Thursday, 21 February 2013 09:53

For Stepdad, It's All About Who You Know

Written by  Nick Manes
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It goes without saying that the music industry has changed in the last decade. A garage band no longer has to shop around a demo to the biggest labels to "make it."

Nowadays, a simple SoundCloud or Bandcamp profile can make that possible. Or if you're a couple of years older, it was a MySpace page, as is the case with Grand Rapids-based electropop act Stepdad, now signed to Brooklyn label Black Bell Records.

Stepdad started when Mark "Ultramark" Tafel was attending Central Michigan University and performed solo shows. He was contacted via MySpace by Ryan McCarthy, who had seen him perform. The two moved to Chicago together and began performing under the Stepdad moniker.

Eventually, the duo moved to Grand Rapids in an effort to save money,Tafel said. Since 2009, they have added three additional members and more to their music resume, including a spot on the Vans Warped Tour.

Stepdad wsg Alexis, Flint Eastwood
The Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids
March 2, 8 p.m.
$8 in advance, $10 day of show
pyramidschemebar.com, (616) 272-3758 

"[The Warped Tour] was such a mixed bag. It was a ton of fun, but incredibly hard work," Tafel said of the touring festival that attracts a mostly teen demographic. "It wasn't really our audience, but it was a good experience overall... We made a lot of good friends."

Stepdad's rise to Internet — and eventually, in real life — fame really began with the music video for their hit single, "My Leather, My Fur, My Nails," according to Tafel.

"The night we put it up, we played with [electronic musician] Dan Deacon in Kalamazoo," he said. "The video got 10,000 views overnight."

Through a series of connections, the band was introduced to their manager, who took them to Austin, Texas for South By Southwest. A photographer friend introduced them to their future lawyer, who put them in contact with acclaimed producer Chris Zane, who went on to produce their 2012 release, Wildlife Pop. Since then, Stepdad has had its music on shows like "Gossip Girl" and "Weeds."

"It was a lot of insane luck," Tafel said. "You never know who the person is that is going to help the most."

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