Meet the band | Steppes.
Local to Michigan, indie/alternative band Steppes has stepped onto the scene with lyrics that have a honest take on life while flooding your speakers with joyful melodies that will have you singing in your car.
The band consists of three members.
Joshua Kemp- Guitar and Vocals
Caleb Doering- Guitar
While still in their infancy Steppes has released three singles including “Go (Starting over)” and “Rachel”and their newest single that was released August 31st “Marceline the Vampire” which is a high-energy rock anthem staring Marceline. “She is inspired, in part, by Pendleton Ward’s creation ‘Adventure Time’, the new song from Steppes features the name and characteristics of Marceline, a vampire in a post-apocalyptic world with a love for music”, as stated by Steppes officials.
Steppes has shared stages with national acts that include Bad Bad Hats and Soccer Mommy, as well as local Michigan legends Michigander, Joe Hertler, and Mike Mains, according to their official release. The band’s second single ‘Rachel’ has found radio success across several stations in the U.S. and has accumulated over 75,000 plays on Spotify.
Behind the lyrics
Who is Rachel?
Josh: “I get asked this question a LOT. She’s not my girlfriend, in fact, she’s not really anyone. Rachel is all about figuring yourself out. I’m a big fan of coming-of-age stories like ‘The Perks of being a Wallflower’, ‘Stand by me’, or even ‘Good Will Hunting’ (to some degree). To me, it’s such an interesting thing how the choices you make, the people you involve yourself with, and the way you respond to your situations end up shaping who you’ll be for the rest of your life. The song refers to those moments where you either choose to be something or are shaped, by your circumstances, into something different. (Neither one is necessarily bad by the way).”
Go (Starting Over)
Josh: “Go was the first song I wrote for the band. It’s a tribute to my experiences with the uncertain. I wrote it during my last semester of college. I was to graduate soon and I still had no idea what I wanted my life to look like (still figuring it out, to be honest). I remember feeling like the things I had spent so much time on weren’t going to make me happy. I felt stuck in a mundane routine. It’s still my favorite Steppes song to date. The chorus “I’m used to being down, I’m used to starting over” speaks to the comfort that is available in consistency, and the opportunity available in the midst of your failures.”
Q & A
Q: Where did you get your band name from and were there any others in the running?
It took us forever to name this thing. Most people think its an alternate spelling of “steps” but actually a “Steppe” is a geographical term for the large grasslands in Europe. It was a name Caleb suggested early on and it always stuck around.
There were a LOT of names in the running. Some of them were just funny; most of them were bad. We actually booked our very first show under the moniker “Capitol Bill” (a play on the schoolhouse rock short). We changed it to Steppes like 3 days after.
Q: How long have you all known each other and how did you meet?
Josh: Caleb and I went to high school together. He’s younger than I am so I didn’t see him as much, but I knew who he was. I met Austin through a church in Flint. We were both playing in the band together. He’s still the best drummer I’ve ever played with.
Austin: I’ve known the guys for probably 5 years now. I met both of them playing drums for a young adults event that happened every Sunday night in Flint.
Q: What inspired you to make music together?
Josh: For a long time I was writing and playing in other bands and I just really wanted to try doing my own thing for a while. So I started writing more singer/songwriter songs. I wasn’t on social media, I didn’t have any recordings, and I didn’t play a ton of shows. I got offered some really decent gigs that I knew would be well-attended so I asked Austin and Caleb if they’d be interested in helping me “beef up” my set-list. It went really well. I think there’s a chemistry from playing together so long and we all have similar musical inspirations so we decided to scrap the singer/songwriter stuff and write whatever we wanted. What we do now is much more collaborative.
Austin: This was mainly Josh’s doing. He had a solo gig lined up and asked me and Caleb help him out. After that, we played a couple more gigs together and things really jelled. The rest is history.
Caleb: We all had the same drive and want to be in a band and write music.
Q: What are/is the main theme behind your songs?
Josh: I want to write music that is fun, catchy, and memorable. They don’t always have to dig deep; I like writing those songs too, but I want to write something for every mood.
Austin: I always think of our music as bright, fun, and energetic.
Caleb: Teen angst.
Q: Where is your favorite venue that you’ve played so far?
MY favorite venue (so far) has got to be Hart Plaza
‘s Pyramid Stage in Detroit. The thing is designed kind of like a small coliseum with a stage in the center and seating rising up in front of it. Caleb and Austin both prefer the Pike Room in Pontiac. Which is also a great spot.
Q: Dream venue?
Josh: My dream venue is definitely Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. I’ve never seen a more beautiful place.
Austin: I’ve always loved the atmosphere of live theater shows. Growing up in Michigan, I’ve always thought it would be the coolest thing ever to play a show at The Fillmore theater in Detroit.
Q: Song currently paused on your spotify or iphone?
Q: Prince or MJ?
Josh: Michael Jackson
hands down. SO so so many good songs. There’s an MJ song for whatever mood you’re in.
Austin: Michael Jackson
hands down! MJ was one of the best (if not the best) performers in music.
. Without Nsync, we might never have had JT…
Q: Show you are looking forward to seeing this year?
Josh: Some friends of mine are playing a show with Hippo Campus in October. Definitely excited to see that one.
Austin: Not sure. I’d like to see Lettuce if they ever come to town.
Q: For the guitarists, obviously. Do you have a dream guitar? Are you brand loyal or did you pick them based on appearances or just went by cost?
Josh: Yes! For a long time I’ve had my eye on a Gretsch White Falcon. I’ve never owned a hollow-body and I’ve always wanted one. It’s about $4,000. Maybe one day.
Austin: I play drums haha
Caleb: No, I haven’t made it yet. I choose a guitar based off of a lot of factors like play-ability, pickups, wood quality, build quality, overall tone… if it beats the criticisms I have for the guitar, it’s worth buying. That being said, I play one I built myself.
Q: Aside from music, what are your other hobbies?
Josh: I’ve got a lot of these (mostly nerd-culture stuff). I’m a big movie guy and (I’m kinda nerdy about videography specifically). I like to read; I’m going through the Harry Potter series for the first time and I’m always talking about it. Sometimes I go disc golfing haha.
Austin: I’m a pretty active person. I like to get outside and do things as much as I can. I like to run, kayak, disc golf, hunt, and go to the gym. I also enjoy working on my latte art and enter random competitions in the local coffee scene.
Caleb: Video games, reading, fixing up instruments.
Q: What song do you enjoy playing the most?
Josh: This is a tough one. I think there are parts in all our songs where we mesh well, but there’s something exciting about playing new songs for me. That being said I think Marceline the Vampire is probably my favorite. It’s usually the first song in our set and there’s just something energizing about it.
Austin: Rachel is probably my favorite song we play live. I love the energy that it brings and it is usually the last song of our set. We also have a song we’ve been working on titled “Pride”. I’ve really enjoyed playing this one also. It’s been evolving over time into something special.
Caleb: Mine is “pride”.
Last but not least, What has been your craziest onstage experience?
Josh: “We all agree the craziest on-stage experience happened at a festival we played in Detroit. A great friend of ours was filling in on lead guitar and broke a string first song. You’re supposed to pack a back-up guitar for stuff like that, but the fest had very strict rules about how many cars we were allowed to bring, so we only brought what would fit into my Jeep Compass haha. He had to, basically, re-learn how to play all the songs with the strings he had available. On the spot. Honestly, he did an amazing job and we could not have been happier with the way that show went.
Bonus Answer: Craziest OFF-stage experience was having our money stolen at a show.
It’s the only time I’ve had to call the police and fill out a report.”
Be sure to keep an eye on these guys. They are definitely one to watch!