Steel Cut Oats rocking and raging on ‘Top Autonomy’ EP | Music | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Steel Cut Oats' newest EP 'Top Autonomy' dropped earlier this month. The band will be touring across parts of Canada throughout June.

Steel Cut Oats rocking and raging on ‘Top Autonomy’ EP

Exploring relationships, corporate culture through the power of “angry girl rock”

  For a band that started on a whim two years ago and consists of members with little prior experience, Steel Cut Oats is going strong.

In their short time as a band, the indie rock five-piece have released two EPs. Their first was in 2022 titled At the Eleventh Hour, which was named Rock Record of the Year at the Nova Scotia Music Awards.

Just this month, they released their follow-up—Top Autonomy, an EP consisting of four tracks, each distinctive in their sound and purpose but tied tightly together by a feminist throughline with a healthy pinch of wit.

“Most of them are trying to make light of difficult or heavy topics that young women go through in their 20s,” said vocalist Sarah Roberts. “Typical things like relationships, bad jobs, bad relationships, and things like that.”

Take the intro track, “Waiting For You”. The speaker is visualized as drowning in their own insecurity, hoping someone can lift them from the depths—except, there’s no one there.

This culminates in a wailing chant of the song’s title, backed by a steady beat from drummer Edward Norris, simple yet powerful strumming from guitarists Sophie Janke and Johannes Koechling—also on synths—and all topped off with an intoxicating bass line from Emma Laffoley. The end product is a song that builds and builds until the loud and defiant chorus shouts out from beyond the depths of despair.

click to enlarge Steel Cut Oats rocking and raging on ‘Top Autonomy’ EP
Toni Stanhope
Steel Cut Oats was listed as The Coast's Best New Artist in 2022, and also won Best Rock Recording of the Year at the Nova Scotia Music Awards in the same year.

“For me, what that song kind of meant was, you know, being in a relationship with someone or dealing with different relationships, whether that’s like friendship or romantic, where you’re waiting for someone to step up, and waiting and waiting and waiting, and it doesn’t seem like they ever will,” explains Roberts.

And yet there’s a comedic angle to this song despite the subject matter. One line near the end is particularly tongue-in-cheek: “Why don’t you be my therapist?”

The track “Professional Disrespect” is similarly two-toned with its lyrics, but instead of keeping a steady rhythm, the band goes full punk rock as Roberts rails against the concept of corporate culture. Ruthless lyrics describe the speaker’s hatred towards some middle manager’s “scummy face”, while heavy drums and overdriven power chords will have the listener head banging along to this righteous anthem.

“When we wrote it, a lot of us were coming out of undergrad, where you’re kind of just sitting there like, oh man, do I go back to school? Do I go and try and work a job? Do I work at this non-profit and make no money? Do I work at this soul-sucking corporate place and get my soul sucked? So, we were all just kind of frustrated with trying to fit into a space which I don’t think was made for us,” said Roberts.

Like the previous track, there is a feminist throughline: both songs feature femme speakers undergoing hardship due in part to some aspect of an emotionless patriarchy, which seeks only to wear them down more and more. To Roberts, this came fairly naturally to the band.

“We have three femme or female members of our band, and they primarily do most of the writing, so I think that voice naturally comes through,” she said, later categorizing their sound as “angry girl rock.”

Their brand of angry girl rock is getting traction. On top of their awards—which include being named The Coast’s number-one new artist of 2022—they have also garnered fans from across the country. One look at their Instagram page will show the number of people asking the band to perform in their province.

Luckily, some of those fans will have their demands met, as Steel Cut Oats will be taking on a tour across the country this summer, starting with a show at the Seahorse Tavern in Halifax on Friday, June 21 alongside Green Eyes, Witch Hands and Sleepy Kicks. Afterwards, they play shows in New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario.

A full list of tour dates is available on the band’s Instagram page. Their new EP, Top Autonomy, is available now on streaming platforms.

Brendyn Creamer

Brendyn is a reporter for The Coast covering news, arts and entertainment throughout Halifax. He was formerly the lead editor of the Truro News and The News (New Glasgow) weekly publications. Hailing from Norris Arm North, a small community in central Newfoundland, his aversion to the outside world has led him...
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