Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Josh Niles at Big Light, Nashville, Tennessee
Surely, you're familiar with those nights when you just can't turn your brain off, when everything in you is still running on Times Square or Las Vegas Boulevard blood. You lie your head down on the pillow, close your eyes and you sense that someone or something is pressuring you and you're going to be lying there for a long time, completely awake behind those faking, shuttered eyelids. You want sleep, you need it, but best of luck getting any of it. You've assumed the role of a temporary insomniac. You just wile away the hours, thinking that you're getting somewhere, that the grogginess will kick in, that the sandman is just a sprinkle or two away, but before you know it, it's four in the morning and you're no closer to slumbering.
Connecticut band, The Stepkids, are often the sound that we hear in our heads when these nights sneak up on us and keep rattling and rankling our nerves. It's a sort of white light and a white heat that rolls on, unrelenting, circling back around the block for another pass by, another wave of emotion settling down upon us. While we do mind not getting rest, we don't mind what we're hearing and The Stepkids are now two albums deep into an incredible collection of slippery, folky psychedilia that keeps burning in your head long after.
Bassist Dan Edinberg, guitarist Jeff Gitelman (who used to be Alicia Keys' touring guitarist before quitting to focus on Stepkids exclusively) and drummer Tim Walsh pulse out these hypnotic pieces arrangements, full of folds and sexy come-ons. One of the reasons that their songs remind me of sleepless nights is perhaps that, while sometimes being about brain ninjas, they seem to be even more about the way a woman's long hair looks splayed across a bed, or the way she smells so sweet and so salty when you're THIS close to her. You're still awake because you've got purely impure thoughts and who can sleep when all of that's beating around your skull? They give off a feeling of old-school Philly soul, as if coming out of the Philadelphia International vaults, with a mind for shacking up with a bunch of pot-smoking, pretty hippie girls from the free love 60s. Songs lock in and give off a green and purple glow that grooves hard into what amounts to a sonic splattering that can swallow us up, nights, parts and all.
*Essay originally published January, 2012