Steps kept us pop fans going during the pandemic with the release of not one but two new albums – ‘What The Future Holds‘ and ‘What The Future Holds Pt. 2‘.
The pop icons also hit the road for their ‘What The Future Holds Tour‘, battling hurdles thrown their way by COVID but still managing to put on the pop show of the year. 2022 marks the band’s 25th anniversary and today they have announced that they will be releasing new greatest hits collection ‘The Platinum Collection’.
I caught up with Claire Richards and Lee Latchford Evans to find out more about the release, discuss the band’s upcoming summer dates and to discuss their new live DVD/Blu-ray and album…
We have to start by talking about just how well you guys did pulling off the ‘What The Future Holds Tour’ last year, against all odds and with plenty of hurdles. I came along in Manchester and it was a brilliant show!
Claire: Yeah, I think we’ve all said it was a mixed bag. It was amazing to be there doing it and we made the decision to bring dancers in. A lot of people that went on tour at the same time they just didn’t have anything. They got rid of all those extra people but we decided to bring the dancers and we had quite a big crew. It was quite an ambitious show, I would say for the time. It was amazing to be doing it but stressful. I think the worry didn’t ever go away the whole way through, and then obviously the hurdles that just kept hitting us along the way with Faye getting COVID and having to reorganize the whole show. Then getting Faye back and Lee going, and reorganizing it all again. Cancelling the last two (shows) was gutting. I think we did well and I’m think we’re glad we did it. It was an experience. Maybe not one that I’d like to repeat, but it was good (laughs).
Lee: (laughs) The one thing coming out of that for me, and I think Claire will agree, when we first Faye we were all really, really nervous about what was going to happen, how do we do it, how do we work it, who sings what, how do we stage it? Then it was more like, ‘are the fans going to actually accept this?’ because people buy to see Steps and Steps is obviously a five. I’ll always remember the audience in Leeds when we do our meet and greets, and they all started walking in, we actually sat down and explained the situation. There was a lot of love in that room and it made us get into it more. It lifted us because we really needed it. I’ll be honest, from a personal point of view, I thought, ‘are we doing the right thing?’ and then it hit me that we were doing the right thing, because the fans really wanted it. They were just supporting us no matter what. They were like the fifth member that was missing. It was quite emotional actually. It was quite a strong experience to have. I remember it hit me I was just like, ‘wow, this is unbelievable’. It goes to show the support that we really do have for Steps. It’s incredible.
You’ve just announced the release of ‘The Platinum Collection’ in August. What’s that all about and why did you decide to put it out this year?
Claire: It’s our 25th anniversary. I know 25 is silver but we’re elevating it! It would have felt a waste if we hadn’t done something this year. Originally when the tour should have been and when ‘What The Future Holds’ would have been released we would have had a little gap, but just because of the way things went with COVID it’s kind of all bled into each other. It’s for the 25th anniversary to celebrate it. We really feel it is such a milestone for us; the kind of band we are and the kind of music that we do. To still be here, we’ve released three new albums since the last Greatest Hits came out, so it’s not just rehashing the same Greatest Hits album. We’ve got something more to offer now and we’re proud of it.
There are a couple of new tracks nestled on the album. ‘Hard 2 Forget’ is going to be the next single. Can fans expect another Steps banger?
Lee: Yeah, I think so. What I like about ‘Hard 2 Forget’ is that it takes me back to ‘Neon Blue’ where you really start to see everybody take a little bit of a lead and step forward, and then the band sound comes together. I think ‘Hard 2 Forget’ does that all over again. It has a nice fun… I want to say stripped-back video, something different that we’ve never done before (laughs). We’ve got a few people in there, one person in particular is not stripped back at all (laughs) you’ll know that when you see the video.
Claire hit the nail on the head earlier, we’re not just rehashing what we were, we’ve stepped forward and we’ve got new songs now. Going back a few years, we’ve got this new Fascination Management company that have really grabbed the bull by the horns and took us forward to a new level as well. It’s like a whole new lease of life. I think that’s the great thing with Steps and why we’re still here and why the fans still want it. You’ve got all the old, you’re getting the new, and we’re holding our own with the music of today, which is great. You can see all that with ‘Hard 2 Forget’. It’s definitely the newer Steps coming through, which is great.
As a lifelong Steps fans, I’m loving the momentum you have right now. It feels that you can do whatever you want to at this stage and that must feel fantastic?
Claire: Yeah, it’s nice to know that we’ve still got got room to grow. We’ve got such a great team who are so passionate about Steps and as passionate about it as we are. I think that is half the battle a lot of the time because some people just don’t get it, they just don’t get Steps. If you work with Steps, you’ve got to be in it, you’ve got to just get it and not everybody does. We have a team now that is so in it and is so immersed in what we are and how we like to present ourselves, how we put the shows together and it’s really an amazing collaborative team. As long as they’re with us and behind us, it just gives us the opportunities to keep exploring new avenues and new adventures. We’re still doing things that are new to us after all these years.
You’ve been slowly releasing HD versions of classic Steps videos and HD versions of old TV performances. That must have been fun to dig into the vaults and do?
Lee: It’s hard to remember what we’ve done! (laughs)
Claire: It’s like your life flashing before your eyes (laughs) Oh God, how young we look.
Lee: (It’s like) ‘oh, yeah, we did do that. I can’t remember that. Oh my God we did that as well!’ There probably isn’t anything we didn’t do back in the day. I think we covered most of the TV shows that were around back then. We traveled all over the world at some point. There’s so much we did do that you forget and it’s lovely to see. Even some of the fan sites where they just throw out these videos and things, it is nostalgia for us, not just the fans. We just look like babies (laughs) and we are so young. It’s unbelievable. I love it. I think it’s great. It’s a lovely thing to have.
It’s funny you mention that you don’t always remember what you’ve done because the first time around, your schedule was so hectic. You must be finding all kinds of things you’ve no recollection of doing?
Claire: Maybe not videos, I remember all of those, but there are 100% TV performances where I’ve watched them on a screen and it’s me in it, or us in it, and I have got absolutely no memory of doing it or being there at that place at that time. It’s so weird. There’s one in particular that I remember seeing and for some reason it was just me, Faye and Lisa doing ‘Tragedy’. We’re on this big set and there’s people rollerskating around us. You would think you would remember that but I have no clue when we did it (laughs) or what it was for. I think it’s on YouTube. It’s the weirdest thing and I don’t remember doing it but we are very clearly there.
This summer you’ve got a series of huge outdoor shows in the calendar. How are you feeling ahead of those?
Lee: It’s gonna be great just to get back out there and perform. Yes, there is still a risk and COVID is hanging around but less of a risk, with it being outdoor. It’s not as intense and we’re not with each other for like two months solid. There’s going to be days off and there’s going to be gaps in between. We’re gonna get to see our families, which we didn’t get to see on the last tour. I think it’s just going to be quite nice. It’s quite spread out. We’ve got something to look forward to and we’ve got our own lives to go back to. We love to perform so I think for us as Steps members it’s going to be really, really good summer actually.
Also coming up this year you have the ‘What The Future Holds Tour’ DVD, Blu-ray and CD releases. I understand you had to do a bit of trickery to have all five of you appearing on stage…
Lee: Yeah. For me personally, it’s quite a hard watch, because obviously I was ill when it was filmed. They’ve been amazing in the sense of somehow creating parts where I am there, which is great, and obviously there’s bits where I’m not there. It’s going to be great for the fans. There’s a lot more than just the show on that DVD as well. There’s some other bits that fans can watch and pick and choose from. It’s just going to be really exciting.
Claire: The intention was always to do a live recording of the show and to have the DVD. Originally we were meant to film it at The O2 on the Friday but because Faye wasn’t back we quickly moved it to the Saturday thinking that all five of us would be there. Then Lee was struck down with COVID and the decision was, ‘what do we do? Do we just go ahead and film it anyway? Or do we scrap it?’ At this point, production had already started so we did it. They were confident that they could edit a version together where Lee could be in it. If it was me that wasn’t there, I think it would be a different story, but for me when I watched it I couldn’t actually believe how well they integrated Lee into it considering he wasn’t at that show.
There’s key moments where he needs to be there and he’s there. It was magic. I tried to watch it from an audience member’s point of view, and I honestly don’t think it will feel like Lee was not there at all. It very much felt to me like Lee was part of the show. Even if one of us is missing, we’re always still very much part of the show. Like Lee said, there are other parts to the DVD, a lot of which will explain what happened. It was important for us to plow ahead with it because it was it was an experience I hope to God none of us will ever have to have again. It’s documented a really difficult period in everybody’s lives.
Lee: It was a historical moment.
Claire: (We were) trying to get music and live performance and entertainment back up and running, and back on the road because I feel like it really is an industry that has been hit really hard. I think because of the ‘lightheartedness’ of entertainment as it were it was a bit forgotten to a certain degree and it’s a bit like, ‘oh well, they’ll be alright’. There are certain people (that will be fine). Ed Sheeran is fine, and Adele will be fine, and they’re always going to sell 1000s and 1000s of tickets. As it filters down, entertainment and music took a really massive hit, and we’re still recovering. For us to do it, and even to show the warts and all parts of it, was really important for us to do and let people know it’s not always fun in Steps world (laughs).
Do you have any more surprises up your sleeve for this year?
Lee: I don’t know if we’ve got any more surprises unless they want to come and see me in panto at the end of the year? (laughs)
Claire; I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. ‘The Platinum Collection’ is exciting and everyone knows about the DVD already. The megamix (launches today). We’ll see if we come up with anything else. You’ll be the first to know.
You know, the fans are still holding out for a vinyl release of the original Steps studio albums don’t you?
Claire: Are they? We never had vinyls back then, no one wanted it. The first three albums?
Yeah, you’ve got the anniversaries coming up with all three haven’t you?
Lee: Management, get on the case!
Steps will release ‘The Platinum Collection’ on 19th August 2022. Watch the new Steps megamix below: