Stephie Coplan and the Pedestrians: A new band on the music scene
“We’re both addicted/ But their drug is meth and mine is the Simpsons/ ….’Cause where I’m from, when you’re mad at someone/ You don’t use knives,you go onto Twitter and ruin someone’s life…”
These quirky and humorous lyrics come from the song “Take Me Back to the Suburbs” by the new and upcoming band, Stephie Coplan and the Pedestrians.
During my interview with Stephie Coplan, she explained, “I wrote this song last August (2010) when I started working for a non-profit in Newark. During my 20 minute commute between Penn Station and the non-profit, I continuously observed individuals whose lives were so much different from mine.
“Many of these individuals lived in poverty, had a disrupted education, and coexisted with crime on an everyday basis. Though these problems stared them in the face, they just accepted this as their reality and that there’s no way to overcome it. I couldn’t help but feel like everyone has just sort of given up – and this made me most sad.”
“Take Me Back to the Suburbs” is the first song I heard from Stephie Coplan and the Pedestrians when I researched the band. I initially learned about this band while making my CMJ concert schedule earlier this month. As I educated myself more about the band, I became so impressed with Stephie’s lyrical composition, vocals, and her piano playing, that I wanted to see her play live and potentially talk with her. So, I did, on Friday, October 21st at the Dominion.
During my first conversations with, Stephie Coplan, I noticed just how passionate she is about music and starting a full-time recording career. So naturally, I invited her to be the interview feature for Music Historian’s blog, Hear; Don’t Listen.
In this interview, Stephie answered my burning questions regarding her song writing and taught me that a serious musician should always remember the following three things: 1) Believe in yourself; 2) Practice; and 3) Don’t set overwhelming goals that you expect to accomplish by tomorrow.
Stephie grew up learning songs by some of Broadway’s most beloved like George Gershwin and Roger & Hammerstein. “Learning how to play seemed very much like a puzzle – one that did not involve English words, but music,” explained Stephie.
Learning to play pieces and practicing enough to become a promising songwriter and performer, takes years of dedication. The decision of pursuing a professional recording career in the popular music industry though, is a complicated one – or at least I imagine. I then asked Stephie about her decision to pursue this career path: how did she know when it felt right? She explains:
“The desire to be a professional musician had been brewing in my mind for a long time, but I didn’t have the confidence to do it because I didn’t think I was good enough.
Believe in Yourself: I started playing my songs for producers, … their response was I should be doing this full-time
“When I started performing in college up in Boston, I was in a toxic long-term relationship with someone who really enjoyed telling me how mediocre I was; and I believed him! After I finished college, I broke up with my boyfriend and moved to New Jersey. I really felt like it was my chance to start over, and I started playing my songs for producers, A&R people, and musicians. Their overwhelming response was that I should absolutely be doing this full-time.”
Stephie has been playing for audiences for quite a while. She participated in many classical music competitions and jazz ensembles as a high school student.
Although performing solo on piano and vocals was new for Stephie, her music background helped her overcome this obstacle early in her career. However; like every great musician, Stephie still had her challenges.
“First, it’s really hard to be creative and write all the music and lyrics, while being your own publicist, manager and booking agent. Yet, I feel very lucky that I have work; and it’s rewarding to know everything is going well with the band.
“Secondly, I struggle in balancing what I naturally want to write about with what the public wants to hear. The majority of popular artists are not writing about poverty in Newark, but pining about heartbreaks.”
During our conversation, Stephie admitted that when she was starting out, she often compared herself to other performers. While Stephie was a great instrumental performer, learning to play and practice with a band was new territory.
Practice: We became a band in March and started recording in May
“After I graduated college, I was being courted by a label in Hoboken, and the guy who wanted to sign me really wanted to put a band together.
“My manager and I auditioned people, and that is how I met my bassist, John. After the audition, John had to go away temporarily for a show in Louisiana. So I continued to work with the label.
“Then, things were not going so well with the label, and I eventually decided to hold auditions for a drummer by myself. When John returned from Louisiana in March, I had finally found the band’s new drummer, Shane. In May (2011), we started recording an album.”
I was amazed to hear that a brand new band was able to not only tour, but to start recording an album in only two months. Several bands take a year to rehearse and perform before they start recording music. In Stephie’s case though, one artist knew what she wanted and knew how to search for the right band.
Stephie says, “When I auditioned drummers and bassists for the group, I knew exactly what I needed.
“Time and rhythm are my weaknesses, and I wanted a band that could really lay the beat down. Sometimes my excitement makes me rush in a song and stray away from the beat. John and Shane have an incredible sense of time, rhythm and grove, so they keep me in check!”
All musicians dream about making it big, but Stephie believes that the end goal of an established career comes from dividing that end goal into numerous little steps.
Don’t set overwhelming goals that you expect to accomplish by tomorrow
According to Stephie, it is really hard to be recognized in the industry without any recordings. By recognizing her challenges, she and the band have set their sights on releasing an EP by the end of this year.
Stephie says, “Everyone’s first question is “let me hear what you sound like” and I can only use words to describe it. So I’m hoping that with this upcoming EP, we can start doing some weekend touring though Boston, Portland, Washington, DC, Philly and Chapel Hill (North Carolina).
“We are also releasing a music video on November 19th for the song “Jerk,” announced Stephie. “We worked on this video with director David Dutton, who also directed “Internet Killed the Video star” for the Limousines.”
“Jerk” is also on Stephie Coplan and the Pedestrians’s debut EP called, “Nervous But Excited.” Brooklyn-based producer, Ben Gebert, is their album producer.
The album title appropriately describes where Stephie Coplan and the Pedestrians are in their career right now.
“Nervous but Excited: it’s definitely how we feel about releasing the album.” Stephie also hopes this album will take her band to the next career step: a year of full-time performances.
As of now, Stephie Copland and the Pedestrians are slowly making a name for themselves. They received recognition from the Hoboken Music Awards and have been nominated for the “People’s Choice” in new music.
Stephie and her band have set their sights on a plan for a future in the industry. Stephie says:
“We’ve worked with a few managers in the past, and we learned that it is much better for the band to do all the publicity, marketing and managing until you find the RIGHT team; the one that really understands where you want to go, and understand you as people and musicians.”
Rarely have I ever heard a songwriter or performer talk about practice, confidence, persistence and thoughtful planning as tools for success. Very well, success means something different for different people; but for Stephie Coplan and the Pedestrians, it just might be taking on the music industry on step at a time.