MUSIC BOX: Go to Therapy with The New Mastersounds

By on January 20, 2015
Hailing from Leeds, England, The New Mastersounds got together in 1999. PHOTO: THE NEW MASTERSOUNDS

Hailing from Leeds, England, The New Mastersounds got together in 1999. PHOTO: THE NEW MASTERSOUNDS

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – With the utmost respect for the pocket, English funk/jazz-fusion quartet The New Mastersounds have persevered the U.S. tour circuit for a decade now. They garner a high-degree of respect within an instrumental framework, putting them in fine company with The Meters, The Greyboy Allstars and Soulive. Drummer and founding member Simon Allen gives us a glimpse into their headspace.

The Planet: It’s striking to find out that Therapy is your ninth studio album … congrats! I saw one of your first shows here in Jackson Hole in 2008. There seems to be more of a vocal presence on this set compared to previous albums. What inspired this? How do you approach these songs live, without the vocalists?

Simon Allen: Thank you! We’ve used a few different guest vocalists on previous records. If, during the run up to making the record, we have encountered and performed with a singer who we get on well with and who inspires Eddie [Roberts, guitarist and producer], we tend to invite that person to collaborate on the writing and recording.

On Therapy, Kim Dawson was the obvious choice as she had been up on stage with us several times during the 12 months before the recording session, and she’s from Denver, where we were making the record. We only perform Kim’s songs live when we’re lucky enough to have her guesting with us on the gig (she joined us for our late-night NOLA Jazzfest shows in 2014, for example). But we have other vocal tunes from further back in the catalog that we have either instrumentalized or attempted to sing ourselves. The group chant, “gang vocal” style works pretty well, which is a relief since none of us is going to win any singing awards individually!

PJH: Do you find that having vocals as opposed to only instrumental music broadens your fanbase?

SA: We try to include at least a couple of vocal elements in every set as it’s an important way to connect with the audience, but we’ve been trading as a mainly instrumental band for the past 15 years, and it’s in the USA where that seems to make most sense to the concert-going public. You have the cult of the musician over here [in England] –significant numbers of people will come out to watch people play their instruments and enjoy the interplay between players without always insisting on a singer. We’re never going to fill stadiums, but we’re grateful that there are enough people who appreciate what we do to make it worth doing.

PJH: I read that you guys recently celebrated 10 years of touring in the United States. How is it that you’ve managed to play a locale as rural as Jackson Hole a number of times? Any memories stick out about your shows here?

SA: I think we’ve played the Mangy Moose a few times, and the Pink Garter once or twice before. It’s been down to the promoters having a passion for live music and enticing us (and other bands) into the mountains with promises of wild revelry and free skiing hookups. Also, in the early days the Jackson gig was twinned with the Knotty Pine gig on the other side of the pass to make it worth the trip before too many people had heard of us. My only memory of playing Mangy Moose was that the crowd was extremely drunk and rowdy, and I was extremely sore from an afternoon on the mountain. That could easily happen this time too, as three of us are planning to ski or board on the day of the gig. Our bassist Pete is more sensible and will be hibernating in his cabin all day.

PJH: Do you foresee another 10 years of touring in the States, or are there other plans for the future?

SA: We just recorded what will be our 10th studio album in New Orleans last week and worked with another great vocalist, Charly Lowry, from North Carolina. We’re all looking forward to hearing those songs once Eddie has finished mixing them in a month or two.

Not sure we have any other plans. We’re hoping to carry on doing this for as long as we’re physically capable, still enjoying the music, and people are still making the effort to come out and watch us play. We take inspiration from the older generation of musicians like George Porter, Art Neville & Ziggy Modeliste from the Meters (all of whom we’ve had the honor of performing with). They are 20 to 30 years older than us and still doing it. I don’t think there’s a pension plan in this game, which might explain the persistence of musicians!

The New Mastersounds with John Wayne’s World, 9 p.m. on Friday at the Pink Garter Theatre. $20. PinkGarterTheatre.com.

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About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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