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Weekend: Steps are back with new songs and a tour, and it’s still as exciting as ever, Claire Richards and Faye Tozer tell Metro

IF ANY band knows how to smash the internet, it’s Steps. They’ve come a long way since they first line- danced into the hearts of the nation with 5,6,7,8 — and when news broke of their new single and album, backed by a huge tour, social media was awash with claims that Steps had come to save 2020. On the day of the announcement, we find ourselves chatting over Zoom to Claire Richards and Faye Tozer as they sit in the corner of a darkened restaurant.

‘The phone literally hasn’t stopped, our social feeds have just been blowing up,’ laughs Faye. ‘It’s really exciting because you never know what the reaction is going to be — so it’s very, very nice.’

Despite some 23 years in the business, the nerves never leave you, Claire tells us. ‘Every single time we’ve ever done anything, even back in the day, just before it all comes out, I panic. There’s always a moment of, “Oh my God is this it… how’s it gonna go? Does anyone still care? Do you still want to buy an album by us?” Even though we had such success with the last album.’

Here and now: From left, Faye Tozer, Lee Latchford-Evans, Lisa Scott-Lee, Ian ‘H’ Watkins and Claire Richards first got together 23 years ago

Tickets for the arena tour go on sale today and the What The Future Holds album is coming out in November. There’s a new single of the same name and, yes, there’s a new dance routine to learn, too. Everything had been planned earlier this year and the band were set to announce it all when lockdown struck. ‘We did the video in November,’ explains Claire. ‘We all knew we were coming back in March. We were ready to get out there and finally unleash it on everybody… and then the rug was pulled out. It was scary.’

The band’s new single was written by Chandelier superstar Sia, and it was a pinch-me moment for Steps. ‘We’re still surprised every single day by things that happen. She didn’t specifically write it for us, she wrote it for herself and she was the one that clocked it and said, “You know what, you should get this to Steps”. She handed it to us on a plate. That’s a thing you can only dream of, 23 years down the line,’ says Claire. Faye nods excitedly, adding: ‘I think it’s just such a huge compliment. She grew up listening to our music, it’s wonderful.’

If there’s one thing Steps aren’t afraid of, it’s nostalgia. They have an army of loyal fans — many of whom who bring their kids along to gigs nowadays — and the band embrace their back catalogue. ‘We are very much one foot in the past and one in the future,’ says Claire.

The Wales you make me feel: Prince Charles performs Tragedy backstage with the band in 1999

‘We will never neglect our history, especially for our live shows. By the same token, we can’t record and produce stuff the same way we did back then. It has to stand up against any other track in the charts today.’ Speaking of the live shows, both Faye and Claire laugh when looking back on the 2017 comeback tour.

‘It was just two hours of being smacked in the face with energy, it was just full-on party. Everyone’s doing Tragedy and on their feet for two whole hours just getting involved, forgetting all their troubles. It’s almost two hours of total and utter escapism and unapologetic pop music,’ Claire says with a grin.

‘A pop explosion,’ Faye adds. ‘The last album was so uptempo we had to match that energy, This new album has more balance, maybe we’ll get to breathe this time…’

Claire isn’t so sure. She says: ‘There is always that moment at the beginning of the tour, before we start rehearsals, where we say we want to do less this time, to dial it back — but we always end up doing more. We get to rehearsals and you wonder if you’ll make it through a show! We love it, though.’

Another two hours of being smacked in the face by a pop explosion sounds like just what 2020 needs.

Steps’ new single What The Future Holds is out now. The band’s UK tour begins in November 2021,