Something for the Weekend: The Stepkids

Frontman Jeff Gitelman on the tracks that shaped his life.
The Step kids pose for a portrait following their live session at Red Bull Studios, in Santa Monica.
The Stepkids at Red Bull Studios © Jay Hanna/Red Bull Content Pool
By Chris Parkin

It took a while for this Connecticut trio to finally form The Stepkids. For years, Jeff Gitelman, Tim Walsh and Dan Edinberg were employed as plank-spankers and the rest by the likes of Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill. But get it together they did and their 2011 debut album was described by The Guardian as, “doing for 70s soul and funk what Ariel Pink did for 80s MTV pop."

Now comes the follow-up, Troubadour – a wonderful, kaleidoscopic sound show of psychedelia, electro-soul, sunshine pop and jazzy licks that recalls everyone from Prince and Funkadelic to the Beach Boys and the smooth overlords, Steely Dan.

Vocalist and guitarist Jeff reveals some important musical milestones...

The first piece of music to stop me in my tracks was…

Yesterday by The Beatles was the one. I was eight years old, and it really made me think about music on a different level. Instead of the other cheerful music I was stimulated by, this was sentimental and profound, the combination of the deep lyrics with the string quartet made me feel I was growing up.”

The first track that made me want to make music was…

Nirvana's Lithium. It made me realise that you don't need a lot of knowledge and theory to make music. You just need a couple of power chords, and some serious emotion. I was ten and I was full of emotion.”

The track responsible for my best mosh-pit moment was…

“When I heard George Harrison sing Roll Over Beethoven, I immediately started a one-man mosh pit. I started jumping up and down my bed, my desk, until I stood on top of my table and accidentally slipped, which resulted in me falling straight down and hitting my head on the floor. Thus I learned the consequence of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.”

What’s your karaoke track of choice?

Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang by Dr Dre. Can't go wrong with that one. Me and my mom used to love to say ‘Just chill, to the next episode’."

The Stepkids' Jeff Gitelman performing at the Red Bull Studio in Santa Monica.
The Stepkids' Jeff Gitelman © Jay Hanna/Red Bull Content Pool

What’s your comedown classic?

Ex-Factor by Lauryn Hill seems to do the job. I used to work with her as her guitar player, so it brings back a lot of deep emotions and puts me in reverie. Performing with her was quite the rollercoaster. It boosted my confidence after I beat hundreds of guitar players for her audition. But it also taught me the most valuable lesson in the business, which is its inconsistencies. One day you're up, next you're out. I'll never forget how excited I was to get a standing ovation at her audition, or how stressed I was to play Royal Albert Hall without having a proper sound check, or recording beautiful music with her that will never see the light of day.”

What track is most likely to make you cry?

“That's a little tough – all that stuff is so unpredictable. I'd say, from pure statistics, Joni Mitchell’s Blue or All I Want do the trick more often than not. It's very vulnerable, emotional, desperate music. Lyrically it holds nothing back.”

What song has taught you the most?

“Lyrically I study the song America by Paul Simon. I still can't believe it hasn't got a single rhyme in the whole song, but the poetry is still catchy and memorable. I can't think of any other song that's that memorable that doesn't have a single rhyme.”

Join The Stepkids in Red Bull Studios Los Angeles.

The Stepkids play the Marsatac festival in Nîmes and Marseille (September 19-29).

The Step kids perform at the Red Bull Studio in Santa Monica.
The Stepkids playing live at Red Bull Studios © Jay Hanna/Red Bull Content Pool
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