Perfect pop group Steps make their huge comeback with The GRANDSLAM 2018: Summer Of Steps Tour!
Bursting out during the latter years of the 90's, Steps quickly shot to fame and became a beloved household name known for their infectious dance-pop sound, colourful costumes and energetic dance routines. Their huge personality was matched only by their massive success, having sold an incredible 20 million records worldwide and their releases regularly reaching multiplatinum certification before shocking fans when they broke up in 2001.
Celebrating twenty years of their high energy music, Steps announced their return to centre stage with the release of a brand-new album ‘Tears on the Dancefloor’ which is one of the best selling British records of the year! It was promoted by the Party On The Dancefloor tour which they have just completed this winter.
The GRANDSLAM 2018: Summer Of Steps Tour will also feature support performances from Danish Eurodance group Aqua who were made infamous by their smash hit single ‘Barbie Girl’ plus British boyband Blue who have sold a staggering 40 million records worldwide.
The special guests add to the truly spectacular shows which promise to be some of the very biggest musical parties of 2018.
We caught up with Lee Latchford-Evans whilst out on the road for the Party On The Dancefloor Tour to talk life as a popstar, how the Steps has develop and all about the massive shows next year!
Hello Lee! How are you doing today?
Yeah, not too bad mate. All good. A bit of a manic one, but we’re getting there. How are you doing?
Yes, really good. Is it a mad one because of the press junket? Plus, you’re on tour of course!
Its full on. Its literally; wake up, have a bit of breakfast, get on the bus, get to the venue. We’ve all got loads of press junkets today as well as some video footage we’re filming for the DVD. Then you’ve got your meet & greets, you’ve got your soundchecks – there’s so much that goes on. So, literally from about 12:00 today we started and we probably won’t stop now till the show finishes tonight.
So, its full on! But its all good. Its all positive.
Have you been enjoying the ‘Party On The Dancefloor’ Tour so far? It sounds like you are incredibly busy – is there ever a point it gets too much?
No. Its funny, I was actually talking about this today because people were like “Oh it is too full on”. I think what takes it out of you a little bit is not the actual tour and the show itself but its all the bits you do beforehand. Because people don’t see what goes on backstage, they don’t see the crew working hard, they don’t see the travelling, they don’t see you doing the interviews like we’re doing now, they don’t see meet & greet, they don’t see you getting ready, your prepping, doing your voice warm ups, you do your sound checks, checking everything over and that’s all part of everyday. So, its quite a full-on day, it takes a little bit out of you and then you have the actual show.
But, to be fair, we’ve all done pantos. And pantos, you can be doing two – three shows a day. This, compared to that is nothing. So, in a weird way, as fun as panto is it actually prepares you for tours like this. I suppose stage school and college, which I went to, prepares you for the industry and for different levels of work. Its just beautiful that its our own tour, our own show, our own family and company, we’re in charge. We’ve got the control to make this work and luckily everyone is willing to work hard and make it the best it can be.
Awesome. Knowing that, it must be really satisfying knowing you have sold out absolutely every date on this current tour.
Yeah, it’s a weird one because obviously we look back twenty years ago when we started out. We are what we are; we’re Marmite – you either love us or hate us, let’s be honest. We’re unique in ourselves. We’ve done really well and then we come back on our twentieth anniversary thinking “Hmm. How do we do this? What do we do? What do we think the fans want? How do we fit in with today’s modern music world? Are going to sell shows? Are we even going to be able to sell a single never mind an album? What should it be like?”
And yeah, it’s been embraced. Its been phenomenal and fifteen arenas to then be turned into twenty-two arenas just says it all really so we’re so proud of what we’ve achieved but we’re thankful that we’ve been embraced and people seem to want us back.
You really should be proud of that. Also looking recently, ‘Tears On The Dancefloor’ has been certified Gold after hitting No. 2 in the Album Charts. You are really hitting your stride.
Yeah, I think we’ve got it right and this is the key thing. Our management, the writers, the producers, ourselves. We all know what it’s about, we’re all embracing it. We’re not trying to hide from anything. We’re not trying to pretend we’re something we’re not. We’re just going; “You know what, we’re pop. We’re fun pop but we’re clever pop. We’re quite talented. If we get some good writers in and if we get the right music and the right sound it should work.” And I think we just ticked the boxes at the right time in the right way and its nicely fell into place.
It’s not just us. It’s a big team that works around us very hard and its all just coming together really well. And like I said, its all being embraced and fortunately we’re out there again and doing really well in the charts.
I remember the first time I heard of Steps was seeing you on Top Of The Pop in 1997 performing ‘5, 6, 7, 8’. Was that your first TV appearance?
No. I think our very first TV appearance was outside on the docks and I can’t remember if it was a SKY show or if it was a This Morning or something like that. But it was definitely outside near the Thames. It was out very first TV show.
That was probably our first Top Of The Pops that you’re talking about. And I remember.. Ohh god, I think the girls were in some sort of leopard print coat and there was some sort of brown and cream theme going on with our costumes back then… and then we had the purple and a silvery look.
Top Of The Pops was phenomenal. I remember walking into that studio thinking “God. Isn’t it small?” (Laughs) The TV obviously makes everything look bigger and you walk in and you think “God there’s a stage there, a stage there, a stage here but its all cramped into this one little room. I thought it was massive!” But we loved doing it. Absolutely loved it.
‘5, 6, 7, 8’ and that song is bit country and techno. Where did the idea come for that sound?
What happened was, back in the day there was no real social media. There was no internet. There was no YouTubes and things like that. So very much you had contact with the industry, or people you knew or ‘The Stage’ newspaper was out then. We’d look for jobs that you wanted to get and I saw this audition.
I went along and the people auditioning were… at that time they had a line dancing club and they were noticing that line dance was being performed to pop music. So, it wasn’t just country and western and this sort of boring old fashioned [style]. They were dancing to Kylie. They were dancing to all the modern pop songs. So, I think they had this idea of maybe writing a line dance song but maybe having a band front it and that was the original audition for Steps. What happened then was we went one step further from there.
We then met Pete Waterman who called us “Abba on Speed” which was a famous quote that stuck with us for years. Because he just saw something in us and he was like; “ No. There’s more to us than this”.
So, we fugged up the ‘22.214.171.124’ like you say with the sort of techno’y edge and things like that. And then we thought; “Well, we’re doing line dancing, line dancing steps. Maybe we should call ourselves Steps” and actually carry on this – not line dance – but carry on this dance theme where we teach the audience maybe the chorus of what we do so we involve the audience into the show and they feel part of it and that’s where the Steps comes from, how it all started. The line dance basically got dropped after that and we became a pop band and that’s how it originated. Thank god we did because obviously our world has been opened and it hasn’t just been limited to the line dance world.
You were just saying there were fewer ways to discover work. Similarly, there were fewer ways to present yourself to the world before the internet went mainstream. Is it easier to reach your fans having a direct link through social media and a website you control now or back in the 90’s when most people were watching either BBC or ITV and listening to only a handful of radio stations?
I think you’re right. In a way, I’ve never looked at it like that. I think that there’s so much out there now that it can be a little bit too much and a little bit saturated. I think its great if you’re a new person who has got talent and you’re trying to get out there and get your talent seen then you’ve got all this media to hit to. You could have a million views in a week!
Back in the day we used to be travelling up and down the country doing magazines, photoshoots, trying to get on TV shows to try and get a million viewers in over a month or whatever. It would be hard work and it would be a slog but you built up your trade, you built up your talent, you built up your records and therefore you built up your fanbase.
Nowadays its more like an instant hit but the double edge sword is that it could be an instant failure. I think it depends how you look at it. Or you’ve got your X Factors that if you’ve got talent you’ve got an opportunity to go on but there’s also an opportunity to take the piss out of people that aren’t very talented which I don’t really agree with. So, it really does depend on how you look at it.
It’s definitely easier to access people nowadays than it was back then. But, I think, once you’ve accessed them its also what they’re looking for as well. If they’re into your style of thing maybe they’ll look for you, if they’re really not then it doesn’t matter because they’re never going to look for you are they? If they want their rock they’re not going to look for Steps. It depends how you view it really.
What I particularly find interesting with the current means through the internet is how it creates a relationship between an act and their fans which goes both ways. Did you see the Steps party which broke out in a car park after one of your concerts which went viral? It was nice to see the level of excitement you generate.
Yeah! I think that’s what we’re about. That’s what we’ve always been about. I’ve always said people leave their troubles and worries at the door when they enter a Steps concert. They come in and have two hours of fun, they can truly be themselves, they can let themselves go. Everybody’s there for the same reason and you all know what you’re going to get and obviously you carry that out when you leave.
And I believe on that occasion there was a bit of a queue, they were waiting for a while and someone started playing the music out of the car, other people joined in and before you know it it’s this free for all. It was filmed, the party carried on which is great to see. Why not? If you’re not hurting anybody – why not? Its great to see that and it just goes to show those fans have had a really nice time and they probably met some friends from it. People may become friends in the future because of us and that’s a nice thing to think as well.
There does seem to be a massive loyalty in your fans who have constantly pushed your albums high in the charts and still pack out each show. Do you think they have been the key to your longevity?
I think you’re right. Like I said, we are Marmite – you either loved us or were like; “What is going on here?” But over the years its changed. I think society has changed. If we’re really honest, you can look back twenty years ago and there is maybe a few people that loved us that were not able to say they loved us or [people] were lightly concerned if they said they loved us, afraid to say they loved us. Maybe had their own little demons they were dealing with.
Nowadays, society has changed so much a lot of people are free, people are out a but more, people are willing to speak their mind more and I think Steps is just there at the right time again for people to let themselves go and be literally who they truly want to be and that’s all we’ve ever done.
We’ve been in an industry where it was boys or girls. There weren’t any boy and girl bands about. ABBA had been and gone. Bucksfizz had their little moment. It was either really cool boy bands, girl bands or your rock bands. Then suddenly it was “Who are these five cheesy people coming on stage? I don’t really see what’s happening here”.
Then we fought against that. We worked really hard on our career. That’s what the fans have loved as well. Maybe we were different and [our] fans can relate to that. Years later, they’ve seen actually the success we’ve had. They do like the music. They do like the performance and its being embraced.
People now have children. They’re bring their children and we have a new generation of Steps fans coming through and its just phenomenal. I’m just happy people nowadays in this society are able say what they want to say, be what they want to be.
Looks like you are perfectly placed for the ‘Summer Of Steps Tour’ next year!
It’s something we never thought would happen. We weren’t sure about this tour – we weren’t sure about bringing out new music. Obviously, there were concerns and questions with it being twenty years later. We didn’t want to bring out zimmer frames or anything! (Laughs)
Having sold out this arena tour its led to this ‘Summer Of Steps’ and, oh my god, we’ve got Aqua and Blue that are special guests who are supporting us. We are the headline act over those two which is amazing in itself as well. We’ve got, I don’t know how many dates, maybe close to twenty dates over the summer which is brilliant. So, we’re really looking forward to that.
People can expect a great show. We’re going to bring our dancers. We’re going to bring our set. We’re going to bring the music. Obviously, it’s going to be slightly different from what we’re doing now otherwise that wouldn’t be fair. So, we’re going to put on a great show so hopefully people over the next summer will see us and love us even more!
What can we expect from the future of Steps?
We’re talking about the possibly looking at new music which I think we’d all like to do. We’ve obviously just talked about the ‘Summer Of Steps’ which is the first thing we need to concentrate on and get ourselves ready and primed for that.
And then I think, y’know, let’s see what happens from there. I can only imagine new music and I would like to say a new tour in the future like we’re doing now but that’s not really in the pipeline right now as we need to concentrate on next year and keep it going.
As long as the fans want us we’ll do our best to keep it happening!