The New Mastersounds don’t need vocals to get crowds going
Thinking back to the bands that first made him fall in love with soul music, guitarist Eddie Roberts can’t come up with many names.
Early recordings by The Funky Meters drove his decision to form a funk and soul band with no singer. Aside from the New Orleans R&B legends, Roberts formed his musical tastes with unlabeled mix tapes and one-off listens from one-off bands. His four-man group hailing from the United Kingdom, The New Mastersounds, plays Tuesday at the Old Town Pub.
“I’ve always been surrounded by record collectors, so I was constantly being fed with mix tapes, and generally I never knew the names of the bands or the tracks that I was listening to at the time,” Roberts said over the phone on his band’s first day off during an intense West Coast tour. The New Mastersounds line-up also features Joe Tatton on Hammond organ, Pete Shand on bass and Simon Allen on drums.
An organizer for club shows and DJ nights during the 1990s, Roberts had easy access to little-known soul and funk records from the 1960s and 1970s.
“For a lot of the funk stuff, they were almost sort of like one-hit wonders. They had all these crazy names like Leroy & The Drivers, and maybe they did one single or one album that’s been hidden in a warehouse,” he said. Coming out of a Leeds, U.K., DJ scene that was obsessed with forgotten American soul and funk, The New Mastersounds have created a performance style that doesn’t have any easy comparisons – except with bands that make you want to dance.
“If they like funk and they like dancing and they like having a good party, then we’re the perfect band for them, basically,” Roberts said. “If they’re not into that, then it’s probably not the right thing to come to.”
Instead of using a vocalist to connect with a concert crowd, The New Mastersounds get in tune with an audience partially by talking to them between songs and mostly by laying down grooves that make people want to be involved.
“It’s not introspective, even though it’s instrumental,” Roberts said. The New Mastersounds are not going to stand on stage with their backs to the crowd and drift off into lengthy instrumental solos, he said.
“We’re pushing out the grooves, and we’re pushing out the energy, and that seems to connect with people even though we don’t have a vocalist,” Roberts said.
The New Mastersounds’ latest studio album, “Plug & Play,” came out March 3 on Fontana, the independent distribution arm of Universal Music Group. The band’s spring U.S. tour also includes stops The Fillmore in San Francisco, Belly Up in Aspen and Gothic Theatre in Denver.
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