News Column

The cult band who play to thousands ; New Model Army on three decades of music making

November 14, 2013

YellowBrix

WHO would have thought it's been 33 years since New Model Army formed and, what's more, who would have thought it would take them those 33 years to release their best album? One of the biggest underground bands in the world will play tracks from Between Dog And Wolf at Princess Pavilion, Falmouth, on Thursday, November 21.

The self-produced set was finished earlier this year in Los Angeles with Joe (Soundgarden, Queens Of The Stone Age) Barresi mixing. While New Model Army have always been noted for encompassing a wide variety of musical styles, the record still marks a major evolution in their sound.

It's filled with tribal drums and atmospheric musical textures while sacrificing none of the band's famous passion. It's almost as if The Clash have covered Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love, or Peter Gabriel has had a post-punk makeover.

Band founder, lead singer and main songwriter Justin Sullivan told What's On: I'm very proud of this album - sonically it's the best thing we've ever done. It's almost like a concept album, not lyrically but musically.

We wanted the record to have a multi-layered drum sound and get rid of the rhythm guitar and some of the other usual musical parts. We recorded most of the drums before we even had the songs.

A feature-film documentary on the history of the band, directed by Royal Television Society Award-winning director Matt Reid, which has been over three years in the making, is due for release in the new year.

I've had a sneaky peek at the first 20 minutes and it's a good old rock'n'roll tale of triumph over adversity - how a Bradford band who could barely play their instruments when they formed became one of the biggest cult bands on the planet.

Justin, always one to kick at conformity, added: It's the filmmaker's agenda not ours. You have a 33-year story with NMA so you've got to be selective about which parts you tell and who you feature. Like Searching For Sugar Man, it's not quite true but makes for a better movie.

I mentioned to Justin that many casual observers, who only know NMA for early, confrontational anthems like No Rest and Vengeance, would be surprised at the breadth of vision on the new album.

Well those songs were a long time ago. If you take the cottage industry route you can become a cult band playing all round the world but you may not be on everyone's radar.

That is frustrating, but we've been able to sustain the band and can play to audiences of 100 or 100,000.

You get into a band initially for that rock'n'roll life - people think it's all parties, cocaine and glamour. That all wears off quite quickly. What I love now is the romance of travelling the world; playing to eight people in a bar in Lithuania or 200,000 people in a stadium.

In fact, one of his favourite places to visit is Cornwall.

We last played the same venue in Falmouth four years ago. I'm very attached to Cornwall - I used to visit Polzeath all the time as a kid and still think the north Cornwall coast is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

We recorded our most successful albums, Thunder And Consolation and Impurity at Sawmills (at Golant near Fowey). In fact, they took me back to Sawmills for the film, but it was full of ghosts for me.

Originally formed as a trio, the current five-piece features Michael Dean on drums, Dean White on keyboards, Marshall Gill on guitar and their latest addition, Ceri Monger on bass - although all members are multiinstrumentalists.

Justin added: Ceri comes from a background in folk, his brother is in Extreme Noise Terror and his other brother is the harpist in Florence And The Machine, Marshall is a blues man, Dean's first love is Sixties' psychedelia and I'm a soul guy. Put all that together and you get New Model Army.

The gig on November 21 starts at 7.30pm. Tickets, priced Pounds 20, are available from the box office on 01326 211222, or book online via SeeTickets and Hall For Cornwall.

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