By Nicholas Jason Lopez
With the help of Porterhouse Records, songwriter/performing artist Steven Bradley released his debut full-length ‘Summer Bliss And Autumn Tears,’ available worldwide.
The album sets a clear distinction between his production career as Steve Kravac – working with the likes of bands like Less Than Jake, MXPX, Pepper and Blink-182 – and his own songwriting persona. He called on a range of influences from Teenage Fanclub to Neil Young and everything else in between.
He played the majority of instruments himself for the record, but called on some notable contributors like Wayne Kramer (MC5), guitarist Jonny “Two Bags” Wickersham (Social Distortion) and the entire MXPX band for background vocals. Bradley is at work in rehearsals with a full band lineup and hopes to support the album with live performances in the near future.
The Music Bugle had the chance to chat with Bradley about the album and more.
Music Bugle – What was it like making your debut LP ‘Summer Bliss And Autumn Tears’?
Steven Bradley – Well, I’ve made a lot of records in my life, but those were as a producer working for other artists or bands. This being my first record, a lot of time and consideration went into creating it. I wanted to be sure I was putting my best foot forward and presenting the best songs I could possibly write at the time. Looking back, the majority of the focus was writing the songs and coming up with the parts. The actual recording portion to me, is more of an autopilot thing where I follow my ear and do what the song tells me to do.
Music Bugle – What’s your favorite song from the LP?
Steven Bradley – I have a couple that really stick out for me. I think the song “Pre-Emptive Strike” fills the bill as a solid memorable rock and roll song. The background vocals carry a lot of weight in the arrangement, which I like a lot and Wayne Kramer’s guitar playing adds a really nice counterpoint in tone and placement. He told me, “I kinda was playing off of your riff because I liked it so much,” so it seems we were both on the same page. “Capitol Hill” is I think, simply the best pop song I could write at the time. Kevin Kane of Northern Pikes and The Grapes of Wrath plays some incredible guitar on that song and helps get it to a next level place. Many folks have told me they have their own favorites off of the record and they are all different.
Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder for a musician to stand out these days?
Steven Bradley – It’s very helpful. For developing artists who aren’t getting press coverage yet, it’s an amazing way to conduct outreach, as well as sharing news, music and video. Probably one of the most significant developments in the music industry since the Compact Disc. I try and maintain a presence there and I find that Twitter is set up the best for music. Folks can follow me on Twitter and Instagram here: @stvn_bradley.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Steven Bradley – The biggest negative effect has been the inability to support the record with live performances. It’s such an important part of building a fanbase. On the positive side, I think that I’ve been able to take more time to work with press and radio on the record, as well as connecting with folks on the web. I’ve also been able to work up one video during quarantine to support the title track “Summer Bliss And Autumn Tears” and I have another on the way, so that feels very productive.
Music Bugle – What do you miss the most about performing in front of live crowds?
Steven Bradley – I was able to get a couple of live shows in last Fall just as the record was launching. That part has always been a little nerve wracking for me, so perhaps the best part of it was simply getting a band together and getting it done! The energy once the show begins and “performing” it was a very positive feeling of full circle completion. I was able to put a really good band together featuring Richard Lloyd on lead guitar, Danny McGough on keys, Bruce Duff on bass and Joey Ponchetti on drums, who’s been working with me for over a year. We were able to play in both San Diego and Los Angeles before everything was shut down.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Vancouver, British Columbia to someone who has never been there before?
Steven Bradley – Vancouver is a very interesting place. In a way, it’s quite isolated from the border to the south and geographically from the rest of Canada. I think that plays into the fact that Vancouver has always had its own “scene” from the earliest days of punk rock. The wild variety of music and art that are created there are astounding and generally very competent. As a city, Vancouver has grown so much since I grew up there and while that is positive, there’s a strong undercurrent of poverty and addiction that still exists.
Music Bugle – How do you differentiate your mindset when it comes to making your own music, as opposed to producing other bands/artists?
Steven Bradley – Generally speaking, I have a system that works for me from an engineering/producer standpoint and that structure exists whether or not I’m working on my own songs or a client’s. When working with other bands, I am always looking for improvements to arrangements or song structure. I’ll definitely jump in with an idea if I hear something in my head and feel strongly about it. When I am working on my own material, I have demoed it and made the necessary changes so the song will work. When I get it to the studio, it’s ready to go as a complete developed idea right down to the last lyric.
Music Bugle – Which song of yours was the hardest to write or compose?
Steven Bradley – The song “Loose Ends” took about four rewrites before it got to a place where I felt it was a strong song. That was tough because I know there were some parts that were really working, but they didn’t work with the lyrics. I ended up restructuring both the music and the lyrics and now I feel like it’s one of the strongest songs on the record. In the process, I ended up getting a cool bridge that also works as a second verse and I thought that was a major spark in having it fall into place.
Music Bugle – If you had the chance to chat one-on-one with one of your musical influences, who would you choose?
Steven Bradley – I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of nice people in this business over the years from Iggy Pop to Joe Strummer. If I had an opportunity to hang out with someone whose work is highly influential and who I’d love to take a guitar lesson from, it would’ve been George Harrison. My favorite Beatle!