Feature

The Little Stevies teem with talent

The Horseshoe Tavern
Wednesday, October 13th

There’s nothing like the blending together of human voices in song and, in the case of sisters Sibylla and Bethany Stephen, the blend goes beyond mere musicality. You might say their ability to combine their voices to such pleasing effect is downright otherworldly, if they hadn’t been born to it.

Alternating on lead, these two Melbourne-based sister-singers support each other seamlessly – vocally and otherwise. In truth, it’s difficult to understand where the one stops and the other begins but, when they begin to harmonize, why would it matter? Sublime doesn’t quite cover it as they tease their audience with an original folk-pop sound that’s matured greatly since the release of their inaugural disc, Love Your Band, just last year.

As they develop into a more refined sound – one that begins to capitalize on their substantial musical ability (guitars, djembe, harmonica, ukulele, percussion, trumpet) – they’ve evolved more of a ‘band’ sound, thanks to the bass-playing and harmonizing strengths of co-founding friend, Robin Geradts-Gill and recently-added drummer, Josh Barber – who brings a robust, jazz-schooled kick to their stand-out brand of vocal-rich Aussie pop.

Which raises the obvious question…what makes The Little Stevies stand out? Originally, their voices. Love Your Band is entirely focused on the unique fusion of Sibylla to Bethany, with little else to take your attention away. Light, fluffy pop structures combine with delicious vocal aeronautics and skeletal accompaniment – transforming into something
fresh, pure and innocent-sounding…like something out of another place and time. The opportunity to see The Little Stevies live – playing songs from their first and soon-to-be-finished sophomore album – confirms their acceleration into the enviable position of being on the cusp of something big.

Nobody harmonizes like Aussies do on a good day. But combine Bethany and “’byll’s” talent with a beyond-their-years grasp of timing and presentation, a natural love for hooks and an overall musicality that comes from who-knows-where and you’ve found something quite uncommon.

Credit their parents, perhaps – as their mother and father (the elder “Stevies”) made up the lion’s share of the popular Australian ‘70s band, Dove. Yet, the sounds that crystallize on stage have less to do with influence and much more to do with chemistry. Their youthful appearance creates a momentary disconnect – listening with closed eyes makes you think you’re hearing seasoned veterans.  Still, with combined ages under 100, there’s a slight disbelief that they could possibly be this good this soon. All the more pleasant the surprise, the only tip-off being somewhat light lyrical content which is quickly morphing into the more experience-based insights into life, love and loss that come with maturity and exposure.

Given the opportunity to tease a crowd with less than an hour’s worth of what they do – prior to their showcases at Ottawa’s annual OCFF (Ontario Council of Folk Festivals) Conference –  this confident 4-piece ripped into one of the highlights from their original disc – “Sunshower” – an airy, perky bite out of a summer’s day that dramatically demonstrates their vocal strengths in under 4:14. Accompanying themselves on acoustic guitar and ukulele, Sibylla and Bethany alternated on lead, introducing most songs while injecting humourous banter along the way – seemingly devoid of any stage fright or the road weariness that certainly must accompany world travel.

Songs like their paean to aging, “Dink You”, joined seamlessly with new material in a mélange of rhythms and harmonic bliss that attempted to stop time, given the purity of its delivery. A highlight was surely the uplifting “Somewhere Where We’ve Been” – with its buoyant free-verse and upbeat descriptive of life on the road ? underwear aside.

Set your clocks and calendars, music fans. The Little Stevies teem with talent and an overall sincerity and dedication towards what they do which, inadvertently, tips a hat to their long-term plans. I, for one, can’t wait to see what transpires.

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