With new music, a summer tour, and an updated greatest hits compilation, it’s fair to say that Steps’ 25th-anniversary plans have been anything but a tragedy.
Once considered a novelty act, Steps, made up of Claire Richards, Lisa Scott-Lee, Faye Tozer, Ian “H” Watkins, and Lee Latchford-Evans, have continuously proved critics wrong and have cemented themselves as one of the UK’s most popular and in-demand pop acts. In addition to numerous sold-out arena tours, Steps have achieved three No. 1 albums, 14 top 10 hits, over 130 weeks on the UK singles chart, and 20 million record sales from around the world.
With their new single, “Hard 2 Forget,” currently making waves on radio playlists and a Platinum Collection compilation about to hit shelves on August 19, EUPHORIA.’s Fabio Magnocavallo sat down with the group to talk about their legacy and new material.
How have the summer shows been going?
Faye: It’s actually been incredible. We started our summer off with Mighty Hoopla, which we’ve not done before. We did lots of rehearsals to do a brand new show again and it’s just been absolutely brilliant just to be out there, seeing people again, dancing and singing along with us. It’s awesome.
Does a summer tour feel different from an arena tour? I know some of the shows have been prides and festivals as well as your own headline shows.
H: Yeah, very much so because it is out of our control [laughs].
Faye: It’s more relaxed, isn’t it?
H: It’s a different vibe. The outdoor gigs, they kind of start with beautiful picnics and hampers with little bottles of Prosecco, and then turns into carnage with beer. It’s a beautiful set, especially if the weather’s incredible. When the sun is setting and we ask the audience to put their camera phone like the sun, it’s just the most beautiful vibe.Prides are happening all over summer now and everyone is there living their best life, being their complete authentic self and that’s exactly what we’re about.
Along with the Platinum Collection, you are also promoting your new single, “Hard 2 Forget.” How did you come to find this song?
Lisa: I’m glad you asked because firstly, I absolutely love this song, it’s one of my favorites. I love it when Steps do pop-dance because I think we do it really well. Musically, it’s completely down my street, so I’m really happy we’re doing it. How we found it was due to our fabulous management. They do have a great ear and they’re great at the A&R side and they DJ, so I think they’ve got their ear to the ground. It was presented to us and I’m pretty sure we all loved it straight away, actually.
It was really fun to do the video as well in the greasy Spoons. We enjoyed it and I think it’s really popular. The feedback has been fantastic.
Was the song sent you to quite recently or is this one you’ve been holding on to for some time?
Claire: No, it was definitely part of the conversations putting together the Platinum Collection because we knew we would have to do one or two new tracks to put on the greatest hits. It was very much found or suggested when we were putting this album together. So, it’s not one that’s been hanging around for a while or anything. I think we’ve been quite lucky over the last few years in getting some really amazing songs that have brought us into this era and successfully kind of transitioned the two. When the Platinum Collection comes out, I think you’ll really be able to see how well it all fits together finally.
There is another new song on the compilation – “The Runner.” This is a cover of The Three Degrees, right?
Is the production quite similar to the original, very disco?
Lee: Yes. I think it is very upbeat, very Steps. It is very disco. I don’t think it’s far away from the original at all, we just put our stamp on it like we always do, to be honest. Hopefully, everyone will love it. It really works well on the Platinum Collection as a nice little sort of extra bonus track for everybody.
Are there plans to release that song as a single or is it just a new track for the compilation?
Lee: As far as I’m aware, it’s not. Unless people know something I don’t!
On the album artwork, you are posing in a room full of plaques. Where are some of you keeping all your plaques and awards?
Faye: I don’t have them sort of all around the house but I have a bit of a gallery upstairs and a little shrine on the stairs and the landing. It’s not in your face but I know it’s there.
Claire: Mine are all in my office. I’ve got mine all in one room.
If you all had to pick a favorite song from the tracklisting, what would it be?
H: I would say… I love “What The Future Holds.”I love it because it’s kind of benchmarked a new chapter for us. Also, I’m going to say “Scared of the Dark.” I’m choosing two because they marked new chapters in our Steps era. What we did before that was a massive kind of nod to nostalgia and we didn’t really know where we kind of belonged in the pop world but those two songs stood up against our back catalog so that’s the reason I love those.
Claire: I don’t know. It’s a tough one really because there are so many that kind of opened new doors for us. Without “5, 6, 7, 8,” we wouldn’t be here at all. I can’t say it’s my favorite, though. I think one from the old era, it’s got to be “One For Sorrow” because I think that was the changing point for us where people started to look at us as more than just a bit of a joke and a bit of a novelty band.That song stood up against others that year. It felt like it made people look at us differently. From this era, I think “Scared of the Dark.” It did things for us that I don’t think any of us expected. When we first heard it, it was what made us want to do new material and it’s also great to perform.I think it’s just a fantastic song. We’re really, really lucky. And it was written specifically for us for the comeback.
Lisa: I completely agree with what Claire said. I feel exactly the same about “Scared of the Dark.” If I were to say one of our classics, it would be “Deeper Shade of Blue” for me because as I said, I love the pop-dance sound. The routine and the video, I think it has really stood the test of time and that’s a crowd favorite.
Lee: “Reach for the Stars” always goes down well.
Lisa: [laughs] Oh, he’s in a playful mood!
Lee: I agree with what everyone said. There are so many Steps songs out there now, it’s really nice to be in this position actually, where we can look back and just actually be a bit stuck on which songs to pick. Claire hit the nail on the head with “5, 6, 7, 8,” you know, that did its job.Everyone seems to love that. And even today, it stands the test of time. People love it when you perform it live. “What The Future Holds” and “Scared of the Dark” did their jobs as well by relaunching Steps’ career, I believe. They really made people stand up and I think brought in a new audience. I think looking at our whole catalog, I’ve always liked “It’s The Way You Make Me Feel.” I’ve always loved that song. And I think the reason for me personally, back in the day when we released it, it felt slightly more mature than the songs we released previously to that, and it was a little bit softer. It had a different feel for it for me. I love the video, that Dangerous Liaison, Pride and Prejudice type thing. As far as one in terms of a meaningful song that all our fans jump onto, I also like “Neon Blue.”
Faye: I’m going to be so boring and I’m just going to join in as well. I’d go “Deeper Shade of Blue.” “Scared of the Dark” is actually my ultimate favorite Steps song to date now. It’s just so dramatic but when the beat drops, just so much fun to perform and it’s so great seeing everyone be dramatic out in the front and just enjoy dancing with us. It’s a brilliant one. We’re so lucky to have such an amazing back catalog.
I asked a few fans what questions they wanted me to ask and I picked a couple from a selection. One person really wanted to know, Claire, did you ever get your British Gas problem sorted?
Faye: [laughs] Oh my god, that’s amazing! Did you put that on Twitter or something?
Claire: Listen, that is all Twitter is good for, complaining about stuff! Apart from that, it’s a vile, vile place. Actually, the only other thing I go on Twitter for is when The Masked Singer is on. I can’t remember what the problem was, but whenever you complain on Twitter, they respond immediately, so it’s fantastic.
If you were to re-shoot the “Say You’ll Be Mine” video, what different movies would you reference?
Lee: I love that H said Magic Mike.
H: That’s because I’m thinking of you, that’s why.
Lee: Not a lot of magic there, I’m afraid!
H: I shared a dressing room with you. I beg to differ!
Looking back, is there a song you wish you hadn’t released as a single?
H: I’ve got one but it kind of redeems itself when we do it on tour. It always grates on on me when I hear it as a record but in an arena, as soon as it starts the whole space erupts. It’s “Better Best Forgotten.”
Lee: I hate that video as well!The song isn’t too bad, but the video, I can’t stand the video. Oh my God.
How about a song you wish became a single?
Lisa: Definitely “Love U More.” I absolutely love that track and I still do. It sounds great.
Do you know what song I really like? I don’t know if you’ve ever performed it, but I really liked the song “Buzzz.”
H: If it depended on it, I wouldn’t be able to sing that song now. All I remember is the “I get a b-b-buzz.”
Lisa: It was fun recording that album because we were in New York.
“Paradise Lost” is also a great song.
H: I love “Paradise Lost” but also the songs on Tears on the Dancefloor we did. There was a great song called “Firefly,” which I love. I love “Happy!” I think that whole dance element of that album was great.
What are some of your proudest achievements since reforming?
Claire: I think this whole era of Steps I’m really proud of because I think we’ve been so involved in all of it. From choosing the music to the way we tour and the whole thing really. I don’t want to take anything away from the first time round but it was much controlled by other people. I feel like we’ve kept true to what we are and what we do. We kind of protect it ourselves to a certain degree. I’m just really proud of this whole era, the fact that we’ve made the music and we’re still filling arenas.
Lisa: We’re in the driving seat, aren’t we?
Faye: It just feels amazing to be able to say we’re doing it after 25 years. It’s almost like we reclaimed it. When we had the gap in the middle and when people wanted to jump on board when we were being successful again, it was really great to take the reins and go, no, this is actually Steps. We know our audience, we know what we need to sound like, and your choices are going off the wall and that’s not who we are. It was really great to take the reins. And as Lisa said, getting the driving seat and making it more of what it really is from the core.
What’s it been like keeping up with all the changes? Physical copies were king when you first debuted on the scene but now it’s all about streaming.
Claire: It’s been really hard because obviously everything combined is counted in the charts. We are more predominantly a physical sales market.
H: I think the word you’re looking for is unfair! [laughs]
Claire: Our audience is our age or maybe 10 years younger or older.I know personally I stream a bit but I don’t ever stream new music. I listen to stuff that I like and I want to listen to. I think that’s where we have struggled a little bit, we’ve lost out on the number one album twice or three times I think now because of that whole streaming situation. I think pretty much every time we would have been number one, it was just on physical sales. It’s a weird one.On one hand, we’re not so worried about chart positions and singles and stuff, but with albums, it’s not that our audience hasn’t caught up, it’s just a different generation. Our kids, all they do is stream.
H: We see how our target audience, our demographic responds to an album when we have a multi-format album. We do limited edition vinyl, we do cassettes, and we do single album covers. People want these things in bundles and that’s the kind of demographic we have. As Claire said, we have fans that actually physically want to hold something, and they feel like they own part of us.And they do. We are here because of them. I loved queuing up outside Woolworths to get my single of Five Star back in the day. I felt like you were really part of a fandom and part of something really special, but now you just stream it on Spotify.
Lee: I remember when we were battling with Ed Sheeran for number one. It must have been a few albums ago and it was when streaming was all new to us and we were kind of learning about this new world that we’ve kind of ventured back into. I had a look online and we had over a million streams on our album and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is incredible.. over a million streams. Let’s see what Ed’s got.’ He had 120 million streams and you just can’t compete with that. Like what Claire just said, before was a very different market for us and now it’s a different world. With physical sales, we were outselling him. We have this battle all the time.
Faye: Also, we are in a new generation but the fact that we’re still here and still making original music and people are still buying it and we getting that close to number one is mental in itself. It’s still such an amazing place to be in. Maybe we can’t compete in that sort of way, but to actually still be here and doing it and selling so well is something we have to be so grateful for.
Back in the day, there were also loads of TV shows to promote yourself on in order to have that build-up!
Claire: There used to be so many shows you could perform music on and they’ve all gone now, really. There are so many channels, you would think that there is even more opportunity now, but it really has just kind of disappeared, which is such a shame. We could fill up our promo schedule up with so much TV because that’s where we really do connect with the audience. I think “5, 6, 7, 8” was the perfect example because every time we did a big TV, it would climb up the charts.
And lastly, have you already started thinking about a new album?
Faye: I think we’ve had a really incredible period this time. We all struggled and had to challenge ourselves through covid and getting ourselves on tour. It’s been quite overwhelming and such an amazing triumph for us to be able to put out music, get out there, and be out for the summer now. We’re going to take a little bit of a break while we get our inspiration for the next chapter. But, when you don’t see us on the screen, there’s always something going on behind the screen.I think we’re going to take a tiny little pause.