New EP from new project Step Sisters worth waiting for and coming soon
Remember Adam Swafford? He’s the bass play-er for Shark Week who was quoted 11 months ago as saying, “No one ever remembers the bass player…” Well, I remember Adam and what I didn’t know at the time was that he and drummer Nate Smith were working on a side project called The Volts.
A musician’s life is an odd thing, though. Often you don’t wind up where you were meaning to go, but frequently you wind up where you needed to be (thank you, Douglas Adams, I miss you). The point is that whatever The Volts started to be, somewhere along the way they morphed into Step Sisters, a band whose debut EP will be ready for release any day now and, in the words of the legendary Maya Angelou, “it totally kicks ass.” (Citation needed.)
Smith and Swafford (who is playing guitar for this project) are joined by Matt Johansen on bass and Clint Wilson on guitar. The three non-drumming members share vocal duties. You know the players; you know the instruments; now the $3.50 question is: What do they do? That’s the tricky part.
Some bands I can pin down less than a minute into their first song. Other bands require a great deal more thought and Step Sisters is definitely the latter. I’m going to tell you what I call them, then I’m going to spend too much time explaining why I call them that.
Those two words don’t even look right next to each other, but that’s how I’m calling it. There is a definite prog-rock feel to what they’re doing, but they aren’t quite “out there” enough to be prog-rock. Certainly they are more accessible than much of that genre tends to be for the uninitiated.
On the other hand, the tunes I’ve heard are, well, catchy, with nice hooks. Simply put, there is a lovely balance between technicality and “listenability” that ought to allow them broad audience appeal while simultaneously earning the respect of their peers.
Having listened to the EP several times and given a good deal of thought to it, three influences come to mind, in this order: Weezer in the early ’90s, The Police and Robyn Hitchcock. Weezer makes sense, given that the fellas are all essentially ’90s kids and, say what you will, Weezer’s first two albums (although the second was a commercial failure at the time) are now commonly regarded as two of the best albums of the ’90s.
I reference The Police specifically for trying to capture the “prog” feel of a band that isn’t actually prog. Step Sisters doesn’t (yet) feature a bunch of odd time signatures and weird key changes, but the chord progressions are sometimes surprising and the melodies frequently venture (to great effect) into unexpected territory.
Robyn Hitchcock is a very specific reference to some of the guitar work. If the guitarists aren’t Robyn fans, they ought to be.
As usual, there’s no space left to talk about the songs on the EP. Fear not, I intend to take a close look at the EP itself in next week’s sidebar. It absolutely merits the extra attention.
In the meantime, satisfy yourselves with Step Sisters’ Facebook musings, upcoming schedule and info on when said EP will be available.