One Step Closer | Credit: Supplied

One Step Closer Deep Dive Into The Makings Of New LP ‘All You Embrace’ & What It Means To Be A Hardcore Kid

Pennsylvania melodic hardcore outfit One Step Closer have just unleashed their hotly anticipated new album All You Embrace. Recorded with Jon Markson (The Story So Far, Drug Church, Drain), All You Embrace boldly expands the scope of One Step Closer’s sound, offering their most anthemic and passionate work to date. 

The scene veterans collaborated with Knocked Loose’s Isaac Hale and Citizen’s Mat Kerekes across a handful of tracks, seeing the band further embrace their sonic evolution and distinct vision. Music Feeds sat down with One Step Closer vocalist Ryan Savitski prior to the release to deep dive into their sophomore album, talk through the crushing pressures and expectations of the dreaded second LP, the influences behind it and what it means to be a hardcore kid. Suss the chat down below!

One Step Closer – ‘Blur My Memory’

Music Feeds: You have a brand new album, All You Embrace which just landed, could you talk a bit about it, and what it means for you guys now heading into the release?

Ryan Savitski, vocalist of One Step Closer: Yeah, I mean I feel like we really didn’t hold ourselves back for this record, we put everything we had into it. And I think, for one, we’re just trying to be as limitless as possible instead of feeling like, “Oh, is this hardcore enough?” Or “is this not hardcore enough?”. In a way we’ve always asked ourselves that in the past. But this time around we’re just way more open to everything. I did a lot more singing on the record. And I feel like we created something that we’re all just super excited and proud of. And now that it’s almost release time, I feel like we’re just excited to finally play these new songs live and hopefully get to tour on the record a bunch. 

MF: Hell yeah! You mentioned that you went into this trying to be a bit more limitless. But was there any inspiration for the new sonic ground that you explored on this record?

RS: Yeah I think we were always trying to be more of a melodic band. We’re always pulling from melodic hardcore bands like Have Heart and Turning Point and artists in that space, but this time around, we kind of went in and were like – let’s push more of this melodic rock/post hardcore sounds that bands like Title Fight and Basement and the bands that came before us on [record label] Run For Cover did, who are now these really iconic bands. And this is, naturally, where we feel like we fit in the best. So as we were writing the record we kept that in mind. There was also inspiration from bands like Jawbreaker and Deftones from the 90s, while we still try to keep a certain hardcore ethos about us at all times as well. So with all of that, we just naturally wrote songs that sound like this record. And I think finally we’re just like, this is what this band is, this is what One Step Closer is supposed to be.

MF: So do you feel like the direction that the music has gone in with tracks like ‘Giant’s Despair’ and ‘Orange Leaf’, this exploration into more melodic territory, came up more during the album process or was it more of a conscious decision beforehand?

RS: It was definitely more of a conscious decision this time around. I feel like from the start I was like, I want to sing way, way more on this record, and also I want to write hooks that will really grab people. And our band, I feel like we weren’t ever really a mosh band, we were never heavy. We always relied on parts that were more sing-along and parts where, you know, people are upfront saying the words and stage diving – that kind of thing. So we just dove deeper into that, because that’s what the band is and what it’s been from the beginning. So when I went in, and we’re really cooking on these hooks it just kind of came together super, super well. And even from the start, demoing the songs, I would be like “mush-mouthing” melodies over things and trying to make it as catchy and as connectable as possible.

MF: How did it feel approaching this on your second record as opposed to your first? And did you feel a lot of pressure in this being your second record?

RS: Yeah, definitely. The second record has always been the one that we’re like – this is the one that needs to be really good, and this one needs to really be the defining record of One Step Closer. Because I feel like the first record can either blow up on its own, or it’s like, you’re finding your feet and you’re finding your grounding as a band and figuring it out. But LP2 is supposed to be the one where you’re like, yeah, we figured it out and this is who we are. So we definitely felt a lot of pressure going into the studio because we wanted it to be as perfect and as good as possible. And nothing could ever be perfect but, you know, we just wanted it to be something that we’re really proud of. And at the end of the day we walked away from the recording process and writing the songs feeling super excited about what we wrote and more excited about this record than anything we’ve ever done before. So I think it all paid off and I think we did what we intended to do. That’s how I feel.

MF: That’s true, there’s always a lot of pressure on the second record, it’s either going to solidify who you are as a band or you have to use the second record to back up a debut LP that happened to explode out of nowhere. So there’s always a lot of pressure on the sophomore LP, it’s a thing.

RS: Yeah, it’s a thing! Even when we were telling people, you know, “we’re writing this new record and now we’re gonna be in the studio”, people are just like, “oh yeah, second LP, this is the one. It’s gotta be good!” and I’m like, “yeah bro, thanks, I know, we’re already stressed enough about it” [laughs]. But, you know, it worked out. I feel like the first record we really stuck as hardcore as we possibly could. But this one, it felt like the band’s career was on the line to me. That’s the way I was treating the second LP, I felt like, if this flops the band’s done, like there’s no way we can come back. And even though it might not be that serious, to me it was that serious in my mind. So we need to be as good as we possibly can.

MF: Is there a central theme to the LP?

RS: Yes I would say the overall theme really is just about change. Life change, relationship change, the band changes, even. The band has experienced so much change itself, between members coming and going, just because, you know, people wanted to do normal life things like go to school and get a good nine-to-five job like most people would. So us as people have experienced so much change within these last two years. It’s one of those things, where this band and this career path that we’re trying to make happen is such an abnormal way of living. And as much as it comes with so many cool experiences and opportunities, it also comes with a lot of hard things to deal with. And we kind of just bottled that all up and made that like the overall atmosphere of the record because it’s something that we all connected with and felt pretty equally. I like to be very personable with the lyrics so it was just something that was always on my mind and I was able to write and just be honest with.

MF: I also love that the general theme of the album is change in regards to so many aspects personally, but then there’s also a nice sonic change to the sound as well. I think it all comes together really nicely. 

RS: Yeah I agree. I didn’t even think about the sound changing as well. But yeah, I think it has affected everything in the way we see music, the way we view touring, and the way we view our lives in general. Like, we’re all in our early 20’s. Like, I’m 24 and I feel like that’s such a crucial, developmental time of your life growing into who you are. 

MF: There’s been a rise in popularity for artists with roots in hardcore and punk – like Turnstile, The Story So Far, Citizen, Turnover, etc. that have evolved their sound blending and incorporating more melodic and experimental ideas. How do you feel about the broad balance of sounds coming out of alternative artists these days? And where does One Step Closer fit in all of it?

RS: I love, in my opinion, when a band throws a curveball on a record. I think that’s the coolest thing. And as an artist myself, obviously I love when artists put themselves before the fans and create something that they are proud of. And even though it may move in and out of hardcore, and move in and out of alternative music in general, I just enjoy when bands are just being themselves and being honest. So even when it comes to, for example, the new Citizen record, I feel like it’s very different from what their old stuff is. And I think it’s awesome. I just love that kind of thing and I see that for One Step Closer as well, where we kind of just exist. I feel like no matter what, we’ll always be a hardcore band, but I think this band has a lot of room to grow and change the direction of the vibe of the band that we want to be. I think we fit, especially with those bands that you mentioned, super well.

MF: There must be a sense of pride as well to be like, “Hey, this is the world I’m in and I can be compared to these epic names”?

RS: Yeah, I’ll never forget actually when One Step Closer and a band called Anxious got signed to Run For Cover at the same time. The label said, “This feels like when we signed Citizen and Turnover at the same time” you know, 10 years before. And that comparison was just like, “Whoa, this is crazy. Like, you guys think we’re a dope band.” I love that they compared us to that pairing. And even though we don’t necessarily sound like Citizen or Turnover, especially at that point in time, it just felt like, okay, they see what we’re about, and they understand this is what we want to do.

MF: It’s funny, reflecting on those bands I listed and how there’s so much embrace for their change – it’s not always like that in other genres.

RS: Yeah, I agree. I mean, I think hardcore, even currently, is such a wide net of different styles of hardcore music and different kinds of bands that all play together. And growing up in Wilkes-Barre, you know, Title Fight would play with Dead End Path or like, “insert other heavy, local band that was also very popular in hardcore”, and it would be normal and fine. Like everybody was stoked on that kind of thing. They did one of their first US tours with Foundation, and that band is stupidly heavy. Growing up here that was just the norm, mixed bills. Hardcore has really embraced that mixed bill vibe and that’s almost like standard across the board now, which I really love. 

MF: You worked with Isaac Hale from Knocked Loose and Mat Kerekes from Citizen on this album. What was it like working with them? And what would you say was your biggest takeaway from those experiences?

RS: They’re both incredible people. We’ve known Isaac since like, 2018. We’ve played with Inclination, his other project, and he’s seen us from the very beginning of being horrible, to now being a little bit more established doing our thing. But he completely understands the band and I knew when we were talking about doing some stuff and demoing some ideas out with different people, he was the first person that came to mind because he’s just so fucking talented. He’s so, so talented. He’s good at writing all kinds of music. It’s not even just heavy music that he’s good at. So that was incredible. And then Mat, obviously, is just the GOAT. He’s amazing and I love him to death now as well. And we didn’t really know him before, but we had such a good time and wrote some of my favourite songs on the record with him. I think we really took away how to pull ourselves out of the way we normally write music, and we saw his view from a different perspective. We really gained some cool knowledge in the way that these guys approach writing music. I feel like we learned so much that now moving forward, we have such a cool, broad spectrum of understanding if we want to make a certain song – now we kind of know how to do it. And I think that’s such an important thing, especially where we are now because it’ll be crucial to the way we evolve our sound.

MF: When experimenting with wider palettes of sound and moving between moods and genres, do you feel there’s an integral aspect of hardcore and alternative that needs to remain present through your songs?

RS: I think, for me personally, no matter how much we sonically change, as long as the ethos of hardcore is there, we will always remain a hardcore band. Nothing will ever change that, no one can ever take that away from us. This one time I saw this tweet from Justice (Tripp) who sings in Trapped Under Ice and Angel Du$t and he said something about how he could be up on stage playing an acoustic guitar playing Angel Du$t and no one could ever tell him that that’s not hardcore. And I saw that and was like – this is what I’ve literally thought my entire life, and this is one of the most popular people in hardcore, and a good friend of mine who I love, saying it just blatantly and honestly. I just think that no matter what, we are a hardcore band, and we will still play hardcore shows, we will still be involved in hardcore in any kind of way. And we will probably still do shows with local hardcore bands to have fun. We are hardcore kids. And as long as we are doing this band, that’ll never change.

MF: All You Embrace sees One Step Closer’s sound evolve, it feels grand in places and expands on your foundations tenfold. Is this something we can expect with each release to come?

RS: I would say I think so. I think every record is such a time and place thing for our band and I think there will never be one record that sounds the same as the next. I think naturally that’s just kind of how it is. So maybe with the next record, even if we try to make it sound like All You Embrace I think naturally it just won’t, it’ll just sound slightly different or might lean into a slightly different direction than what we did in the past. But I think that’s the fun of making music and that’s the fun of being in a band, just create what you want and enjoy it.

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