(this piece was published by Planet JH Weekly)
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.
Aaron Davis: It’s striking to find out that Therapy is your 9th 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 to 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!
AD: Do you find that having vocals as opposed to only instrumental music broadens your fanbase?
Allen: 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 fifteen 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