[Interview] Simon of The New Mastersounds takes us on a walk down Fancy Lane.

[Interview] Simon of The New Mastersounds takes us on a walk down Fancy Lane.

Simon Allen, the drummer of The New Mastersounds, hides away in his bunk on the tour bus while they are parked in Richmond, V.A. to chat with me. He asks about Bullet and how we got started. Simon assures me he will not be disturbed by the other band members or crew while we are chatting. Polite and curious are the two adjectives I will use to describe this talkative Loiner.

I noticed you created a blog for another publication last fall, are you typically the band member who is selected to talk to people like me?

{Laughs} I’m the chattiest social media type person in the band. In terms of interviews, the more serious the interview the more likely we’ll get Eddie, the guitarist, to do it. If it’s informal it’s usually me. He’s better at sound bites. I tend to waffle on and go on tangents. I quite like writing and photography and to communicate with friends and fans as much as possible.

Are you excited to hang out in the dirty south and play at Terminal West this week?

We’ve played at Terminal West for the last three shows, but before that we would play at Smith’s Olde Bar there up the stairs. Do you know that place? It’s kind of debauchery in there. Terminal West is a lot more civilized and it’s a bigger room. Moon Hooch has been touring with us, which will be another show we get to do with them. The kids who work at Terminal West are always very friendly and hospitable. The south is generally either our route into or out of Jazz Fest in New Orleans, we’ve been playing there since 2007.

Tell us about The Nashville Session.

It was released last Friday, April 22. It is a vinyl only studio album that was recorded in front of a live audience. That record is a really good representation of the four of us just doing what we do. When we did the six-week tour for Made for Pleasure, we had never been out for that long before. We were all slightly concerned we were going to hate each other by the end of it. Our manager suggested that we should go into the studio in Nashville and make a record. We didn’t have a document of our live shows because of the way we typically record our music in the studio on an analog reel-to-reel tape. It has more funk and more soul than a little digital tape record can capture halfway down a room in a venue. Generally, all recordings of us live we hate them. It’s not a faithful capture, it’s missing something.

We then invited a small audience to come into the studio and watch the process in order to perform in a way that made sense. We played two sets and eight tunes per set without much interruption as we would play it live. As soon as we were finished, Eddie went up to the control room and they mixed it straight away from a multitrack tape to a stereo pak tape in the hour after it was recorded. They cut it onto vinyl in the same studio because they have a cutting machine there in Welcome to 1979.

Our bass player has a really great turntable at his house in New Orleans, so a few weeks later our manager got a copy of the record and brought it over. We drank a beer and listened to it for the first time, and it just sounded so nice. We then started a Pledgemusic campaign, which is a way to preorder music in order to help the band to support financing it. While it was being pressed we started selling it and sold 400 copies before it was even released.

The band brings in guest vocalists and brass players. Who are some of your favorite folks to work with that are not official members of the band?

We have a horns section called the West Coast Horns, they played on our last album. The record we did, Made for Pleasure, we had a vocalist come in called Charlie Lowry and she is from North Carolina. She came to a show that Eddie was doing once and was part of a jam session, he really liked what she was doing. We managed to get her on a few gigs over the following year, and when it came to recording, we decided to invite her to the studio to come hang out for a week to see if we could come up with some writing with her. We did end up having her sing on three songs on the album.

When we get to New Orleans (this month) we are working with a singer called Mark Broussard and another singer and piano player called John Cleary. They are both New Orleans based musicians. We are going to head into the studio on our days off and we’re going to try to write some new stuff. We never know really if it will work, we just kind of go in with very basic ideas and see where it goes. When we created Made for Pleasure we showed up and turned out no one really had any ideas on the first day. Eventually, inspiration came and within six days we had a new album. Hoping the same kind of magic will occur next weekend.

My favorite track on the album Made For Pleasure is “Fancy,” tell me about it.

I’ll tell you the story about that. We are all quite old and don’t really listen to pop music, also we’re kind of short of our gears. Eddie emailed his daughter, who is eighteen, and asked if she could suggest a pop song for us to cover. She responded back saying to check out a song that a British rock band did an acoustic cover version of, “Fancy” and it was on YouTube. We listed and Eddie thought it would make sense in reggae style. We dabble with reggae sometimes when we play live, and wanted to do a reggae groove on the album.

We were curious to look for the original song on the internet, and of course, found Iggy Azalea and we were kind of astonished that such a person existed. It was very amusing because our version is a version of a version, and she is a kind of a version of something else, do you know what I mean? {We’re both laughing pretty hard at this point.} We were originally going to do a something with just horns on it and Eddie happened to go to a bar in Denver and there was this Rasta guy doing spoken word over the DJ. Eddie asked the guy if he would be up for throwing some lyrics on the record and he agreed. The next day he went into the studio and improvised over the tune we had written. Since then, we had him come out when we played in Boulder, his name is Spellbinder. And that is the story of “Fancy.”

What’s song do you have the most fun playing during a show?

We do a version of “Spooky,” the most famous version is by Dusty Springfield. {He then sings a little to me…bonus phone sesh.} We recorded it on our live album in 2005 in Spain called Live at La Cova, and it was retired from the set. Eddie wanted to move away from that sound, but I kept petitioning for it to come back. In the past year or two, I keep seeing it pop up. We have a different set list every night. Whenever I see that on the set list it gives me a little spark of joy.

Do you guys have any big plans for the rest of 2016?

We have Summer Camp, Electric Forest, High Sierra Music Festival and Mountain Jam. In July we go to Japan and South Korea to play Fuji Rock Festival and Valley Rock Festival.

Simon and I went on to chat about organizing my vinyl records. Naturally a conversation I love having. Also, how the price of Techniques has not gone down over the years and that we both have goals to snag a pair in the future. He tells me me about the adventures the band will soon take into Japan and South Korea, and how he hates being away from his family for too long because he’s afraid they may one day change the locks on him. We talk about how last year at Hulaween I heard them playing the Ghostbusters theme song from my campsite and that I ran over to hear one of the most memorable sets of the entire weekend. It was like we were old friends. Simon reminds me why I love my job. Interviewing someone with such wisdom can be such a breath of fresh air. Tomorrow night they will play at Terminal West and it’s going to be a family outing for my fiancé and our unborn daughter, who at seven months in the womb, will get to hear one of the classiest and smoothest bands of our era.

The New Mastersounds play on April 28 at Terminal West with support from Moon Hooch.

Buy tickets HERE.

Event details HERE.

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