Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Angel On My Shoulder: Serafina Steer’s Baker’s Dozen

From a song so good she almost forgot her shopping, to the iconoclastic brilliance of Alice Coltrane, Bas Jan’s Serafina Steer guides Stephanie Phillips through thirteen songs and albums that have inspired her

Photo by Sophie Baker

Over the years, music has made me do a lot of things, but some of the most powerful moments are when a song interrupts my life so intensely, I completely forget what I was doing. It’s a moment multi-instrumentalist Serafina Steer, lead singer in the experimental post punk band Bas Jan and performer and writer in Jarvis Cocker’s JARV IS, can relate to. “I was listening to one of the records and I left my shopping up the Kilburn High Road so I had to go back,” she jokes as she walks me through her day, spent preparing for an upcoming music video and dropping her son off with the child minder, before we sit down for this zoom interview.

Steer is a jovial, endearing presence on this bright, mid-week afternoon. She ponders whether you can break the “rules” of the Baker’s Dozen lists – “Tori Amos had all tracks but I don’t know whether she’s special” – and preparing for Bas Jan’s new album, Baby U Know, out this week on Scottish label Lost Map Records. Recorded in three days at London’s Cafe Oto during lockdown 2020, Baby U Know is a lo-fi indie, funk-laden collage that expands the world of Bas Jan, bringing in new and unexpected influences. This can be heard best on opener ‘Progressive Causes’, which interpolates ‘90s heart throbs the Backstreet Boys ‘I Want It That Way’, while Steer, in full motivational speaker mode, considers why it’s important that “a person discovers what they really want”.

Much of the album was written during the pandemic and reflects political uncertainty of the time. ‘Visions of Change’ is a driving number that demands we find better ways to imagine our future, while ‘All Forgotten’ was written about the PPE disaster early in the pandemic when the government failed to provide health care workers with adequate protection. “It’s about batting it down the line until no one can really be blamed for it and people still make their money,” she explains. “I would like it if we’d have done more [political songs] but I’ve got a tendency to always throw a couple of love songs in there or things related to that side of life.”

As we prepare to talk about the songs she’s chosen for her Baker’s Dozen, Steer tells me that many of the artists we’ll talk about have inspired her not just because of their music but also how they approach their craft. “It’s about their independence from the music industry or ways around industry, or sometimes it’s a sense of them.” Ultimately, the songs and records she chose take her back to periods in her life, pre-Covid and motherhood, and who she was at that time. “In Jarvis Cocker’s band, I had to come back home on the third day of the tour and get a really early train. I was just listening to music all the way down from Newcastle to London and the sun was coming up, and I just felt like, ‘Oh God, I haven’t done this for so long’. Just being able to listen to music for hours and watch the world go by. It’s funny, listening to some albums and thinking, ‘that was when I lived there’ and ‘that was so and so who introduced me to that music’ and ‘that was such a big deal’, so it felt nostalgic.”

Bas Jan’s new album Baby U Know is released on January 28 via Lost Map. To begin reading Serafina Steer’s Baker’s Dozen click the picture of her below

First Record

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