[ there's no place like home ]
by Craig Young

"The band Steadman have the songs, the musicianship,
the energy and the enthusiasm to blow the top off any
club, or arena, and, if given a listen, have that rare
quality -- the ability to deliver! I like this band!!"

-Paul McCartney, April 2003

It's a bit hard to argue against one of the living legends of music. Fortunately for Steadman, Sir McCartney is spot on with his generous appraisal of their music. The band's infectious take on pop is in league with Britain's best outfits -- both past and present -- and not only have they proven their ability to enchant listeners with their songs, they've also proven that they can do so without the pocketbooks of big league help. After being unceremoniously dropped by Arista UK, the band regrouped and recorded 1999's well-received Loser Friendly, funding and promoting it entirely on their own. The album gained critical acclaim by both fans and critics. Now three years later and having proven their resiliency against major label debacles, the band have signed onto Elektra and are following up a four-song EP with the release of a proper full-length called Revive.

I recently caught up with lead man Simon Steadman and the band's drummer, Russell Field, while in Los Angeles preparing for the album's release. With topics ranging from marketing themselves via the Internet, jamming with Paul McCartney, and why the band want to give people a defibrillating kick the ass, Simon and Russell turned out to be amazingly affable interviewees, both open and frank, with a contagious laughter akin to schoolyard kids.

Thanks to Melissa and Elektra for arranging the interview, and kind thanks to the band for their music and for their gracious time.

[ left to right: james board, david walton, simon steadman, russell field, chris murphy ]

I understand you're in Los Angeles at the moment.

Simon Steadman: We are, yeah.

Are you living there now?

Simon: I live here; the rest of the guys live in England.

Why the move?

Simon: I came out here to get a record deal and this is where we're based now. It just seemed logical for me to be here, meeting people and what not.

Does that make it difficult in regards to keeping the band a cohesive unit?

Simon: No. Actually, far from it. The world's such a small place now with the Internet that we can keep in contact via e-mail. I send the band new songs, and they send me back parts for the songs. When I do a demo it works out just like we lived next door. In fact, I probably see these people more than I would if I lived near them.

[Everyone laughs]

Russell Field: Bear in mind that we did just spend two months out here, and we're here for another two-and-a-half months. So, it's been almost half-a-year here.

That oughta be good for your frequent flyer miles.

Simon: Yeah!

Getting down to business, it's kind of hard not to miss the Paul McCartney plug on the inside of your new EP.

Simon: I know. That was pretty good, wasn't it? [Laughs]

Definitely. How does one go about getting props from one of the greatest living musicians?

Simon: [In a serious tone] A huge amount of money.

[Laughs] "Will you take a personal check, Sir McCartney?"

Simon: What happened was a friend of our in Hastings knows Paul McCartney, so we gave him a CD and he said he'd give it to Paul. And, you know, Paul McCartney probably gets 300 CDs through his door a day and gets hassled all the time to listen to stuff, so we didn't expect anything from it. Then we heard through the grapevine that he really liked it and wanted to come to one of our shows in our hometown. We were like, "Yeah, sure he's coming. Whatever." So as I was about to step onstage at that show I got a tap on the shoulder, and it was him. He said, "Hi, I'm Paul." And I said, "Yeah... duh!"

This was before you went on?

Simon: Yeah, just before. And the funny was is that he didn't have an air of someone who's really important about him. He was just very cool, easy going, and didn't have loads of security guards around him. During the show he was standing at the front, nodding his head, tapping his foot and singing along to a couple of songs, acting like it was no big deal.

Was he bobbing his head in that trademark Paul McCartney style?

Simon: Yeah, actually. And he screamed "whoo!" [Laughs] At the end of the show I went to the dressing room and he was up there. He said, "Fantastic show! I've got a great harmony part for you on 'No Big Deal.' Go and get your guitar." So, obviously, I went and got my guitar and the next thing I know I'm sitting there singing "No Big Deal" with Paul McCartney, trying to work a harmony out!

Did that make you nervous at all?

Simon: Well, the thing about it is, that kind of event does not sink in until a couple of weeks afterwards, when suddenly you realize then what you've actually done. There was no pretense about him. He was just such a regular down to earth guy, so it didn't make me feel nervous at all. Our dressing room was in the upstairs bar and he was up there behind the bar stealing drinks and stuff. [Laughs] It was just very funny.

Russell: He brought along his guitar tech of 20-some-odd years, and that was it... no one else. It was brilliant.

What an amazing experience!

Simon: It really was.

McCartney's enthusiasm aside, what has the reaction been to the new EP? As well, you also have a full-length coming out in August -- what are your aspirations for that?

Simon: Obviously, I'm at liberty to say this, but the reaction has been absolutely fantastic! [Laughs] It has, though. Better than we could imagine, really. The Paul McCartney thing has helped an awful lot, but you know... it's been great.

Russell: We've been doing residencies in Los Angeles. We did a residency at the Viper Room, but we also did some other gigs in San Francisco and San Diego, and also played The Troubadour. We also played up and down New York on the East Coast a couple of months ago, and we'll be heading back there soon.

[ revive ]
[ give a listen! ] "Carried" MP3

Simon: I think people are always really surprised about how well we can pull off the album live.

There's a lot of orchestration on the album.

Simon: Exactly, but people seem to be going away pleased.

Russell: It's been working well for us live.

Can you tell me a little about the songs on Revive and how the songwriting process works in the band?

Simon: Songs will usually start with me at home on my computer using a program called Acid. I'll pull up loops and lay some guitar parts down until I get a melody, and then I'll get the song to a point where I feel I can give it to the rest of the band. I send it to them and then they come up with their own ideas. Then before we start recording we get together and rehearse with everyone putting their ideas in. That's how we recorded the album.

Doesn't sound too difficult.

[Everyone laughs]

Russell: It was very easy!

Simon: It's definitely easier said than done. Don't get me wrong! We recorded with an amazing team of producers by the name of Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider, who are in a band called Eleven. They've produced Chris Cornell, No Doubt, Live, and bands like that. Working with them was just an amazing experience because they are total geniuses and we learned so much from them.

Were they a duo that you sought out?

Simon: We'd actually recorded with them before we signed with Elektra. We did two demo songs with them to shop around. Our management actually put them forward to us, and we met and were just blown away by them. Eleven have become my new favorite band.

A new old favorite band. Eleven are quite amazing. Very nice that you are working with them.

Okay... so this is my one biglonglumberingheavy question for you. You were previously on Arista in the UK some years ago and were unceremoniously dropped. You persevered and went on to record, produce and release Loser Friendly on your own label, Freeloader Records. At the time you seemed... In fact, you were quoted at the time as saying, "We felt like we were a thorn in the side of a huge lumbering elephant that nobody liked. The next time the offer of a deal comes along we will have to be sure that we are in control of decisions that will affect us personally."

It seemed like you marketed Loser Friendly quite successfully -- an album that was a truly independent release. You did it completely on your own and, at the time, you seemed vehemently opposed to a major label situation. Now, however, you're on Elektra and my question to you is: What transpired between Loser Friendly and now to make you do a complete turnaround and reassess your opinion of the industry?

Okay, exhale...

Simon: [Laughs] Good question!

Well, what happened was that at the time the whole Internet revolution, I felt, was at its peak -- a time where bands were promoting themselves over the web. I thought it served us very well; we got our album out to so many people and we were able to keep in contact with the whole world via the Internet. We got to the point with Loser Friendly where we couldn't do any more on our own. We felt like we'd taken it as far as we could without compromising the music and our creativity. You can only work so hard, you can only ring so many people up and hassle them to review your album and get them to listen to it. You can only do that so much without having it get in the way of the music. We just thought that we were going to have to go and get a deal because we wanted our music to get out there, but we also wanted to be able to have time to make music.

How did that realization make both you and the band feel at the time?

Russell: I think there was a slight sense of relief. Actually, even though we said what we did [at the time], we always realized that you need the machine of a major label to reach masses of people. We weren't in a rush to go out looking for it again. We could sit back and take our time, and it was great to do that. Also, really, Elektra's just been brilliant so far, and it's been a completely different experience.

Simon: It's been a black and white difference.

So you feel like you haven't lost anything in the tradeoff?

Simon: Far from it -- we've gained so much. We're getting so many more opportunities here, and we have so many good people working on our side. And, you know, there's a distinct possibility that it could all go wrong. What's the figure: one in 500 bands makes it or whatever?

We feel like we're progressing. We feel like we're going to the next level and are not compromising anything, and we've got more time to make music.

[ natasha schneider and alain johannes ]

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