Whether it’s performing on the sidewalks of Cambridge or writing emotionally raw songs for their debut album, On Returning, Steps of Doe have already created a name for themselves in the industry. Comprised of Molly Falck and Keena Batti, they possess a subtle, fluid sound that takes their love of Americana and Folk music and puts their own gothic twist on it. The intelligent nature of their songwriting is reflected in every lyric and story they tell, elevating the tracks to incredible heights, all the while losing themselves in the crystalline harmonies and subtle, yet lush instrumentation.
The tracks that make-up their debut are full of self doubt, uncertainty, and the smallest glimmer of hope. Lyrically, it’s like wading through dark waters searching for the shore, and all the fear that comes along with that sense of hope for what’s to come. The theme of change, and all the emotions it encompasses, is ever apparent throughout. It’s a smart, passionate project that reflects their distinct individual talent, but remains cohesive and full of harmonic creativity. Fans of First Aid Kit and classic bands like Fleetwood Mac will find themselves falling in love with every song. It’s just one of those albums.
On Returning will be out on March 24th for all to enjoy. But until then, I had a chance to catch up with Molly and Keena to get a little bit of insight into the creation of the album. Continue reading below for the interview, and if you have some spare change, be sure to donate to their KickStarter campaign to help get the album out the door.
You two met while studying abroad at Cambridge. Tell me how the two of you met and discovered you both had similar musical influences? What made you want to start playing together?
We met at the first formal dinner of the summer at King’s College. Keena approached me because she liked my dress and we probably found out pretty quickly that dress liking = other things in common. She came over to my dorm room one afternoon and we learned the cover First Aid Kit did of “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” by Fleet Foxes. We played in front of friends for the first time before a “bop” which was an end of term party.
What artists and bands influence you both individually and as a duo?
We both love Elliott Smith and Led Zeppelin. Rilo Kiley influenced us a lot in high school and we’re still listening to Jenny Lewis. We idolize Dolly Parton and all her boob tattoos. I personally love Joni Mitchell above all other songwriters, but these days I’m also really into Sharon van Etten, Angel Olsen, and Jessica Pratt. Keeena grew up with a rock & roll dad so she’s less into the female singer/songwriter sound. She’s currently listening to a lot of electro-pop like Phantogram and Purity Ring.
Your debut album, “On Returning” is due out in March. When did you decide you were going to put an album together? Were you writing songs specifically for an album or pulling from a catalog that you’d been writing for a while?
The album came about gradually. We didn’t start playing originals until our last semester at Berkeley. Keena wrote “Sweet Sedona” after a break up and it inspired me to share “Chasing Ghosts,” a song I’d written two years before at Berklee College of Music. Neither of us wrote another song until we moved home to LA almost a year later. The return to our parents’ houses ended up being a prolific period for both of us. The songs made sense as an album so we just went with it.
As a duo, tell me a little bit about your songwriting process. What themes and experiences tend to inspire you most? How do you typically work together while crafting a song?
We collaborate more on arranging than on songwriting itself. One of us will write music and lyrics and then we’ll present it to the other for criticisms. Then we’ll solidify the song form together. I think we’re too shy or self conscious to share ideas in their earliest stages. It’s something we’ve got to improve upon. As for themes, all of our songs are typically dark ruminations on failed relationships or psychological torment. It’s funny because we’re a pretty goofy pair, but we prefer to write dirges.
The tracks have very unique, sometimes dark, storylines. What are your favorite stories or feelings you explore lyrically on this album? What message are you trying to vocalize on some of these tracks?
We’ve written a lot of songs that pose a question about our sense of control, like “Beneath the Shadow of the King,” and “Chasing Ghosts.” Almost every song has that undercurrent of wanting to escape the unknowingness or lamenting the fact that we didn’t know soon enough. We’re over-thinkers so we’re constantly worrying about all possible perspectives.
You’ve been performing songs off this album for some time already. What are some of your favorite venues to perform in? What do you hope your audience takes away from your shows?
El Cid Down in Silverlake has been kind to us. They were the first non pay to play venue that invited us to do a set back in October 2013 and we’ve had a lot of good shows there since. More recently, we had a really fun show at Hotel Café. Even as a duo, we’ve got a lot of instruments, like the banjo and the dulcimer, that could potentially cause sound problems, but we were in great hands there. In fact, we’re playing our album release at the Hotel Café on May 8th.
Who are some of your favorite artists/bands you’ve seen live and why? What artists really inspire you when it comes to performing?
MF: A few months back I went to see the Tuneyards at the Wiltern. It was such a fantastic spectacle—the show had this rhythm and energy that I’d never experienced before. I walked away in awe of Merril Garbus. I even tweeted my love at her but she never responded. I saw Jessica Pratt at the Echo this past weekend and she was mesmerizing. Perfect vocals. I tweeted at her too.
KB: Glen Hansard! I saw him live and he was totally acoustic for one song, just vocals and guitar, and it was incredible. He was SO LOUD—I don’t know how he did it. Jeff Mangum was also incredible. And Karen O blew my mind live. Wasn’t nervous on stage at all and was so badass. She was one of the first bands I saw live when I moved to Berkeley, and I had never been in the pit before, so I was amazed.
Now that the album is coming out, what are your plans? Any touring in the works?
We’re planning on doing a small radio tour of the Pacific Northwest now that we have an album to send to all the stations that don’t accept digital submissions. The only plan after that is fame and eternal glory.
Last question that I always have to ask. If you’re out with friends at a bar, what three songs would you play on the Jukebox to set the mood for the night out?
KB: “Silver Lining”- Rilo Kiley, “Miss You”- Rolling Stones, “Dancing On My Own”-
MF: “Birthday”- Katy Perry, “I Can’t Wait”- Nu Shooz, “Modern Love”-David Bowie
Thank you to Steps of Doe for taking the time to give me some insight into they’re exciting new album. Be sure to pick up a copy of On Returning when it’s released on March 24th, 2015!
What do you think of Steps of Doe’s debut single? Will you be picking up their album? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @JukeboxMixtape.