluctant-troublemaker/media/cache/9f/0b/9f0bde270021dc5c5e76d624b4b06a70.jpg
10034Five Minutes with Neko Case/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/five-minutes-neko-case/media/cache/5c/50/5c50abf58709c3799b02186c8e497702.jpg
10039Cinematic Rendezvous: The Alliance Française French Film Festival is Back/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/cinematic-rendezvous-alliance-francaise-french-film-festival-melbourne-2014/media/cache/87/d9/87d9956a6c06ee362b60012907ed2a9b.jpg
10023Off The Kerb Reopens After Collapse/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/kerb-reopens-after-collapse/media/cache/f9/a4/f9a495b91f76b40eccc5ce69577698f0.jpg
10007Trying to Be Cool with Phoenix/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/trying-be-cool-phoenix/media/cache/d0/5c/d05c3cf928cc9b601eff210833475358.jpg
10010Epic Art Crescendoes at ACCA/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/epic-art-crescendoes-acca/media/cache/5a/fe/5afea69eb863adc4dbb32c2a894a5a1f.jpg
9999The Government Inspector – The Play That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/government-inspector-play-wasnt-supposed-happen/media/cache/59/b8/59b8dad8b6bb961dd843f2b22164aa24.jpg
9987Making Art in the Shower for White Night/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/making-art-shower-white-night/media/cache/27/5e/275ecb24be1fef18ca3347f766d81cda.jpg
9988Relaxed Off-Season Racing at Caulfield Racecourse/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/relaxed-season-racing-caulfield-racecourse/media/cache/1b/8b/1b8b85f0c5f46c86d0938f0a0c0bf8f0.jpg
9970When Dogs and Culture Collide in Print – Four&Sons Launch Magazine/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/when-dogs-and-culture-collide-print-foursons-launch-magazine/media/cache/ab/f0/abf0e3307163fa03ec3f8fb2a5db41d7.jpg
9971Arcadian Reverie: Taking a Garden Stroll at White Night/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/arcadian-reverie-taking-garden-stroll-white-night/media/cache/71/b3/71b395d0f1a19d21ae38b7269618e331.jpg
9972Trouble Brews at the Biennale of Sydney/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/trouble-brews-biennale-sydney/media/cache/28/d8/28d81d542b3d47e5b688a6bec597e58a.jpg
9973Telling A Guard’s Story/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/global-mail-guards-story/media/cache/03/86/0386e24d7f5136a67e8ebdb22ff22dbf.jpg
9967The Pom Pom Project/melbourne/arts-and-entertainment/article/pom-pom-project/media/cache/41/5d/415dd7866bf5e06e530b074e19898899.jpg