As the old saying goes, you can’t reap the fruits of your labor until you have put in the time and effort to sow the seed. Well, for the funk quartet from Leeds, England, the New Mastersounds, it’s time to reap the benefits of more than a decade playing in the United States and spreading spine-tingling good funk, R&B and soul across the coasts.
The group is in beginning stages of a 32-date tour in support of its latest smash album, “Made For Pleasure,” its biggest trek across the country so far. Guitarist and bandleader Eddie Roberts was kind enough to recently talk to Tahoe Onstage about why this album stands out from the band’s catalog and how he feels about gearing up for the tour.
The New Mastersounds formed in 1999 with Roberts being joined by drummer Simon Allen, bassist Pete Shand and organist Joe Tatton to play around Leeds. The slick combination of deep, funky rhythms and cool, roughneck jazz overtones continually resets the bar for what it means to play in the pocket and they are one of the pre-eminent funk bands on the scene.
Making the rounds throughout the United Kingdom and eventually the United States, the band’s gradual rise was done on the back of a steady 18-month cycle of finding slices of time to record albums in the midst of grueling tour schedules. This intense work ethic has served the New Mastersounds well over the years, but it was born from a place of necessity.
“(Our work ethic) came around because it had to. We didn’t have any money, we didn’t have a label. The whole thing was book a week in the studio, get in there, make an album and that’s how we started and we still do it that way. … We figure out in our calendar, maybe six months out, we go ‘OK we got a week off here, where we gonna be? Let’s book a studio,’ and we’re just gonna have to hope that by the time we get into the studio we’ve got enough creative energy to make an album, and that’s pretty much how we do it,” said Roberts.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The band followed the same formula when it went to New Orleans in January to record its 10th studio effort “Made For Pleasure.” Roberts had lived in the city for short time and felt he wanted the eclectic flavor of the region to seep into the album. He booked time in The Living Room in the West Bank, an old church that had been converted into a recording studio, and the band used vintage equipment to play and record the album.
Where the album strikes a different chord than the band’s previous releases is the collaborative nature of the Mastersounds with its handful of musical guests. The band is joined by Native American siren Charly Lowry, who delivers gutsy performances on three tracks, along with additional contributions across the album from percussion wizard Mike Dillon and San Francisco-based horn section West Coast Horns, featuring tenor saxophonist Joe Cohen and trumpeter Mike Olmos.
The West Coast Horns were a “no-brainer” because of Roberts’ relationship with them in his band The West Coast Sound, and Lowry had been someone the guitarist had wanted to work with again after first playing with her at an Everyone Orchestra show in Asheville, North Carolina. Beyond coming in to fill-in musical parts, the guests all had a hand in molding the songs.
“This was more of a collaborative album than before, where we had the horns in the studio at the same time as us. I mean, for one tune we recorded as a seven-piece with Charly called ‘Enough is Enough.’ We literally did it all in the room together. We added a few things afterwards, but the energy of all of us playing — I mean Mike Dillon was like, ‘Okie doke, you’re on Jam Cruise.’ But in terms of the horns and coming up with the groove and Charly singing, it was all very organic and there,” Roberts said.
“Made For Pleasure” sizzles with that heart and groove, which a lot of credit has to be given to the guests who were able to expand and add depth to the band’s songs. Roberts pointed out another collaborative event helped to influence who showed up on the album.
“Actually, the original idea was to be in New Orleans and get some New Orleans players in, but then everybody was on Jam Cruise. But we got Mike Dillon and (he) got off the boat, flew to New Orleans, came straight into the studio and laid down three tracks. That was pretty crazy,” Roberts said.
With the recording part of the cycle finished, the band is off to perform behind the album with a five-week tour that will be the longest of its career. The group will be shuttled around the country in a bus and for the first time will be able to have its own backline. Both were comforts that Roberts welcomed, giving credit to the solid infrastructure around the band and a great booking agent for making it possible.
A new album brings new adventures for the New Mastersounds, as they are set to play in some new parts of the country, including spots in Texas and the Gulf Shore. It’s a daunting task to travel through unknown markets, but Roberts is hopeful the band’s previous live shows have planted seeds of excitement in these areas.
“We’re positively anxious. … I have no idea what to expect. I mean, luckily because we’ve been touring the United States for 11 years, enough people have seen us at festivals and gone back to their cities to kind of spread the word. So it shouldn’t be too bad,” Roberts chuckled.
With fans across the country ready to catch the New Mastersounds live for the first time, all the band has to do now is lay the funk and reap the rewards of playing such pleasurable music for a living.
Related story: New Mastersounds have it dialed in on “Made for Pleasure.” LINK
10/2 – Los Angeles, CA – Teragram Ballroom
10/3 – San Francisco, CA – Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
10/4 – Mill Valley, CA – Sweetwater Music Hall
10/6 – Chico, CA – Lost On Main
10/7 – Eugene, OR – HiFi Music Hall
10/8 – Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom
10/9 – 10/10 – Seattle, WA – Nectar Lounge
10/11 – Missoula, MT – Top Hat Lounge
10/13 – Salt Lake City, UT – The State Room
10/14 – Boulder, CO – Fox Theatre
10/15 – Steamboat Springs, CO – Old Town Pub
10/16 – Albuquerque, NM – El Rey Theater
10/17 – Chicago, IL – Concord Music Hall
10/19 – Bloomington, IN – The Bluebird
10/20 – St. Louis, MO – Old Rock House
10/21 – Memphis, TN – 1884 Lounge
10/22 – Rockdale, TX – Art Outside
10/23 – Dallas, TX – The Loft at Gilley’s
10/24 – Houston, TX – Warehouse Live Studio
10/27 – Birmingham, AL – Workplay
10/28 – Baton Rouge, LA – Varsity Theatre
10/29 – Jackson, MS – Duling Hall
10/30 – Hattiesburg, MS – Dollar Box Showroom
10/31 – Live Oak, FL – Hulaween
11/1 – Charleston, SC – Charleston Pour House
11/3 – Wilmington, NC – Brooklyn Arts Center
11/4 – Charlotte, NC – Neighborhood Theatre
11/5 – Raleigh, NC – Southland Ballroom
11/6 – Asheville, NC – Isis
11/7 – Nashville, TN – War Memorial Auditorium*
12/31 – New Orleans, LA – Joy Theatre
1/2 – New York, NY – The Cutting Room
1/6 – 1/11 – Miami, FL – Jam Cruise
2/2 – 2/6 – Riviera Maya, Mexico – Panic En La Playa
* w/ Lettuce