Wildlife Pop. A Word with Stepdad

Stepdad, 2012

In less than three and a half minutes, Stepdad wraps you in a cape and lofts you out a window with “Must Land Running”. The quintet will keep you soaring with their electropop energy as they unleash their debut LP “Wildlife Pop” (Black Bell Records) when more of their jungle of sounds run free June 12.

A melting pot of creatives, Stepdad has been fermenting their beat since early 2009 with their electropop/rock inception near Chicago (currently Grand Rapids), followed by their debut EP Ordinaire. Their melodies call forth an innocence of video games and lullabies with a pronounced rebellion of 80s and Swede-pop. This hybrid of material, paired with lyrical preservation and big live presence, has pounced the indie scene with a clean twist on experimentation.

In late 2011, with the efforts of NYC buzz and the work of producer Chris Zane (Asobi Seksu, Ruby Frost, Les Savy Fav), the five-piece talent (Ryan McCarthy, Nathan Klages, Jeremy Malvin, Alex Fives, Ultramark) fearlessly continued layering modern pop as the onset of their latest work. Fit for smart ears, Stepdad extends the latitude of creativity to maintain a curious musical dexterity.

In a quick exchange with lead and songwriter/vocalist Ryan McCarthy, we get some insight on the magic behind Stepdad and their roller-coaster sound.

—————— A Word with Ryan McCarthy of Stepdad, by Angela Gleason ——————

AG: This is your debut LP, after big noise around your first material released last year with Ordinaire. What was the goal with this new release, and how would you compare artistically the new work with your previous material on Ordinaire?

RM: The goal with this new album was to create a collection of really big pop songs that fit within the boundaries of the term “Wildlife Pop”. It’s not a concept album but it’s more of a complete musical idea as a whole compared to Ordinaire, which was ultramark and myself’s first effort at writing songs together and finding our comfort zones.

AG: Michigan-bred and based, what are some of the group’s creative influences, and is a their a Detroit beat in your Chicago layers?

RM: There are some great bands that we love from both of those cities, but we’re not really influenced by a certain city’s sound. Certain bands influence us for very different reasons. For example Mark and I are both huge fans of the band Tears for Fears, and although you may not really hear their influence in our songs musically, we have taken several cues from them in terms of songwriting and structure. Also, the “na na na” part in our song Cutie Boots was totally inspired by Head over Heels. 

 AG: Making a quick note of similarity between the melodic + technical efforts of Stepdad and those of the Northern Euro electro beat scene (Swedes, Danes, Dutchies)… is there any interest, influence, inspiration up there for ya?
RM: I cannot stress enough how much we love everything coming out of Sweden! I think the ability to write good pop music is just embedded in their DNA. We’re all huge fans of bands like The Tough Alliance, The Knife, JJ, Zeigeist, etc and heavily influenced by them. The album “White Magic” by CEO is one of my personal all time favorite albums.
AG: What might be the greatest challenge and reward with building new music today for you as a group and in general as experimenting musicians?
RM: I think different bands have different challenges. Some bands are gifted performers but find it hard hard to find their unique voice when writing or in the studio. For us, having started this band as experienced songwriters, the challenge for us was figuring out how to become better performers and really trying to hit our stride in the live arena. Since Mark and I have never really been in any serious bands before Stepdad we had to figure out how to put on a good show. We’ve had such a great response from our live shows which makes us feel really great. 
AG: What is the band most excited about with the release of Wildlife Pop and this mix-genre compilation of sounds?
RM: We are excited about Wildlife Pop for so many different reasons. I don’t know where to start. It’s our most complete musical vision so far and it came out exactly as we had hoped and we couldn’t be more proud of it. Chris Zane did such a fantastic job helping us get this vision across in the studio.
We are really excited to tour for this album and play these new songs live as well as incorporate new ideas into a killer stage show for this album. We’re releasing it on a fantastic label (Black Bell) and we have an amazing team of people behind us in terms of management and PR who have believed in us and what we are doing for such a long time. All the right elements are in place for this album to really get out there in a big way. In the words of Tommy Wiseau “That’s the idea!”


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About Angela Gleason

visual designer | writer | pianist in the basement | painter in the night | fashion critic | lush | Italian savant check me out: www.taxisandwalnuts.com