It’s no secret the 90s was one of the most exciting decades in pop culture.
Friends, fashion, and fast-food reigned supreme. It was the golden era of scrunchies, acid wash jeans, tube tops, and crimped hair.
And then there was the music – and it’s hard to think of the 90s without thinking of boot-scooting, British dance group Steps.
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It’s been 23 years since debut single 5, 6 ,7 ,8 exploded through radio airwaves and school discos alike, dominating the charts and earning the group a fiercely loyal fanbase, but the five-piece – comprising of Claire Richards, Lisa Scott-Lee, Ian ‘H’ Watkins, Lee Latchford Evans and Faye Tozer – still remain one of the most popular bands in their native Britain.
14 top 10 hits, three number one albums, 20 million albums sold and seven sold-out tours later, Steps is back with a new album and Sia-penned title track to boot.
What the Future Holds, built around a bittersweet refrain of “one foot in the past and one foot in the future”, is the perfect statement for a band that rode the wave of nostalgia.
“That line really did stand out to us when we first heard the song,” Claire tells 7NEWS.com.au, speaking via Zoom from her home in London.
“What the Future Holds was one of the first songs that was played to us by our management. They didn’t even tell us that Sia had written it and sung the demo. I think they wanted to make sure we actually liked the song and not just because of who had written it and who was singing it,” Claire says,
“It really does sum us up quite perfectly because What the Future Holds is is very much the ‘new’ Steps. But we wanted to dip our toes in a bit retro Steps a little bit, too.”
Single Something in Your Eyes and Heartbreak in this City harken back to the group’s ABBA-referencing glory days, while Clouds and Under my Skin offer rare midtempo moments.
“There are some ballads on there, there are a few more midtempos than usual – it isn’t just full on bangers – but it’s hands down a pure pop album,” Claire adds.
Like so many of us in 2020, Clair is still learning to navigate the newfound world of Zoom calls and long-distance… everything.
With the album originally slated for a March release, the COVID pandemic effectively slammed the brakes on their album campaign and 2020 world tour. Mastering the art of virtual album promo has proved challenging, to say the least.
“The CDs were pressed. Everything was ready to go. At that point as well, I don’t think we quite realised the gravity of what was going on. We were having conversations like, ‘What do we do? Do we just go for it anyway? Do we put the tickets for our tour on sale? Do we even release the album?’”
“And considering the single and album is called What the Future Holds, back in March it probably wasn’t quite the right sentiment to be going in [laughs].”
“It’s been interesting finding out the ways to promote it in the midst of a pandemic because TV shows aren’t the same as they were. We’re not even able to be together that often. Lisa lives in Dubai. So that’s a challenge in itself because of all the travel restrictions.
“Zoom has been a very interesting addition to our repertoire,” Claire adds.
Like their album namesake and always looking to the future, Claire is adamant their rescheduled tour is still happening – with the group’s disdain of their past hits a thing of the past, thanks to some help from musical director and Kylie Minogue alum Steve Anderson.
“Before we did the reunion tour in 2012, we were always trying to find a way to not perform 5, 6 ,7 ,8. On one tour we had the dancers wear giant heads that looked like us. We had a cartoon video-interlude of the song on another, we had fan videos – every which way we possibly could to not do it.
“But on the last tour, we thought – let’s go hell for leather, full-on country western. We had saloon swing doors, barrels… I was wearing hot pants! It was absolutely brilliant.”
Steps’ new album What the Future Holds is available in stores and on streaming platforms now. Details on their upcoming UK tour can be found here.