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By: Matt T.A. Smith

Ahead of their slot supporting stoner rock legend John Garcia at Manchester’s Academy 3 in December, I got the opportunity to chat with vocalist Kippa, guitarist Reece, and bassist Cam from Steak. Making waves within the desert rock scene following the release of their first full-length record, 2014’s Slab City, the ambitious Londoners talked to me about recording with Garcia in California’s Palm Springs, working with a South American comic book artist, and about one particular French fan of theirs with a penchant for wearing a pig mask…

(((o))): Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to me, and congratulations on the release of your debut album. How do you feel the response to this record has compared to the very positive comments that were made towards your first two EPs?

Kippa: Thank you very much.

Reece: The pressure was on this one a little bit more. I think that when you release an EP, there’s no pressure really.

Cam: No expectation is there. I suppose with this one there’s more expectation, so a bit more pressure.

Kippa: With the first EP, as we say, we weren’t expecting anything. It was just like throwing a demo out there, but the response was really positive, so we were quite shocked. Then the follow up EP again was getting really positive reviews. The way it had gone with those, your expectation levels go up a little bit I suppose, so when you do when you do get a couple of negative reviews it’s like “Fuck, it’s a shit album!”, but actually, on the whole, it’s been good. There haven’t been that many bad reviews of it.

Reece: The only thing is that because we went out to Palm Springs and we had Garcia on the album, it’s obvious that there are going to be comparisons to Kyuss, which is fine, but I don’t think there’s as close a comparison as some reviews have said.

Kippa: Yeah, [some reviews are written] almost as though we’re a Kyuss cover band or something.

Reece: It’s just too easy to say that.

(((o))): I think that’s a criticism that gets levelled at a lot of stoner rock bands.

Reece: Yeah, it’s a bit lazy.

Kippa: It is lazy, it’s like “Oh it’s a stoner rock band; let’s mention Kyuss”. And yeah, we’ve got that sound for sure, so now I almost expect reviews to do that.

Cam: We used to be like Kyuss on speed back in the early days, now we’re more like Kyuss on ketamine! (Laughs)

Reece: Really, though, for us, it’s not a bad band to be compared to.

Kippa: Yeah, it’s a compliment really, but it just seems like in every review you read there’s a mention of it.

Cam: I sense we’re getting quite irritating. (Laughs)

Reece: Overall though, the response has been really good. It’s our debut album and, really, we’ve had a lot of compliments about it, and we’re really happy with it as well. And the experience of going and doing it was just one big holiday! So yeah, it’s always important for us that…

Cam: …we get to go on holiday? (Laughs)

Kippa: That we get to enjoy the recording process! Rather than doing it because you’ve got to do it, it was like “No, we want to go and enjoy it!”

Reece: The worst thing that could have happened was that we came away with a really shit album but had a really good holiday! (Laughs)

(((o))): How does the new record follow on conceptually from your first two EPs? One song from each of the EPs appears again on the album, and it seems as though there’s a pretty strong theme that you’re trying to carry through.

Reece: We definitely wanted to take two of the best songs, one from each EP, and put them on the album, just because so many more people will hear the album. And it saved us from coming up with two new songs! (Laughs) The artwork and stuff like that all carries on so yeah, it’s definitely something that we wanted to do.

Kippa: Yeah, obviously the theme of the comic runs throughout the EPs and the album. We wanted to join it all up.

Cam: But it’s been quite a natural process as well; it doesn’t feel as though it’s been too planned where the music’s concerned. Something like the artwork you can plan a little bit ahead, but the music has progressed quite naturally.

(((o))): Considering that you’re from London, you seem to have integrated yourselves within the Californian desert rock scene very comfortably; Slab City was produced by Harper Hug who’s worked on Vista Chino and John Garcia’s recent albums, and John Garcia himself makes a guest appearance on ‘Pisser’; how did your involvement with that scene come about?

Cam: John Garcia just called us up and said “I really want to work with you.” (Laughs)

(((o))): (Laughs) I suspect that you’re not quite telling the truth there…

Kippa: Well Reece met Harper first of all, didn’t you?

Reece: Yeah, we worked with Harper at Desert Fest so I met him there, and [Palm Springs] just seemed like the perfect place to go and do it. When he heard the demos, he was really impressed by them and sent them to John; it was Harper who really brought it together. It was pretty mad when John turned up.

Kippa: ‘Cause he’d sort of hinted that John might be up for putting down a vocal on one of the tracks before we went out there, so I kind of earmarked a song in case that did happen.

Cam: I can’t imagine him singing on any other song, can you?

Kippa: No, no. We kind of didn’t think it was going to happen, but then we got out there, he turned up at the studio on the third day, something like that.

Reece: And then he came back again two or three days later.

Kippa: He had a listen to the track, he was into it, and then spoke to me about the lyrics and I said “Look, there’s a space in the song, just go and do what you want with it”. So he took it away, and then came back like four or five days later and laid it down. We were all in the studio like “Fuck! This is actually happening!”

Reece: We were giggling like school girls.

Kippa: And then afterwards we all had a few beers, cracked open the barbeque and sat around drinking, so it was a bit surreal.

Reece: It was a good day!

Kippa: It was a good day in Steak history!

Reece: It was a good day in my life!

(((o))): Have you managed to persuade Garcia to sing on stage with you yet?

Kippa: No, but we’re hoping that he’ll do it in London in a couple of days’ time.

Reece: If that does happen, that’s gonna be another moment where we go “Fucking hell! How did this happen?!”

Kippa: Yeah, that’s gonna be even weirder!

Reece: When did we release Disastronaught? Three years ago? Back then, there was never any idea that we’d even be doing half the stuff that we are.

Kippa: If someone would’ve told us that we were gonna be signed, recording an album in Palm Springs with John Garcia on one of the tracks, we would’ve told them to fuck off! (Laughs)

Cam: Yeah, we were happy playing the Dog And Duck in Deptford!

Reece: Exactly!

(((o))): How much impact do you think the physical surroundings of a band influences its music? Initially, the desert rock scene was a direct creative response to the sparseness of the Californian desert and the psychedelic experiences that it can evoke, whereas a city like London typically elicits a very different style of musical output.

Reece: I definitely think that there’s more of a punk edge to us than a lot of the Californian bands. Definitely more of a gritty, aggressive side to us. But I think that’s a true reflection of the combination of our influences and where we’re from.

Kippa: If you’re from California, you don’t have a care in the world!

Reece: When we recorded out there, you acclimatise to this much more chilled-out way of life; everything’s in half-time. After a few days of being out there, you’re on a totally different timeframe.

Kippa: At times, we were like “Is this the sort of album we want to record out here? It doesn’t fit quite right”, but it turned out pretty good!

(((o))): Going back to the artwork, Slab City once again features artwork by Eduardo Ferigato; what is the story behind coming to work with him and the concepts for the three covers that he’s now produced for the band?

Reece: It evolved from an initial idea for the artwork for Disastronaught, our first EP. There was no set plan to have an ongoing story, because we didn’t know if the EP would be our first and last, but we just liked the idea of doing it, and getting a proper comic book artist involved.

Cam: And it saved us from having to have pictures of ourselves on the covers! I can have a bit more hair and be a bit skinnier! (Laughs)

Reece: We got in contact with him via an agent who deals with comic book artists from South America, and it’s been really cool because as we’ve developed and got signed, he’s become more and more involved because he can see that there are not many bands… actually, are there any bands that have done this sort of thing?

Kippa: A comic? Yeah, Coheed and Cambria, remember them? They did a comic kind of thing.

Reece: But yeah, there were never really any set plans, but as things have happened for us, it’s been nice to progress that theme. There is a story and we do want to release it as a paper comic at some point as well that links all the albums together and shows the full story.

(((o))): You’ve been supporting John Garcia since the start of November and the tour is not far off coming to an end now; how do you feel as though the shows in Europe have gone so far?

Reece: Well we’ve aged about ten years; we’ve been drinking every night! (Laughs)

Kippa: We didn’t take our own sound guy with us like the other two bands did, so we were at the mercy of the house engineers, which was a bit of a lottery sometimes. But other than some small sound issues, we’ve had a really good time.

Cam: Germany was the highlight I think, or for myself anyway; the crowds seemed to be a bit more into it.

Reece: It’s been interesting seeing the reactions from all the different countries, with them culturally doing things slightly differently. In some places, you might not get a great reaction when you’re playing, and you think “Ah fuck, did they like it?”, but then you’ll sell a shedload of merch. And then other places, everyone will be coming up saying “That was so good!”, but you only sell half the amount of merch. It doesn’t always add up.

Cam: It was funny coming back to play Southampton last night and realising what English audiences are actually like.

Reece: Yeah, quite reserved… judgmental. They don’t like to give too much away.

Cam: They like to stand off to the side.

Kippa: Yeah, and back a bit as well!

Reece: I definitely feel that being a British band and playing only in England is harder. We’re actually building more of a fanbase outside of the UK, I think. When you come back [to other countries], people say “Oh, it’s that band that did really well supporting John Garcia”, but if you’ve only played the UK then you’re just “that UK band”. It’s a totally different thing.

(((o))): What’s next for Steak after the current tour?

Reece: Onto the next holiday! (Laughs) We’ll probably do a few dates in France in April; we’ve got a really good fanbase in France, and especially Paris. In fact, I think that was the best show of the tour, Paris just went off! There’s a lot of people who know us and know the songs, so it’s nice to go back.

Kippa: There’s a dude who always turns up with a pig’s face on.

Cam: Oh, did he turn up again?

Kippa: He was there, but he didn’t have his pig’s head on.

Cam: How did you recognise him?

Kippa: I asked where the dude with the pig’s head was, and everyone was like “Oh, it’s him!” (Laughs) I think at the start of next year we’re going to start working on new material, because we’re sick of these songs now. (Laughs)

Cam: They get about a three-month lifespan and then they’re out the door!

Kippa: Yeah, people are like “How come you don’t play ‘The Butcher’ anymore?”, and it’s like “Oh, Reece is bored of it”.

Reece: Once they’ve gone, they’re dead to me. (Laughs) But the time it takes to come up with ten or eleven songs that you feel are good enough for an album… it just takes ages developing. The stuff that we do is quite straightforward, but to get it how you want it is not that easy, so we probably do need to start thinking about the new album really.

Kippa: There isn’t a set date when the label wants us to get the next album out yet though.

Cam: There’s a working title though, isn’t there? Loud and Damp. (Laughs)

(((o))): Echoes and Dust’s writers are currently voting on their records of the year for 2014; other than your own, what albums from this past year would you recommend?

Reece: I really like Brant [Bjork]’s new one. Seeing him live with his new band; he’s got a lot heavier. And obviously John Garcia.

Kippa: Yeah, that’s a wicked album. That really is a good album.

Reece: And actually seeing it live…

Cam: …the songs come to life more so than on the album.

Reece: What about you, Cam?

Cam: Well I don’t really listen to music so… Oasis? (Laughs) I tend to go backwards rather than buy anything contemporary, so there’s nothing that came out this year really…

Kippa: Fu Manchu’s Gigantoid was wicked, and, again, came to life when I saw them live at Desert Fest. I’d listened to the album a couple of times before and was like “Yeah; solid Fu Manchu album”, but I listened to it live, then went back to the album and was like “This is wicked”.

Reece: Lo-Pan as well; that’s my new favourite band. They released an album this year called Colossus, which was really good. They are worth checking out, definitely.

(((o))): Well that’s it, thanks very much!

Reece: No problem, thank you!

Kippa: I always get stuck on ‘album of the year’ questions…

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