"Being able to turn something that's been so negative throughout my whole life into a positive and the chance to help others on that global scale is very special."
Stepson have just released their debut album 'Help Me, Help You' via SharpTone Records.
It's been a long time coming, with the album experiencing several delays in terms of being released, but the message that the band attempted to inject into their music is more poignant than ever. Raw, real and raucously varied, it's a record that not only showcases the endless inspiration that they have at their disposal but also a prime example of how diverse emotional music can be and how many different people it is possible to touch with your art.
We had a chat with vocalist Brock Conry all about the journey up to this point and how their belief and dedication to the band has pulled them through...
This has been a long time coming, hasn’t it?
“Oh, yes. We started recording this album roughly three years ago, and it’s been pushed back three or four times now. It’s been delay after delay, and the COVID and the lockdown, it’s been so insane. But that feeling of release now it’s out is so good.”
So how did things kick-off? What did you want this record to be when you started working on it?
“When it came to writing everything, we’re all fortunate that our band works in a way where we can write whatever we want. There are no limits, and we don’t have to pigeonhole ourselves into any genre. When we started approaching this album, we just wanted to write whatever music we wanted and put it out. It was about trying things out and seeing what the response is. That’s been the way that the band has always been.
“I think it’s really cool and really special that we have been accepted in different worlds. For example, when we released [2016 EP] ‘The Beautiful Life, which was mainly an electronic release, we just felt like it was fun, and we put it out there and saw what people thought. We got a pass from it, which gave us the confidence to take that feeling with a whole album. We all played out parts and gave our input to things, but I feel like everything came together really well and came together really quickly, like six months. It’s just the actual release that has been the longest part of the process. For the first few years of the band, we were rolling so quickly with releases. We thought we were going to keep that momentum here, but it was just roadblock after roadblock. Now we have finally been able to achieve what we set out to seven years ago when we started.”
Is that confidence to do whatever you want must be something built up over time, or is it something that was there at the very beginning?
“All of us listen to a lot of different music. For me, for example, I’ve been listening to a lot of 80’s darkwave recently. Our drummer listens to prog rock, and our guitarist loves metalcore. We have all of these different genres, crossing over to go and do what we want without second thoughts. We are just so confident in our abilities and our inspirations. It’s cool when it all comes together through that. Even with the new material that we have been writing, we are pushing it even further and see just how far we can go.
“Though with this album, there are no two songs that sound the same. I’m pretty confident that this record is very diverse for a melodic hardcore band that came from just screaming over clean guitars tones. We are experimenting with things like slap bass or the heaviest breakdowns we have ever written or simply pop-punk songs where there are no screamed vocals at all. It’s the diversity that makes it so special.”
The thing that holds all these songs together as being Stepson is the vulnerability and honesty that you are prepared to inject into the songs' core. What was the central core that you wanted to run through this particular batch of songs?
“It’s just life experience. All of these things I have dealt with at some point. I’ve never written a song about something that hasn’t happened to me. I feel like that’s where the vulnerability comes from. I’ve lived through all of this, and I’m very lucky that the boys in the band can write music to put my story in.
“The thing that runs through all of these songs is healing. Having all of these songs be a place to push my emotions within, mental health is very prominent. Many people struggle to find a place to tell their story and push their message for whatever reason. Having this record as an overall push for many things that I was holding on to was a crazy good feeling. Now it’s all out. I can put them to rest. I’ve told those stories, and they are done. Now I can move onto the next batch of stories that I want to tell.”
The core of why you make music is to get those feelings out for yourself. It’s a selfish thing, first and foremost. But now, considering that you have the backing of a label like SharpTone who are allowing those feelings to be projected around the world is something else completely…
“I’ve had people come up to me and tell me how similar their stories are to mine and how the songs translate to them. SharpTone backing us is huge as well. Being able to turn something that's been so negative throughout my whole life into a positive and the chance to help others on that global scale is very special.”
And when it’s something that you’ve been building up to for so long, for it to have such a worthy pay off makes all those months not slowing down worth it…
“We all feel as though what we have produced is special, so why wouldn’t we believe in it and push it as hard as we can? A lot of bands around the world are never allowed to present themselves like that, and for us to be here and not utilise it to our full potential would be silly.”
How do you feel your relationship with these songs has shifted throughout the period you haven’t been able to share them? How has that influenced what you are working on next?
“I think about this all the time, and it’s been a real rollercoaster throughout. There have been so many moments where I’ve been like, ‘These songs are exactly what I believe in and others where I’m like, ‘These songs are old and don’t hold up anymore. Then somebody who hasn’t heard them will tell us how fresh they feel, and it will give me the pep to love forwards. Though putting together music videos and living with them properly has reinstalled just how much we believe in them.”
How do you feel as though Stepson as a band has changed throughout the time between your first writing together and now?
“For the first four or five years, we were grinding. We worked so hard, self-managing and booking headline tours and constantly wondering if any of it was working. Comparing how we approached writing when we first started to approach it now is a completely different beast. We’re at the point now where we have to keep on believing in ourselves and pushing forwards as much as we can. There are so many things we have been through, from hitting kangaroos to doing 13-hour drives from Adelaide to Canberra to play to 20 people, for us now to be able to play to 600-1000 people with bands we love and respect like Polaris is huge. But I think that it’s those things that make Australian bands so great. It’s the resilience to go through those things, sometimes properly dangerous, to play such tiny shows.”
So what does it means to you having ‘Help Me, Help You’ as the first big statement of what Stepson is?
“It’s just the culmination of seven years of raw emotion. All the stuff we have been through as a unit, this is the peak. To have that relief and the pressure off from finally being able to release it is just phenomenal. The message of this band is always going to be, ‘We’re here to help you. We’ve been through it as well, and we want to lend a hand in getting you through it too. The album name, in particular, is a lot to do with my family and my own experiences, but I think that everybody can see their message within it and within what they are looking for. That’s all that we want as a band and all we hope to achieve.”