Introducing Steele FC. Not a football team, but a football fanatic. Not an athlete but a musician crooning his way to the top of the league. Having discovered the world of football (soccer) at a young age, the New Yorker found himself fixated on the sport, following his club Arsenal religiously – and any other matches he could find streams for – across about 3,500 miles and some very unhelpful time differences. Now, through his impassioned personal project – away from his other role as drummer for The Britanys – Steele has created his own football club-cum-solo-moniker that allows him to merge his sporting and sonic tastes within a mature sound driven by melodic riffs and driving beats – think The Kinks if they discovered synths and Cruyff.
Things really clicked into place last summer, when Steele travelled to the Catskill Mountains with his girlfriend and her band. Here, backdropped by the stunning mountain range, Steele wrote and recorded his debut EP, Here Comes (Steele FC) – two tracks Que Sera and Ten Thirty are premiered below – featuring production by Jake Faber (Sunflower Bean) and Drew Vandenberg (via zoom), and collaborations with Soko and Sunflower Bean’s Julia Cummings; proving that Steele’s philosophy is one of progressive tiki-taka collaboration.
GALLERYSteele FC / photography by Garrett Fox
Alex James Taylor: Introduce us to Steele FC and the project you’re building.
Steele Kratt: My name is Steele and I am embarrassingly obsessed with football – soccer. After a few different iterations of names, one of which resulting in a cease and desist, Steele FC appeared. Sports and music are always on the brain, and my live band is composed of my close friends and league teammates. My bandmates and I play on various teams with other New York musicians, and we spend 90 percent of our day arguing over sports. I’m obviously using the music as a vehicle to land a guest spot on Soccer AM and to be a squad player for the World XI at Soccer Aid. All talk and fanfare aside, I am first and foremost a musician. I have been playing music my entire life and want nothing more than to share my work with the world at large.
AJT: Tell us about the tracks Que Sera and Ten Thirty.
SK: Que Sera and Ten Thirty are both songs about the existentialism that follows grief and loss. Death is the looming inevitability of life and love, and comes surrounded with endless questions. After the loss of multiple family members over the course of a few months, I had my first proper experience with grief. I was sad, but also surprised at my clarity around the situation. It completely changed the way I thought about life and I was struck by all of the strange quirks that accompany death. Que Sera is a song about the lengthy visits to the hospital, the mundane, the presentness, the warmth of collective sadness, the strange formalities and heartfelt platitudes, our biological responses to shock, the dull aching pain that moves in after it’s all over, and the warm memories in which our loved ones live eternally. Ten Thirty was written during long trips to the Bronx to visit a passing maternal figure in my life. The verse is written from the perspective of my future self, reflecting on my life from my death bed. The chorus takes place in the present, as I am walking back to the train station after a hospital visit. It’s very easy to get lost in thought while walking from point A to B, and at that moment in time I was especially consumed with cycling thoughts.
AJT: And you recorded the EP in the Catskill mountains, how did that affect the work?
SK: I always write and record the initial version of the song at home. Ironically enough before quarantine, I didn’t have the urge to broaden my horizons and record with a producer. I spent the summer in the Catskills with my girlfriend and her band. They had repurposed the home into their demoing studio. Always the opportunist, I was able to mesh my favourite ‘home’ studio idea with two pros, Drew Vandenberg and Jake Faber. Drew and I had had long calls about making an EP together, and I had originally intended to travel to Georgia to record at Chase Park Transduction. Ultimately, health and safety, and logistics stood in the way, and we came up with a very high-tech method of getting to work. Through conferencing platforms, Audio Movers and Session Wire, plus the unsung hero of 2020, Zoom, we were all able to have real-time access and control. We could hear takes come in and be edited in real-time, all while on video chat with each other. Jake and I were in the house together, streaming Drews friendly face while he was miles away in his own studio. We all got very acquainted with each other’s faces and lives, but haven’t met in real life. I’ve asked, and since forgotten, if Drew is tall in person. Recording in the Catskills was lovely because it was late summer and beautiful around the clock. It was nice to be free of the distractions from the city, and after a long day’s work I could clear my head by taking long runs in the mountains. It was a summer filled with pockets of warm memories amidst global tragedy. I am very grateful to everyone who helped me on my way. I felt very special that it was able to happen.
“After a few different iterations of names, one of which resulting in a cease and desist, Steele FC appeared.”
AJT: What can we expect from Here Comes (Steele FC)?
SK: Five mid-tempo belters. Lots of big instrumental sections. Recorded to sound like a live performance, but with all parts written and played by yours truly (minus guest appearances from Soko, Julia Cumming, and a few sick guitar solos performed by Fat Trout Trailer Park). I’m back in the saddle prepping for my follow-up EP, and I cannot wait for you to hear that one as well. I want to try to create a brand of music that exists somewhere in between Primal Scream and Brian Eno. Also on the horizon, I’m excited to announce that I am going to be an official shirt sponsor for Sheffield and Jamie Vardy’s very own, Stocksbridge Park Steels FC. If you live in or visit the Sheffield area, go pay them a visit!
“I’m excited to announce that I am going to be an official shirt sponsor for Sheffield and Jamie Vardy’s very own, Stocksbridge Park Steels FC.”
AJT: That brings me on to my next question – when did you first discover your love of football?
SK: Well, first and foremost I am a basketball boy. I was born into a big basketball family, and I am a big boy, so naturally throughout my youth I was on teams and in camps. My best friend since age three, Garrett [Fox] (the photographer of this piece, and my occasional bandmate), was a soccer academy player in his youth, so I’d always go watch his games and keep up on surface level, but never played. In high school, I became more invested in watching the game, partly through my english literature teacher, who was from the UK and an Arsenal fan. I started following Arsenal, much to the dismay of many of my friends now. For college, I did a year of art school, and couldn’t for the life of me find people to play basketball with. However, through the music scene, I was able to find a niche of friends from abroad or international households who played soccer. I was craving any sort of team sport, so I started playing with them and learning as I went. I was truly god awful for a while – if you gave me the ball I’d lose it – but after a few years of getting my ass beat, motivated by fear of shame, I put in a lot of hours and am actually good now. Now I have tunnel vision for the sport. It filled the missing void basketball left and took me on an even further ride than I could have imagined as an adult [laughs].
AJT: What’s the team you play for?
SK: I have a team with my friends, mostly musicians and artists, but also a few surgeons – lucky for them, I often solicit free medical advice for my various injuries. Our team was called Soccer Football Club, but post-Covid we decided to do a full rebrand. We are now, officially, Full Kit FC, or affectionately, The Anchors. Our most recent season saw us go unbeaten, but sadly, what goes up must inevitably come down.
AJT: And what position do you play?
S: I play centre back. Since I didn’t grow up playing, I know my limitations in regards to technique, but make up for it with good old fashioned no-nonsense defending, a Phil Jones-like commitment to getting my head on any and every ball, pinging long balls, and doing lots of talking.
AJT: How’re you enjoying the Euros currently – who’s your money on?
SK: The euros are dominating (and possibly ruining) my life. I’m watching ’em all, and loving it. I predicted all the advancing teams correctly (minus Finland and Ukraine), and saw three of my first four bracket predictions come true, so I was feeling pretty confident, up until that France game. I had them, like all of us probably, as the winners, but since they royally fucked it, my entire bracket is shot. Also, sorry to admit, I had Germany crushing England. I’m loving it though. And loving seeing Bukayo Saka get the recognition he deserves. The magic of the cup!
AJT: If Steele FC had its own kit, what would it look like?
SK: In the near future Steele FC will for sure have its own kit. Ideally an Umbro or Adidas manufacture, something in the vein of a two-tone Blackburn Rovers kit, or a classy all blue or white with a nice script sponsor (like Coors or Coca Cola) across the chest for the home, and then maybe a black and red accented away strip. Maybe some vertical stripes, like Inter or AC Milan. Endless options. We’ll have to do a follow-up piece when the kits drop. I design the shirts for our club, with generous consulting from my teammate, and art guru Niccolo. Below are some of our old ones. We are available, as a package deal, for commission for your club or brand. Please inquire within.
GALLERYSteele FC past and present kits
Follow Steele FC on Instagram.