Until now my attempts to describe the sound of Two Steps on the Water have come short. There's a lot of unique and freaky country in the Melbourne band’s EP Having Pop Punk Feelings In A Country-Western Body, but I wouldn't define it by that.
The emotion that June, Sienna and Jonathan pack into their songs is so genuine and intense, that it's impossible to assign anything as trivial as a genre to them. This is music about regret and identity, and the clusterfuck that is gender.
The three-piece, who have been friends since high school and university, are appearing at the inaugural Rack Off!, a Melbourne festival that champions female dominated bands and supports the Victorian YWCA.
Front woman June Jones talked about song writing and the incredible importance of building a diverse musical community.
Noisey: On first listen your striking lyrics are the driving force behind many of these songs.
June Jones: Oh wow, that’s so nice. Usually I write the songs with my guitar nearby. Sienna, who plays violin in the band, is also a songwriter, and we realized that we both have this tendency to write chunky verse-laden ballady songs, but that those songs often aren’t as fun to play or listen to.
Most of the songs started as a whole bunch of verses written in a notepad or in my phone’s notes section. I guess there aren’t that many choruses on the EP, so even the bits that sound like choruses are just more verses.
I do a lot of sweaty bedroom improvisation, and I will often come up with a guitar part and a melody that I really like, chuck in some placeholder words, and then use the phrasing of those words and that melody as the bases for writing lyrics that actually mean something. But then sometimes I just write a bunch of lines first and then shop around for a guitar part that serves the words. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t really know what I’m doing.
You recorded the album at the Bank in Preston, a beautiful living and arts space. What was that like?
We recorded with our friend Liam Barton, who runs the Bank and has a little home studio there. We ate a lot of corn chips, hummus, and sandwiches, drank a lot of coffee, and smoked a lot of cigarettes, hoping that the combination would inevitably lead to us creating a beautiful work of art. Turns out we still had to play the songs and record all the parts.
How did you guys start playing together?
We started playing around 2014, working on some sad folk songs I’d been writing since getting back from a lengthy depressive solo trip overseas. We booked our first show worked on enough songs to play two sets. Jono was mostly playing drums, but also played some piano accordion. Sienna played a bit of violin, a bit of banjo, some electric guitar, and some bass. I hadn’t explored screaming my feelings yet. They were innocent times, really.
Recently, there’s been a push to get better representation for female, trans and non-binary artists within the mainstream (and local) music landscape. How important do you think this is?
If we want music to be interesting, innovative, relevant, honest, meaningful, radical, or beautiful, then the people making it cannot all be straight white middle class abled cis dudes. Why would you be opposed to wider representation? It means that we are exposed to a broader range of perspectives, that we empathize with more experiences different to our own, that these artists have access to the wider music scene, and that kids who might otherwise feel alienated from music (or any medium really) could see themselves reflected in the musicians and the songs. And those kids might pick up a tape recorder, or a musical saw, or an MPC, and start making amazing music themselves.
Wider representation is a great thing. Not just for non-men, but for anyone whose experience is de-prioritized in this effed society. It can be pretty exhausting being the one constantly mis-gendered trans girl with the two-day stubble and the blue tights, about to piss herself because she doesn’t feel comfortable using either the men’s or the women’s toilets. But I won’t get into that right now.
'Having Pop Punk Feelings In A Country-Western Body' is available now through Two Steps On The Water's Bandcamp.
Rack Off! Festival
March 5 – Melbourne at the Tote
Red Red Krovvy
All proceeds go to the Victorian YWCA housing facilities, which provides shelter, education and support for over 250 at-risk and marginalised women around Melbourne. Tickets are available here.