This Saturday, indie-rock band Step Rockets will headline at Triple Rock Social Club in a concert primed to get the blood pumping and the hips moving as concertgoers dance to fan favorites like “Phantom Flower” and “Kisser,” in addition to experiencing the newest addition to the band’s catalog, “Money.”
While Saturday night will be an opportunity for attendees to escape winter and the nation’s toxic political landscape for a few hours, for Minneapolis-based Step Rockets, it’ll be time to formally usher in 2017 with a new track and a new aesthetic—a change prompted by the departure of Anthony Schulz, the band’s now-former bass player.
“Right now, we’ve been doing a three-piece thing,” Josh Von Mink, the band’s frontman and primary songwriter said. “It’s kind of opening up the band to collaborate with more people and kind of making it more of a collaboration and less of a traditional four-piece band.”
Rewind to 2016, which likely felt like a roller coaster ride from start to finish for Step Rockets, which now consists of Von Mink with drummer Johnny Syn and guitarist Brady Lillie. In the spring, they released Future Nature—their first EP—with a release party at First Avenue’s 7th St Entry. The show kicked off a tour to profile the band’s newest songs, while incorporating previously established favorites and a tasteful cover of Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight.”
In June, the band released its music video for “West Coast,” the breakout single from Future Nature, which was filmed in the 7th St Entry during the album-release show. In the fall, a video for “Chances” was unveiled and the group kept touring, this time making stops across the Pacific Northwest.
At the end of the long year filled with personal milestones and lots of road trips, Schulz left the group, and the roller coaster car they were in descended down the track and into the depths of winter. “It’s tough right now because we just lost a band member. Our bass player quit at the end of the year, so it was kind of a rough year. But a lot of good things happened, too. We toured quite a bit,” Von Mink said. “We got to tour the entire west coast.”
Fast forward to 2017. A band that’s known for experimenting—and mixing psychedelic rock with upbeat melodies, new wave, and indie pop—Step Rockets has re-emerged with a new look and a new track, “Money,” which is available as a free download this week from Go 96.3. “It’s been a period of rediscovery for us and we’ve had a lot of fun doing it. It kind of made everything fresh again,” Von Mink said.
To help usher in the new year for Step Rockets, the group’s gotten a lot of attention in the media. “We got some really great radio support on the album. The Current’s been playing our stuff—and Go 96.3—and we’ve had a really good radio campaign both nationally and on college radio. It’s kind of been a mixed bag,” Von Mink said.
The origin of “Money” rests in the band’s recent batch of road trips—and to an extent, the nation’s current political climate. “One day I was just getting really frustrated about money. There’s a lot going on in the country right now—obviously—and a lot of money is underlying these problems,” Von Mink said. “When we got to tour the country last year, we saw there are some really amazing cities—but in between there’s a lot of poverty in this country. There’s a dark side to this country and there’s a lot of people struggling.”
For Von Mink, working on the lyrics for “Money” came from a place inside him where he struggles with aspects of society that are focused on material possessions. “Sometimes you’ve got to remind yourself money isn’t the most important thing. There’s so much more to life than having things, material possessions,” Von Mink said. “It’s kind of disgusting to me in a lot of ways. One day I just wanted to let that out. It felt really good because we write a lot of love songs.”
“It was nice to stretch out a little bit and get a little angry about something,” he added.
Joining Step Rockets at the Triple Rock Saturday night will be supporting acts Fort Wilson Riot and Denny. Once Von Mink, Syn, and Lillie take the stage, their sound will be familiar but there will be some noticeable changes for those familiar with the group.
“I’m going to be doing a lot of multi-instrumentalist action. I’m going to be playing bass, and guitar, and synthesizer things,” Von Mink said. “It’ll be kind of a different show. It’ll be the same songs but it’ll be a slightly different feel with a three-piece. We have a horn section that we’re rehearsing for our Triple Rock Show, so it’ll be fun. We also have some special guests that night, so we’re excited to play with some new people.”
Before coming home to Minneapolis this weekend, the band will have played shows in Fargo and Eau Claire. While Saturday’s show is the last one scheduled until June, the band anticipates making great treks during this dynamic time, with more new music on the way, and more live shows to be added to the schedule.
“We have a couple of songs that we’re wrapping up right now, so the plan is to keep releasing music this year. We may do another single,” Von Mink said. “We have a great collection of tunes that we’re going to keep releasing and just keep making art and playing music.”