From Leeds, United Kingdom, to the heart of American soul, The New Mastersounds (NMS) are intuitive to the sonic mold created by their audience.
Over the past 10 years, NMS have emerged as one of the prominent bands in a ‘new funk’ scene; NMS have an elevator-esque chill that fuses with popping funk and syncopated drums that results in a dancing frenzy on the top floor.
The band’s short instrumental songs, what Drummer Simon Allen refers to as a post-Grateful Dead jam band scene with a “snappy, quirky funk,” stretches across the pond. Distinctive as the Hammond organ (Joe Tatton) itself, the band shimmers, shines and grooves beyond belief.
But how does NMS create such a staggering impression on listeners so far from home?
“We have become more open-minded, because our fans are more open-minded,” said Allen
NMS are hard to stump, fueled by necessity, gritty grooves and the deep rhythms that leak through the cracks of a late-night dance club rage.
New generations of people flood in and overwhelm the band’s social media outlets, generating a word-of-mouth craze. It is what prompted guitarist and bandleader Eddie Roberts to move to the U.S.
Allen stressed how the band plays off the audience and therefore demonstrated the importance of a lighting crew; whereas some venues only have a spotlight on the band, lighting crews that illuminate the audience help the band to personalize each performance.
“If it is too dark on stage, we cannot see each other in the band and audience members,” said Allen.
NMS engages the audience directly and harnesses their energy. All of this translates to a unique concept that Allen refers to as “believing in the groove.”
“We play a one or two bar groove and slowly begin to add texture,” said Allen.
By stripping the groove down and keeping it going, it makes the music consistent. Suddenly fans hip to the groove burst out in dance.
NMS generated this loop-like feel of today’s electronic music to give listeners something to hold on to.
At its core, NMS found a common interest in Black American music in the 1960s spun by DJs in Leeds. EDM Electronica was hip and the band quickly began to add this ammunition into their arsenal.
All natural, NMS did not cave to the luxuries of programmed loops and backing tracks, but imitated the four-on-the-floor bass drum, or house elements.
Their ninth studio album, “Therapy,” eases the pain with everything from deep funk and British wit to a 1974 George Benson-style instrumental of Bruno Mars’ hit “Treasure.”
The unexpected surprise had me rocking out to the album in reverse. From “Treasure” to “Detox,” I was coaxed into a mellow jazz, digging on Roberts’ solo guitar.
In combination with guest saxophonist Ryan Zoidis of Lettuce, on “Slow Down” and vocalist Kim Dawson of The Motet on “Soul Sister,” NMS have leaped beyond any musical spectrum.
Popping funk and tasty drum breaks rewind to my personal favorite, “Whistle Song,” where the band’s lips carry the melody.
NMS have toured throughout Europe, Japan and the U.S. and have collaborated with artists like James Taylor, Karl Denson, The Headhunters, Galactic, Lou Donaldson and more.
“Intoxicated by the funk,” NMS junkies linger “until last call when you dishrag home, sweaty and exhausted on a wave of euphoria,” according to the band’s website.
Before their return at Fairfield Theatre Company’s StageOne on Nov. 6, NMS will open for Maceo Parker at the Brooklyn Bowl (London, UK) on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.
“As we were halfway through the first gig, we knew that we had to come back [to FTC],” said Allen. Overall, the band was impressed with the setup, friendly staff and FTC’s attention to detail.
Generally, NMS draws a plethora of attendees from their 30s to 70s, said Allen. Those “a bit more connected” with live music appreciation usually find their way out to a NMS gig; but for the rest of us who are unexposed, it’s time to dig the funk before it’s too late.
After FTC, NMS is heading south for their eighth year at the Bear Creek Music & Art Festival in Live Oak, Fla. on Nov. 13-16. Bear Creek is keen to legends like Bernard Purdie, J.B. Horns, Umphrey’s McGee, Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk, Tauk, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds and The Main Squeeze.
“It’s incredible when musicians are standing on the side of the stage and start hopping on when they fancy a groove,” said Allen.
NMS finished their 2014 tour schedule strong with no intent to pump the brakes. They have a huge New Year’s Eve show planned in New Orleans and will be in the studio, either in NOLA or Denver, in early January.
In the midst, NMS plans to release a new album for 2015. Allen says the album will feature American and New Orleans guest artists and will emerge after a month of dedicated studio time.