A Conversation with STEVE JR




Last month STEVE JR played a sold-out show in Montreal with their forefathers Cousins of Reggae and Tonstartssbandht. All three bands share a common thread in their amazing ability to explore everything that is possible with their seemingly straightforward two-man setup. Everyone is friends and inspires each other, it’s beautiful. Corbin’s older brother was at this show and  looked  completely blown away after watching his little bro up on stage. The last time he had seen STEVE JR was a couple years ago at a laid- back afternoon show at (now defunct DIY space) La Brique in the days when STEVE JR was a one-man operation – Corbin singing with a drum machine. It would always put a smile on my face to lay in bed and hear Corbin’s voice, raw and unfiltered, coming through the walls of our apartment as he practiced late at night. When Gleb joined the project a short while later, STEVE JR was reincarnated, and the spirit of the project has only grown stronger since. It’s been a pleasure to see these guys develop so naturally and peacefully. It’s a project of passion and love and it shows. They just released their first-ever tape on Water Records. Corbin plays guitar and Gleb plays drums. They both sing too. I asked them about some things that I was curious about:

What is a super recent musical influence on you?

Corbin: I am very fortunate these days to be hosting a weekly radio show on CKUT. They have a huge library at the station and I find myself there 2 hours before each show going through the massive catalogue of records. I’ve had the chance to revisit a lot of albums, but what is really fun is finding stuff I didn’t know existed in some bands’ catalogues. It’s always inspiring when I listen to music from a catalogue I thought I knew front to back – So recently I’ve been getting re-influenced by Blue Oyster Cult, ELO, Canned Heat, and Cousins of Reggae.

Gleb: I haven’t really got any new music recently, just new releases by old favourites. New Tonstartssbandht album Overseas and the last White Suns album Totem have been on heavy rotation. Both bands are fucking awesome.

What do you say to yourself if you catch yourself in a weird/bad mood and want to turn it around? What kind of thoughts bring peace and happiness to your mind?

Gleb: If it’s because of something specific, I try to fix whatever the problem is, but if it’s just anxiety or loneliness or whatever, I kind of let it wash over me and am comforted that I’m alive and that I’m feeling that emotion. Kind of corny, but really, that shit will be around your entire life and you should embrace it, otherwise your negative emotions will drag you down, or you’ll die trying to make them disappear. People get sad for no reason and sometimes it can’t be fixed and it’s totally fine. Also a lot of good thinking gets done when you’re not in a great mood. There are also times when I’m bummed and I tell myself, “I’d like some beer” and then I drink some beer.

Corbin: If I am in a shit mood it is almost always a result of feeling unproductive or stagnant in some way. If I start working on music or art I immediately forget about feeling sad/weird/bad and enter a peaceful place. My relationship with my projects directly influences the little world in my head, it is very important for me to have them on my mind and in my hands all the time. What messes with me is letting things drift away – but this can help me sort through certain things. If things become and remain distant, it’s a good indication that I should focus on a different idea. This happens a lot with song writing. I suppose my happy thoughts are thoughts about my creative projects.


You guys often play very physical, almost exhausting music – especially Gleb who is really jammin’ around back there playing the drums. What does it feel like immediately after you finish a very intense, fun show?

Gleb: I’ve noticed recently that a lot of bands that play intense shows can have these funny, self indulgent, fast paced conversations right after they play, sort of like conversations people have on speed or coke. That really speaks to how playing music is definitely a kind of high; you disconnect from space and time, lose track of yourself, but also still tap into your energy and the energy of those around you. Right after a set is nice because you’re at the top of that high, in a way, and also yeah drumming hard just feels good.

Corbin: When the show is over, I look to Gleb and we give each other a hug and a kiss. It feels nice.

I’m really curious about how personal growth and learning in other areas of life can affect one’s creative output – can you guys recognize any specific changes in your life or certain moments (social, familial, personal, etc) that you find yourself drawing upon or remembering when it comes time to make or play music?

Corbin: I have been confronting my own mortality for a while now. It was something I didn’t think about for a long time, now I think and reflect on it constantly. It was stressful at first, almost like being a hypochondriac, but now the thoughts lead me to a relaxing and productive place. I think about experiences past and present in a totally different way. Lately when I write music, it’s written from a place where I can’t fix or affect things, kind of like a little ghost man. Would I agree or disagree with how I am acting or acted in a certain situation, what would I do if I was dead and couldn’t change anything about my life? It’s good for me to examine things in this way – if you are being a prick but you know that you can make it up to the universe somewhere along the way, it changes how you live your day to day life.  As far as playing music, a long time ago we were playing a show and I thought to myself, during the last song of our set, that maybe I wasn’t playing hard enough, as in, I felt like I could push myself way further. From that point on I’ve been trying to push it further and further down the line. Not sure where I will stop :)

Gleb: I think big moments in your life tend to have more longterm effects, like maybe musically you’ll gravitate towards certain kinds of things if you experience one kind of hardship or revelation versus another. I don’t really tap into big life experiences consciously for our band. More just the everyday stuff, my moods, how much I’ve slept, what I’ve eaten. We’ve written fast songs because we both hap- pened to buy energy drinks before practice, and also slow songs because we happened to buy beer. But in terms of longterm stuff, I think with any musician, the more emotionally aware they are, the better they’ll be able to use their musi- cal talent, or better tap into exactly what it is they want to convey. Emotions are good for music, especially extreme ones, and those extreme emotional depths can be revealed with big life experiences or changes.