The New Mastersounds’ Groove Alchemy
English jambands are a rare breed. The New Mastersounds probably wouldn’t call themselves a jamband (few jambands would, for that matter) but they certainly know how to stretch out a groove. The funky quartet—who hail from Leeds, U.K.—played a four-show run at the Brooklyn Bowl in New York City last month. After selling out their three originally scheduled gigs, the band was asked to play another two days later. It’s been an interesting ride for the New Mastersounds, who’ve made their way from the dance clubs of the U.K. to the headiest fests this side of the pond. We spoke with Eddie Roberts (guitar) and Joe Tatton (keys) about their Brooklyn Bowl shows, the band’s history, the British jam scene (or lack thereof), future plans and more.
During Friday’s show at the Brookyln Bowl, you guys talked about your first New York gig at Knitting Factory. You mentioned that you played mostly standard funk type stuff because you didn’t know people really cared to hear jamming, can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Eddie Roberts: Well, that was the scene that we’d come from. You know the British scene was all about the DJ’s playing and then you’d come on and do a one hour, maybe a 45 minute slot really. If it was anything over an hour then the DJs would get pissed and everyone in the audience would get bored because people were there to dance really rather than listen to music or be music connoisseurs of any description. So that was the format we were used to and we’d been doing that—well I’d been doing that since ’92. So I think the first time we came to New York was probably 2006 or something like that. So that’s what we were used to, and the whole American scene was completely new to us. We didn’t really get it; we didn’t know why anyone would want to listen to a long solo or anything like that.
Did you think it was a good thing when you realized that’s what people were interested in?
Eddie: We kind of had to reset our….not standards, but kind of our ethic. Our work ethic, the way we were presenting it.
Joe Tatton: It still seemed wrong didn’t it? For me to do a five-minute solo, it just seemed so self-indulgent.
Eddie: That’s what it felt like, it felt very self-indulgent and we felt uncomfortable doing it initially. I mean we got it with jazz, you know?
Joe: Now we’ll play a solo for twenty minutes [laughs].
Eddie: [Laughs] Way too long—obviously with the jazz tradition that’s different—but in the context of that we were playing as we saw it, the funk stuff we were playing. Also, we used to have this little thing we shouted at each other on stage because we saw people like the Greyboy Allstars and they would just sit on the groove for so long. And we were like, “Wow, they’re just sitting on the groove. We gotta believe in the groove.” So we used to just shout at each other on stage, “Believe in the groove!” So we’d just sit there. The other night, especially Saturday night, we hit a couple of grooves and I didn’t want to leave the groove, I just wanted to stay doing that. I could have stayed there an hour on this one groove because I was just loving it so much. It’s changed massively.
So you guys think you’ve gotten a lot of love on the American jam scene?
Eddie: Yeah, absolutely. I mean this weekend proves it more than anything else. I wasn’t expecting such an amazing turnout, but to have three sold-out shows and a next one tagged on. Even the kid’s show sold out. It was really crazy. We’ve got our generation—another 20 years time those kids will be adults, we’ll be—dead. [Laughs].
Joe: 70. [Laughs]
How did the three night run at the Brooklyn Bowl come about?
Eddie: I was there last September doing a show with Adam Deitch and Adam Scone. Pete Costello [of the Brooklyn Bowl] was like, “How do I get the Mastersounds here?” You know, because we haven’t played for ages. So we talked about it and we worked it out. So yeah, we planned it back then in September.
And then the third night came after these sell-outs?
Eddie: Yeah, absolutely. It was literally I think—was it Friday? Friday night I got a call after I got back to the hotel, like three in the morning, I got a call from Costello saying, “Hey, how complicated would it be to change your flights and do an extra night?” So we worked on it and it worked out.
Over in the U.K., is there anything analogous to the jam scene? Or is it a totally different show when you play over there?
Eddie: [Laughs] You live there now Joe, I don’t.
Joe: There are scenes. There’s a big indie band scene. That’s the only analogous thing, to go on tour for two weeks. There’s kind of those venues where indie bands can play, but not in this kind of jamming, eclectic, funk, soul, reggae. There’s no such thing as the jam scene over there. There is a small sort of funk and soul scene, but it used to be bigger.
Eddie: It doesn’t mean necessarily that some of the bands on the jam scene don’t have a following there.
Joe: They’ll crossover, yeah.
Eddie: But there just isn’t any kind of profile to a jam scene in the U.K.
Joe: Like we said, U.K. audiences aren’t that bothered listening to the solos.
Eddie: They definitely won’t come to more than one show in like a year. They’ll see you once in a year and if you’re lucky you’ll come back a year later. The general thing is that people kind of go, “Well I saw them last year,” so they won’t necessarily make the effort to go and see you this year. Even if they had a great time, it’s like, “Oh, I’ve seen them, been there, done that.” In America it’s crazy. People will come night after night. It puts the pressure on us to change the setlists all the time.