Below is a feature that I published in The Marquee Magazine last March. With The New Mastersounds current run of Colorado shows wrapping up tonight at The Fox, I figured I would post this here for anyone who wants to get some insight into why the band seems to be here every March.
Colorado is known for many things, but high on almost every list are the majestic mountains and the incredible music scene. These are two of the main features that keep Eddie Roberts and his bandmates in The New Mastersounds coming back time and time again. Though the band hails from the Northern England city of Leeds, where the highest point is a mere thousand feet above sea level and the only ski hills are housed indoors in giant warehouses, Roberts loves to hit the slopes when he can while out on the road.
“There is nothing here in England. Just indoor slopes,” he said during a recent interview before admitting that he’d spent the morning with his kids at a nearby indoor hill. “They all learned there. I haven’t managed to get them on a mountain yet but these places are good for learning. At least it’s snow. I think we have a day off in Aspen so the plan is to ski. We usually try to get some skiing in on the Colorado run.”
While it is attractive, skiing isn’t the only thing that draws The New Mastersounds to Colorado year after year. “It’s such a great music scene and we’ve got great fans there,” Roberts said. “The two strongest places in America for us are the Bay Area and Colorado. Everyone else has been catching up over the last couple of years, but those were the places that took interest in us early on and where we seemed to get a following.”
The New Mastersounds have an unmistakable sound, it’s one part jazz, one part ’60s funk, and one part jamband. Pulled together by four men that seem to share a brain, this mixture has proven over the last decade to be an unstoppable force in the music world. They grab the audience’s attention and they don’t let it go till the crowd collapses in a sweaty heap on the dance floor. The secret ingredient in this mesmerizing cocktail is talent and that is one thing that these four guys have in spades.
As most bands do, The New Mastersounds went through some growing pains as they struggled to get their foothold in the fickle landscape of the music world. Though they started out as a four piece, Roberts revealed how dreams of grandeur almost ended their quest before it really started. “Around the time of the first album, we had expanded to an eight piece band with vocals and a horn section for a while. We quickly found that we couldn’t afford to tour a band of that size,” he said. “We asked ourselves, ‘Are we going to carry this on?’ ‘Should we scale it back to the four of us and see if we can go any further with this, or do we call it a day?’ It was a bit of a ‘make or break’ at that time. We ended up scaling things down to the four piece, started up our own label and started again with the record Be Yourself, which kind of speaks for itself in the title.
That move cemented the lineup of Eddie Roberts on guitar, Pete Shand on bass and Simon Allen on drums. The three of them have been together for ten years and while keyboardist Joe Tatton has only been on board for three, the rest of the group went out of their ways to make sure that Tatton was as involved as possible right off the bat. “It’s important that everyone feels like it is ‘their music’ and it’s not just like, ‘Oh we are playing Eddie’s tunes,’” Roberts said. “When Joe joined it was very important that he had some writing on the first album he played on, and that he had his say, so he really felt like he was in the band. Otherwise he would have just felt like he was filling someone else’s shoes.”
That album, Plug and Play, was very well received and Tatton has fit right into the band like they never missed a beat. After touring heavily for much of 2008 and 2009, The New Mastersounds retreated to the studio to record a celebration of their ten year anniversary and late last year, Ten Years On hit the shelves to rave reviews. Though it showcases the band’s trademark grooves and dance floor friendly sound, as well as any record in their catalog,Ten Years On also features a stellar collaboration with soulful Vermont rocker Grace Potter and contributions by sax genius Skerik.
Roberts is hesitant to commit to any goals or dreams that may be on the horizon for the band’s next decade, as so many of their dreams have already been blown out of the water. “I never expected to play in America. It just wasn’t something that I thought was achievable,” he said. “Do I hope that we’ll still be going in 10 years time? I totally do. There is a long way to go and hopefully I’ll drop dead on stage. That’s how I see it.”