When Ayad Al Adhamy, then-keyboardist of Passion Pit, caught wind of young Michigan electro-pop act Stepdad back in late 2011, he got in the car and drove from his ultra-hip neighborhood in Brooklyn to the decidedly less-glamorous town of Ypsilanti. Stepdad were performing at some venue a good 140 miles outside of their home base of Grand Rapids, but Al Adhamy and Ben Collins, co-owners of Black Bell Records, wanted to scout the band for a possible record deal. "It was a huge surprise, and it was pretty surreal," says ultramark, the band's frontman, who I inadvertently wake up with my phone call at 2 pm. "Usually people wait to see us in bigger cities, or SXSW."
Since then, the kaleidoscopic neon-pop of Stepdad, which shares some sonic DNA with the Double-P, has unpredictably blown out of Grand Rapids. Ultramark and Ryan McCarthy started the project in Chicago in 2009, but shortly afterward returned to their home state and a town maybe best known for ska-punk band Mustard Plug. And they're not leaving anytime soon. "People still ask when we plan on moving to LA or New York, and we're not going to," says ultramark. "We decided for financial reasons that it was easier to start a project in Grand Rapids. With the Internet, there's no reason to be from anywhere. People can still listen to you online and find your band."
In June, Black Bell released Stepdad's debut album, Wildlife Pop. Produced by Chris Zane, it shows off ultramark's ultra-flamboyance, ultra-bravado, and ultra-penchant for adding lyrical depth to synthpop songs that blip and bloop and swirl and sway. Since relocating to Grand Rapids, they've hooked up with Warped Tour, gigged with Fitz & the Tantrums and (of course) Passion Pit, and even performed at a wedding.
There might be more wedding gigs on the way. "I'm not opposed to it," ultramark says. "The open bar helps people's perceptions of us."
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JUST ADDED:HEAR STEPDAD'S "PICK & CHOOSE" AND "JUNGLES" AT WFNX.COM.
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