Words: Thomas Stitchbury; pictures: Olivia Richardson
There was a slight misunderstanding, for one member of Steps anyway, when the band were informed that they’d be receiving the Icon Award supported by Virgin Atlantic at the 2021 Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards, powered by Jaguar.
“Do you know the story?” Lisa Scott-Lee asks, with a giggle. “I genuinely thought we were presenting it. So, when it hit home that we were actually the winners, I was over the moon!” Lisa is and will forever be the moment.
Lisa wears dress, by House of CB; Faye wears dress, by Love & Other Things; Claire wears dress, by House of CB; H wears trousers, by ASOS, shirt, stylist’s own; Lee wears shirt, by Nanushka jeans, by ASOS in the Attitude Awards issue. (Photography by Olivia Richardson; Fashion: Joseph Kocharian; Styling: Frank Strachan; Hair: Reiss Alexander at Juice Group; Makeup: Malin Coleman; Styling Assistant: Jessica Johnston; Professional fashion assistant: Sacha Dance)
"We feel like we’re coming into our own a little bit now, and I think it means more. Back in the day – I mean, H has a cabinet full of Smash Hits!"
Bursting onto the scene in 1997 with their camp-as-tits anthem '5, 6, 7, 8', Lisa, now 45, Claire Richards, 44, Ian ‘H’ Watkins, 45, Faye Tozer, 45, and Lee Latchford-Evans, 46, brightened up our lives with primary-colored outfits, sugar-coated songs and exquisitely accessible, Two Brewers-friendly armography.
Sourpuss critics may have dismissed Steps as naff, but with three number-one UK albums, 14 UK top-10 singles, a new record — What the Future Holds Pt. 2 — and an upcoming tour, Steps are having the last laugh (H’s hoot is especially infectious).
"We have an open-door policy", says Faye. "We want everybody to be themselves when they’re with us… If we can bring that element to the world, or to this community, then we’ve done an amazing thing."
H adds: "We are totally and unashamedly pop, and we create a safe space for people to be their authentic selves. You can live your best life with us."
Crammed into a hotel conference room, the group reminisce about their early days (they’ve come a long way from fashioning headsets from coat-hangers); their queer fanbase – “The LGBTQ community have been our biggest fans,” Faye gushes. “They’re going, ‘We still love you, we got ya!’”; touring with Britney; run-ins with Christina; and yes, their acrimonious 2001 split. By no means 'Better Best Forgotten', they make light of the drama and stress that it fuelled their shining comeback. “It does still hurt, though. I tell H every time,” Lisa quips, with a wicked smile.
Claire wears shirt by Isabel Marant, skirt by Norma Kamali, belt by Richard Wilbraham, shoes by Aldo; H wears trousers and sleeves by Zara, vest by Calvin Klein, boots by KOI Footwear at ASOS; Lisa wears skirt by Love Moschino, lace top by Girl In Mind, shoes by Aldo; Faye wears vest by Christopher John Rogers, skirt by Alex Perry, shoes by Ego; Lee wears polo shirt by Gucci at MATCHESFASHION, trousers by Zara and boots by Dune. (Photography: Olivia Richardson)
The fivesome celebrate their 25th anniversary next year, and we’ll be there every step of the way as they continue to climb the stairway to pop heaven. But what does the future hold, literally?
We’ve got one thing which we are talking about – can we tell him about it?" teases H. "It's so obvious. We’ve been talking about it for years… the Steps musical. It’s just the perfect pop progression. There are cogs turning."
"We’ve talked about it amongst ourselves very seriously," adds Claire.
So what is the secret to the band's longevity? "We don't have a sell-by date," agrees Lee, explaining: "We are all older, [we have] families, there are more important things out there at the end of the day to think about, but we want to be here, and we want to do this, because we love what we do, and we also still get on."
Lisa wears playsuit, by Self-Portrait; Claire wears dress, by John Zack; H wears shirt, trousers by All Saints; Faye wears dress, by ROTATE Birger Christensen; Lee wears polo shirt, by Versace, trousers, by Zara (Photography: Olivia Richardson)
And what of the possibility of Eurovision? Says Lisa: "I think it would be lovely to represent theUK, but I don’t want nil points. It’s so political now, isn’t it? It’s not really about the music."
Adds Claire: "It’s one of those situations where, for the experience it would be incredible, but we’ve worked so hard not to be the laughing stock, I don’t think we want to go back there!"
Read the full interview in the Attitude Awards issue, which is out now.