The Stepkids are a trio who combine their musical background in funk, psychedelia and jazz with a serious pop pedigree. On Troubadour, the follow up to their self-titled debut, the band brings together the best of both worlds, deploying experimental influences and virtuoso instrumentation on the one hand, and displaying a knack for great hooks on the other. There’s a kinship between The Stepkids’ outsider take on pop and Hot Chip’s eclectic approach to dance music, or the complex but catchy sound of Steely Dan.
Over the last couple of decades the individual members of The Stepkids have honed their skills touring with some of the biggest names in pop music, from Alicia Keys, 50 Cent and Lauryn Hill to Kimbra, Mayer Hawthorne and The Horrors. In 2009 they formed a band to the release their own music, and the result is a gleeful blend of psychedelia, soul, classic jazz, R&B, funk, 70s rock and countless other genres and styles. Now on their second album for Stones Throw, Troubadour, they consolidate those influences with their experience as touring musicians into a singular musical statement.
Troubadour may be autobiographical in theme, but it also shows off The Stepkids’ musical chops and their seemingly effortless ability to bridge genres and styles. ‘Moving Pictures’ flips a jazz standard into a soulful R&B-tinged song propelled by a grooving bassline, ‘Symmetry’ is a minimal, yearning ballad lifted by The Stepkids’ effortless harmonies, and ‘Sweet Salvation’ draws from psych and funk while retaining a pop sensibility. The band also recently launched a series of jazzy covers of songs from the likes of Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and Daft Punk, all of which can be viewed at youtube.com/thestepkids.
Troubadour follows the travels and travails of the fictional character of the title as he grapples with love, life on the road, and the commercial requirements of the music industry. “The troubadour character represents an extremity of who we really are,” explains Edinberg. “Though honestly,” adds drummer Tim Walsh, “It’s a character anyone can find themselves in.” Take the lead single, ‘The Lottery’, which guitarist Jeff Gitelman describes as about “the gamble of different sides of life: the gamble of love, the gamble of business, and the general risk of following your heart.”
They may be music veterans, but The Stepkids are just getting started. “I really believe that we still haven’t discovered some of our most exciting stuff,” enthuses Gitelman. “Everybody is so deep musically, there are whole sides of us we haven’t really explored yet.”