When you scroll through Steps’ discography, you almost immediately fall down a rabbit hole of nostalgia and sweet memories from attending school discos during your childhood, or hitting the dancefloor at a club on a night that you’ve had one too many. And on top of that, ’5,6,7,8’ is a song that will forever be permanently stuck in your head, and is one that you will somehow remember every lyric to religiously along with it’s infamous dance. And honestly that’s the power of Steps. Their longevity has been cemented because they’ve created something that will forever be apart of so many people’s lives and hearts, and it’s quite exciting to see.
Returning to the touring circuit in 2012 with a huge UK greatest hits tour, the British five-piece then jumped into the studio and finally released their highly anticipated fifth studio album ‘Tears On The Dancefloor’ in 2017, which also doubled as their first original record in 17 years. After the huge success and critical acclaim it received, the band were given a song by Sia which excitingly sparked the inspiration and direction for this next chapter.
‘What The Future Holds’ is a glittery affair full of the big pop-dance hooks that you’ve become accustomed to by Steps, but it also hears them diving a little deeper lyrically. Addressing a more vulnerable side of their artistry, they wanted to show the maturity they’ve all experienced through love, heartbreak and the general highs and lows of life.
I recently chatted to Faye Tozer from Steps about the lyrical and sonical vision they had for ‘What The Future Holds’, discussed costume malfunctions on the ‘Something In Your Eyes’ video shoot, and explored the stories behind the songs ‘To The Beat Of My Heart’ and ‘Clouds’. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your sixth studio album ‘What The Future Holds’ is an incredible envisioning of who Steps are as a group in 2020. Your original pop roots and heart and soul is still there, but there is a layer of new-age pop electronica included as well. How important was it for you as a group to create the right balance of the past and future with this new project?
FAYE TOZER: I feel like the lyric “one foot in the past and one foot in the future” perfectly sums it up. I think for us as as a band, when our voices come together on a track it automatically sounds like an original Steps sound. It was important for us that we didn’t go too far away from the pop element that we’ve always stuck to. We are genuine to ourselves, unapologetic, and just go straight for the pure pop.
We kinda left it down to the production side of things to make it sound relevant and hold its own weight within the music that’s out there today. But we didn’t want to try be anyone else, we just have a little more experience now I guess.
TB: Did you have any particular references for how you wanted this new music to sound?
FT: Our last album ‘Tears On The Dancefloor’ was really heavily dance focused. I personally loved that, and I feel like we were rejoicing being back together and pulling everyone back on the dancefloor with us. But I think with this album we really needed to hit home with different styles of songs, and try to have more of a rollercoaster of emotions and add a personal touch to it.
So when we got all of the songs on the table for this record we were looking for heavier lyrics. We were sorting through them and actively going; “that sounds like Steps in the 90’s, and we aren’t there anymore”. So I think we’ve made this record “age appropriate” lyrically as we aren’t popping down on the dancefloor anymore as we are talking about feelings and life. Our fans are our age now, they aren’t 5 anymore *laughs*, so we wanted to give them something that was more emotional evolved.
TB: Your last studio album ‘Tears on The Dancefloor’ was released in 2017 and came 17 years after your album ‘Buzz’. So what did your learn about yourselves as a group from recording and touring this record that you took into the planning and creative stages for ‘What The Future Holds’?
FT: It was quite interesting because I think ‘Tears On The Dancefloor’ gave us the realisation that we could actually do another studio album, and that we did have more longevity. I don’t think we really believed we would do original music again. Once you do a few compilation albums, you kinda feel like your time is up. So it took us a long time to get back in the room together, but it was such an overwhelming lift of faith when that record went down so well.
We were at the end of the ‘Party On The Dancefloor Tour’ in the summer and were given the demo from Sia, and we were like “wait, hold on a second! This is so surreal”. And that literally got the ball rolling for this next record. We almost based the theme of the whole record around that track. So everything just had to balance right, and that song was at the very core of it.
TB: Well, when you were picking the songs for the record, what did you want the album to say in particular when relating back to that theme?
FT: I think when it comes to our music we all know personally what our fans like to dance to, cry to, or want to feel angsty to. But when we send out briefs to the songwriters that we want to work with, we always have a genderless theme as we are a mixed group, and we want to have an open door policy for everyone. So it’s really important that we’re not sending too many specific messages, and this record has a lot of melancholy tones in it, but with an answer to it too. We also know that there is a lot more experience behind us now, so a lot of themes are more grown up now than they have been.
TB: What song do you personally identify with the most lyrically?
FT: There’s a song called ‘Don’t You Leave Us Halfway’, and for me it represented that there are consequences to giving up, and also consequences to keeping on going. I really loved it because it is really how we’ve dealt with our relationships, and how we’ve watched each other go through things. So that song really stood out to me, but I honestly love all of the tracks on it. We are so proud of the record as a whole.
TB: ’To The Beat Of My Heart’ is a song that immediately stood out to me, and it was one that was co-written by MNEK. So what was the recording process like for you as a group with this song?
FT: That was actually a bit of a crazy one as we didn’t have the same producers on that track as the rest of the record. We were also all recording it from different places in the country. I think Lisa was down in Brighton, and then I did my vocals in Berea in East London.
I kinda felt like coming home for a dance track for us. As soon as we read the lyrics and heard it, we knew exactly how to hit it, and it came together pretty quickly.
TB: I also really loved ‘Clouds’ with the lyric “keep your head in the clouds” and the rhythmic beat that drove it. What gravitated you towards this song as a group?
FT: Sometimes on albums we pick a little curveball, and that is what this song was for ‘What The Future Holds’. I loved this song as soon as I heard it, but it made us go “hmm, is this a Steps song, or isn’t it?”. But I kinda liked how it connected to what is on today’s charts. I don’t know if it does anymore now though with our voices on it *laughs*.
For me it was a connection with what is out there with the lyrical content and it did feel like our curveball production wise. It’s not a typical Steps song, but it was so fun to do.
TB: How much of the album was done before the pandemic broke out? Did you have to finish off anything during lockdown?
FT: None at all! We actually completed the recording in August 2019, and we were ready to go with the whole album roll-out on March 22 but then we had to make the call to hold it or still go ahead it. It was a hard decision to make but it didn’t feel right to release this record in that moment, and we didn’t want to waste the 3 years we had worked on the plan and everything that went with it. So we decided to hold off for the time being.
TB: A lot of these songs seem like they’ve really been produced with the live show in mind for example the title track ‘What The Future Holds’, and ‘To The Beat Of My Heart’ and ‘Heartbreak In The City’. So how do you envision the next live show to aesthetically look and feel with this album?
FT: We have our UK arena tour going ahead in November 2021, and the general feeling of what we’ve said in the boardroom about this new show is that the concept ‘What The Future Holds’ is going to be the core, and then it will all work its magic from there. I can’t give away too much yet *laughs*, but we’re all so excited!
TB: You were scheduled to tour Australian earlier this year for So Pop, but it was cancelled because of the global pandemic. So is there plans to come back once it’s safe to do so?
FT: Absolutely! We were all gutted as we’ve been wanting to come back to Australia for years. We had such a good time the first time we came over, and we know how amazing our hardcore fans out there have been. They have been so loyal to us over the years, and it’s been so great with social media to hear from them directly. And I had just done Strictly Dancing with Ashley Roberts from The Pussycat Dolls, and we were so excited to actually hang out and get to know each other as the Strictly experience was so crazy, so that was a shame we didn’t get to do this tour together.
Unfortunately that line-up for So Pop was one-of-a-kind and you’re never going to get those same people in the same room again, but we are definitely always looking for opportunities to come back over, and whenever we can come back we will! But we have stolen Sophie Ellis-Bextor for our UK tour *laughs*.
TB: The accompanying music video for the ABBA inspired banger ‘Something In Your Eyes’ is a very colourful and fun affair, and I particularly loved the lush shot of you laying down this rotating circle. Gorgeous! So what was one of the funniest things that happened on that shoot?
FT: That was quite a long shoot! I actually felt like a 1980’s Loreal shoot with my tin-foil outfit *laughs*. But there was a really good costume malfunction that happened on the shoot that I will tell you, and I’m sure it will go online at some point as it was all on camera! But it was H… And he was in the lightbox with silver trousers on, and he was working the lightbulb so hard that when he went into a lunge he literally split open his trousers. There is footage of it, and I hope one day that someone puts it online *laughs*.
I was upstairs in hair and make-up, and all I heard was H scream and start laughing, so I ran down the stairs and he was just standing there. It was so good!
TB: ’5,6,7,8’ is a song that has had a whole life of its own, and even went #1 here in Australia first in 1998. So where is one of the weirdest, funniest or strangest places you’ve personally heard the song playing?
FT: I’ve heard it in garden centres, and I always think that’s weird as it’s not really garden centre music *laughs*. I honesty think it’s so amazing just how many people know the dance to that song.
‘What The Future Holds’ is out now!