If Stephen Speaks’ cavalcade of hit songs – such as “Out of My League” and “Passenger Seat” to name a few – have this pensive and somber feel to them, this pop rock outfit’s new single, “Alive to Fight” is quite the opposite. The new song is a buoyant jingle jangle anthem that drips with optimism.
And in this time of COVID-19, the song is uplifting and offers hope with an upbeat akin to a Jack Johnson song.
And yet to singer and songwriter Rockwell Ripperger – who is essentially Stephen Speaks – the impetus for the song comes from a different place.
“ ’Alive to Fight’ is when the cheaters are winning and you just want to give up, but you don’t give up,” he enthused.
And then the big reveal: “It was inspired by someone stealing all my music gear out of my car but that isn’t what it is about.”
“It’s all right though,” he smiled during a Zoom interview with this writer from his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “That’s the beauty of music. You can interpret it in a different way; the way it speaks to you.”
For sure, for the hundreds of thousands of Filipino music fans of Stephen Speaks, “Alive to Fight” will rank among the band’s all-time best.
It was 19 years ago, when Stephen Speaks debut album, “No More Doubt”, was released in the Philippines.
On the strength of two immediate hits – “Passenger Seat” and “Out of My League” – the album went platinum in 10 days. In local music industry parlance, that’s 40,000 units sold.
“I was stunned about the reaction to our music,” recalled Ripperger. “We did all right in the United States but over here ... It was like a supernova.”
As a result, Stephen Speaks joined a small company of recording artists who found greater success in the Philippines as compared to their homeland. Norwegian pop rock band Fra Lippo Lippi and English new wave crew Wild Swans are two such acts to have been constant Manila visitors.
Reflecting on the connection between Stephen Speaks and Filipino fans, Ripperger reflected: “Stephen Speaks gets played in over a hundred countries every month but none more than the Philippines. Since 2002, I have focused my efforts on touring and doing business there as the fans and radio have embraced my music. I fell in love with the culture and it is one of my favorite places on earth.
“Philippine culture is very family-oriented and they find joy in the arts. I am a fairly romantic person and I choose to be this way. I want to believe in love and happy endings, and I think these songs strongly connect with Philippine culture.”
And Ripperger hopes that “Alive to Fight” will also connect with his Filipino fans, especially the new generation of kids who weren’t around when the band took Manila by storm.
The lyrics to the song portray a strong outlook or belief in life in spite of the tough time.
“This whole ship’s going down, if I can’t find a way.
Not to fall apart.
This whole ship is going down if I can’t find a way
To get everybody out
Out and safe.”
If people find new meaning in it, then great, because music is supposed to be like that – inspiring and insightful.”
The song and other upcoming singles will precede a new album, and perhaps, if in better times, a Philippine tour by 2023.
And the Stephen Speaks classics as well as the new songs, will be released on vinyl for the first time by 2023 in time for “No More Doubt’s” 20th anniversary.
Bared Ripperger: “The plans for Stephen Speaks in 2022 is to release two more singles, and plan a tour for 2023 given that the pandemic slows down and live music begins to recover. We also plan to release three singles in 2023 and if possible tour in the Philippines.”
“It’s all about taking things slow but doing them right.”
Stephen Speaks' new single, "Alive to Fight" as well as other songs are all out on various streaming platforms.