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Step Rockets blast past the 'assholes' in pursuit of pop-rock gold

Step by step, Step Rockets are rocketing to the top of the pops.

Step by step, Step Rockets are rocketing to the top of the pops.

Step Rockets found the national spotlight in 2013 with their first single, "Kisser," which hit 1 million plays on Spotify. So how do you follow that? Well, you tour the country and come back with another bunch of catchy indie-pop songs. Easy. 

Armed with their next record, Future Nature, the quartet of Josh Von Mink, Brady Lillie, Johnny Syn, and Anthony Schulz will celebrate Saturday at 7th St. Entry. The EP, made in collaboration with long-time producer Lance Conrad, grabs your ears as easily as any of their deliciously golden-fried pop songs that preceded it.

Step Rockets chatted with CP about their grooving, shimmering, dance-floor-ready tunes — plus the few "assholes" you meet in the music trenches — ahead of Saturday's release party. 

City Pages: Tell me what you guys have been up to since we last spoke.

Brady Lillie: We’ve kept very busy. Extravagance and frugality ranging from tour buses, CMJ chaos, Taco Bell gift cards, and two weddings in the band over the summer.

Josh Von Mink: Yeah, when we finished tour with K. Flay, we did a quick run out in California, then spent the rest of the year in the studio writing and perfecting the songs for this EP and beyond.

CP: How do you think your last album fared? Did it do as well as you had hoped it would?

BL: Yes! We had unreleased songs and remixes that we wanted to get out to our fans and felt that a mixtape was the best vessel in which to present the material. Before the mixtape we released a single called “Turning Tides (By Your Side).”

JVM: "Turning Tides" was synched to a Michelob Golden Draft commercial which was a experience in itself. We’d be sitting at home and friends would call us up watching a Vikings games or some other event and say “I just heard your song!” It also helped us pay for the weddings.

CP: You guys have gained some national success since your first album. Who do you think you've met in the last few years that have changed your views on music?

BL: Before we released “Kisser,” Josh and I met [89.3 the Current music director] David Safar. He said, “be prepared for everything to happen but don’t expect anything,” This really sank in after the fact.

We never expected “Kisser” to do what it did and didn’t have the team and resources we needed to navigate the industry like we do now. It has been a phantasmagoria to be in high-rise Manhattan condos and gorgeous Burbank studios speaking with people you read about in music business.

JVM: At the end of the day people are people. We have met a ton of wonderful people and a few assholes along the way. Everyone has an opinion about what they think you should do with your music, but no one really knows what will work.

So, we take things with a grain of salt, work hard, make compromises and feel grateful we’re able to put music into the world that people connect with.

CP: When did you start writing for this EP? How did it come together?

JVM: This EP is a mixture of a few of the singles we released over the last few years as well as some new material. When “Kisser” went viral we were still finding our sound. It was only the second song we had released together, so we wanted to take the time to do things right instead of rushing into a release.

CP: Did you guys work with producer Lance Conrad again?  

BL: Yes, we have been working with Lance at Humans Win! Studio in northeast Minneapolis and have become close friends over the course of the record.

We continue to work with him, because he is one of the best in town, and he gets our vision for the music. He has a super creative and fun personality as well as masterful engineering and production skills.

JVM: We needed Lance’s help to find our sound because he is great at distilling all of our crazy ideas into a more coherent and powerful version of what we are doing on our own.

CP: Tell me about the song "West Coast." How did you come to write it?

BL: "West Coast" was a largely collaborative song within the band. I had originally titled the song "Rhodes," and Josh came back with lyrical concept of taking the high road, and the whole group took it from there.

We spent a lot of time kneading, twisting and rearranging the parts of the song, and I think it came out as great pop rocker. The Eastern inspired sounds and the lap steel ended up meshing well with our friend, Spearfisher, who played some great synth lines on the track.

JVM: We ended up having Mark Needham [Imagine Dragons, the Killers] do a mix for the song. He recently killed a mix for my brother Cobi, and we had to take the opportunity to work with the man behind some of the most popular songs on the radio.

CP: Any other songs on this album that stand out to you?

BL: We’ve been living and working with these songs for a while so each of them has their own character and are all different worlds orbiting same star. But live, I love playing “Love Is Just A Chemical.” It has been going over well on tour, has some fun guitar solos and an overall cool vibe. That one has been fun!

CP: What's your goal with this EP?

BL: With this EP we are trying to reach as many new people as possible while giving our current fans some new material to dig into. It feels good to finally get a body of work out into the public arena. It is going to be a lot of fun touring this summer promoting the album and playing new markets around the United States.

JVM: We are also really looking forward to releasing more music in the near future. We have been writing a ton of songs and we have some really fun new material that we’ve been perfecting in the studio.

CP: What are you excited to share at the album release show?

BL: There is something incredibly special about playing our hometown and partying down with friends and family. 7th St. Entry will be the last stop on this tour.

Delivering our EP to Minneapolis is something we’ve been wanting to do since we started this band, and we are ecstatic to manifest it. We have some new songs that we’ll be playing and it is going to be a night of great music, excellent people, neon lights and packed dance floor. 

JVM: We are gonna cut loose! We are so humbled by all the love and support and we are excited to share this fleeting moment in time.

Step Rockets

With: DENNY and Graveyard Club.

Where: 7th Street Entry.

When: 8 p.m. Sat., April 16.

Tickets: $10-$12; more info here.