British guitarist Eddie Roberts has been making an impression on the American funk-jam scene for nearly two decades with The New Mastersounds and a host of other side projects and limited-edition collaborations. However, a musical partnership with Soulive’s Alan Evans has resulted in a fully realized, unified band—Matador! Soul Sounds–which has already recorded an album and is set to make their official live debut at the upcoming Brooklyn Comes Alive. We caught up with Eddie to chat about the Mastersounds, the new band, the differing “sit-in cultures” of England and the U.S., and more:
Live For Live Music: First off, we have to ask: After the successful emergency fundraising campaign and the subsequent surgery, how is your New Mastersounds bandmate Pete Shands doing?
Eddie Roberts: He’s doing great and the surgery went really well. The surgeon was really happy with how it came out and Pete is just laying low now and recovering. Thanks to the invasive nature of the surgery itself, it is gonna be a bit before he is back up to snuff. I am probably gonna go see him today actually. They say a couple of weeks of recovery before he is totally pain free from the surgery…We actually have a show in Italy for the 30th of September so he has to be better for that.
L4LM: Please pass along the best wishes from all of us here at Live For Live Music. We’re all big fans and we were worried for him.
ER: We really appreciate you guys covering the fundraising campaign for Pete as well. It was a bit of an emergency. He wasn’t doing well at the end of that last tour we did and things got a lot worse really fast. He was in a pretty bad way.
L4LM: The New Mastersounds are rapidly approaching the 20th anniversary of forming, a pretty rare accomplishment. Any special plans to honor that achievement?
ER: Hey! HA! Wait a minute! We still have a few years to go. Don’t make us too old! At the moment it’s just like “Oh wow, it’s going to be twenty years soon. But we haven’t really talked much about it yet. It IS approaching…approaching pretty quickly, actually. But we started in ’99 so we still have a little while to go.”
Watch The New Mastersounds’ memorable 2/25/13 set at the Brooklyn Bowl with a parade of incredible guest stars below via LazyLightning55a:
L4LM: I’m sure anniversaries like this can make you feel a little old, but you have to be proud of lasting that long as a band. So few groups do.
ER: Yeah, it is pretty rare. It can be a tough game, for sure. Keeping the band together, with the same people…there’s a lot of psychology involved. It’s like a family. We’re pretty pleased. We’ve made a lot of music we’re proud of and traveled the world with it. That is an achievement for sure.
L4LM: You came by your love of funk music from a kinda long distance. Can you remember the first time you heard something really funky?
ER: I came out of a bit of a jazz background, but saying that I guess I have to say Jimi Hendrix. He was pretty funky, I think. I was really into Hendrix when I was 14 or 15. I would consider that the first funk I ever heard, especially some of the stuff he did on the Wah-Wah pedal.
I do remember somebody gave me a cassette tape of The Meters. I don’t even know how old I was, but they gave me the cassette and said they wanted to start a band that like that. That was definitely a moment when that music really connected with me. But, like I said, I was a jazz guy. So folks like Lou Donaldson, Grant Green, Idris Muhammad were artists I dug. That is funk, but another incarnation of it.
L4LM: As a funk guy, it must have been something else to be part of the Foundation Of Funk project. Was it nerve0-racking playing with George Porter Jr. and Zigaboo Modeliste, the rhythm section of The Meters, playing the iconic funk music that they created?
ER: I’d been lucky enough to play with George and Zig independently before the Foundation Of Funk gigs, so I already had a history with both of them. We actually had a rehearsal and I was just laughing the whole time. It was the first time I had seen the two of them together and just the way that they interact, the stories that they told…it was just hilarious. I wish that I had a video camera while it was going on. Quite an afternoon, really.
Check out Fundation Of Funk, featuring Zigaboo Modeliste, George Porter Jr, John Medeski and Eddie Roberts from Bear Creek Bayou on 9/30/16 below:
L4LM: You’re a regular participant in super-jams and one-off bands. What’s the secret to working well with players you don’t regularly collaborate with?
ER: Luckily, playing music is just another form of communication. The people who usually get called up for these things…they pretty much all speak the same language. That’s how I see it really. We generally all share the same vocabulary. Even if everyone is from different genres, it comes down to that. A lot of interesting things come out of those shows, and it has been a lot of fun over the last few years to participate in so many.
It’s definitely different than England. Back there, you got in a band and that was what you did. You didn’t sit in with other bands and they didn’t sit in with you. In America, there is this whole sit in culture. People would say “Come sit in!” and I was like”…OK?” In England it was sort of considered rude to sit in with someone’s band.
ER: Yeah. We just didn’t have that kind of thing going on. It took a moment for me to get used to it, but I did and now it’s great.
L4LM: At the upcoming Brooklyn Comes Alive, you’re debuting your new project, Matador! Soul Sounds, with Alan Evans, Chris Spies, Kevin Scott, Adryon De León, and Kim Dawson. How’d you fall in with these cats initially?
ER: We’re definitely a band. How it came about was a couple of times last year [New Mastersounds] drummer Simon [Allen] wasn’t able to play like a week’s worth of shows, So I thought of Alan [Evans]. He and I had played together a few times like on Jam Cruise, and we just clicked and we knew we wanted to do something. So I brought him in for Simon a couple of times last year.
At the end of that we were both having a glass of wine and I said “Should we start a band?” and he said “Let’s do it.” That was the pivotal moment. So we started talking about who we wanted to join us. I had been playing with Chris Spies on keys when I was down in New Orleans, and his buddy who played bass was a gentleman named Kevin Scott. They had been friends for ten years. I mentioned Kevin to Alan and he jumped to his feet and said “Omigod I love that guy!”
So even though we hadn’t all played together before, there were strong connections there and it all just sort of fell into place. We wanted to get some singers in there, so I grabbed my two best friends from the scene–Kimberly Dawson from The Pimps Of Joytime and Ms. Adryon de León of Orgone. We had played together in a number of different things and I couldn’t think of two people who could be better than them to be in the band.
It all came together pretty organically, through a lot of different friendships. We’re all pretty excited to get going on this. It is very fortuitous that it is all coming together in time for Brooklyn Comes Alive.
L4LM: Is Matador! going to be a big time commitment for you guys?
ER: Absolutely! 2018 is gonna be the year of the Matador!
L4LM: The advance hype has Matador! sounding soulful. How would you describe the music this new band is making?
ER: We’ve already made the album, but we are gonna be going back into the studio to add a bit before the Brooklyn Comes Alive show. It’s gonna sound old-school…kind of drenched in funk really. A little more bullish, I guess. It’s a powerful sound and very dynamic with the girls singing. They function almost as a horn section at times, but they will be featured on various tracks. It’s not like the old “Singer out front with a backing band,” but more everybody is part of the music. That is the vision for it. We’re very excited for this 7-inch single we have coming out, and the launch itself.
L4LM: What do you think of the Brooklyn Comes Alive concept of bringing together artists instead of bands, and creating new combinations from a star studded talent pool like they do?
ER: I’ve seen the line-ups from the past ones and they have looked really exciting. Unfortunately, both previous years I was out on the road and couldn’t make it. I was asked each time and I was very excited when they reached out to me for this year’s show. I looked and there was a nice open space on my calendar and I said “Sweet! Let’s do it!” Brooklyn is an amazing place and all the venues involved are just wonderful. It’s going to be an exciting weekend and this fest is obviously here to stay. I actually think it’s going to grow and grow and become a staple of our scene.
L4LM: Did you ever fantasize about your dream line ups when you were a kid?
ER: Most of the people I get to play with now I’d never even heard of as a kid. The funny thing is I never even thought I would be playing in America, let alone living in America. I knew I wanted to be a musician and I knew that was what I was going to do, but I had no idea that it was gonna take me so far.
L4LM: You’re always quite dapper onstage but I’ve always wondered…aren’t you hot under those suits and ties?
ER: No, I’m okay. I’m blessed with the ability to regulate my body temperature pretty effectively. I actually like being a little hot when I play. I don’t like being cold. Your fingers dry up. I actually don’t feel like I’ve done a days work unless I am sweating.
It came from hanging out in New Orleans and going to Jazz Fest and seeing all those old guys out there playing in their jackets and ties. I sorta thought, “If it’s this hot out here but these guys are still doing it, then why shouldn’t I?” That’s how I started doing it and now it’s become sort of a trademark. So now I’m screwed and I have to wear a jacket!
L4LM: The world is on a nasty edge lately. You already do so much to help heal this divide with your non-profit, The Payback, and your other related charitable donations. Do you feel like this is your duty as a public figure to lead by example?
ER: Absolutely, yes. I have been so blessed between my musical gifts and my many opportunities. I know that if I hadn’t had certain help like a stable family and great friends and, of course, a music scene like this. I feel like it is my duty to help those less fortunate. It’s a good thing for all of us to do, really.
L4LM: Well, thanks for taking time away from rehearsals to chat with us. Please pass along best wishes for a speedy recory to Pete from the Live For Live Music Crew and look forward to seeing all this new music you’re gonna make!
ER: Thank you. We’re thankful that Live For Live Music is helping us get our music out to the world.
[Cover photo via Alan Westman]
Don’t miss the debut performance of Eddie Roberts‘ new band with Alan Evans (Soulive), Chris Spies, Kevin Scott, Adryon De León (Orgone) Kim Dawson (Pimps of Joytime) at the upcoming Brooklyn Comes Alive!
Inspired by the vibrant musical communities of Brooklyn and New Orleans, Brooklyn Comes Alive is set to take place across three venues in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Brooklyn Bowl, Schimanski, Music Hall of Williamsburg) on September 23rd and 24th. The unique homegrown event puts the focus on the musicians, curating dream team collaborations, tributes, and artist passion projects for two full days of incredible music both new and old.
The 2017 lineup is set to include hand-selected band lineups featuring all-star musicians like John Scofield, George Porter Jr. (The Meters), Vinnie Amico and Al Schnier (moe.), Bernard Purdie, Kofi Burbridge (Tedeschi Trucks Band), Joel Cummins, Ryan Stasik, and Kris Myers (Umphrey’s McGee), Aron Magner and Marc Brownstein (The Disco Biscuits), Mike Greenfield and Jesse Miller (Lotus), Jason Hann (String Cheese Incident), Alan Evans (Soulive), Cyril Neville (Neville Brothers), Henry Butler, Jon Cleary, Reed Mathis (Electric Beethoven), Michael League, Nate Werth, Chris Bullock, Robert “Sput” Searight, and Bob Lanzetti (Snarky Puppy), Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman (Trey Anastasio Band), and scores of others!
***Tickets Are On Sale Now!***
Brooklyn Comes Alive is now offering single day tickets, as well as a ticket payment plan for as low as $30/month. When checking out, just select “Monthly payments with Affirm” as your payment method. To find out more about ticketing, VIP options, and lodging, head to the festival website.