By Keith Sharp
Think of England’s Modern English band, and you inevitably get drawn to one song, “I Melt With You,” which is the featured track off their 1982 second album, ‘After The Snow.’ Band bassist Gary Conroy is well aware of that fact, and phoning in from New Jersey confirms that track has been a constant calling card for them.
“It’s like that song has a life of its own. It’s grown up, made lots of money and keeps sending it back to its parents (Us!),” he jokes as the band prepares for a key New York concert. As well as being a major track which hit the United States just as MTV was establishing itself as a major musical power, “’I Melt With You’ has also been featured in numerous commercials (Hershey’s, Taco Bell) and was included in Nicholas Cage’s first movie, ‘Valley Girls’ and was even featured in an early episode of the Netflix series `Stranger Things’ which also helped Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ track become her first ever Billboard Top 10 track, 37 years after its original release in 1985.“
American television host, Jimmy Fallon, must have heard the track as he invited Modern English to appear on his late-night show on October 4th.
Prior to that, Modern English will complete the Eastern part of their North American tour, which will include a solitary Canadian date, Sunday, September 25th, at Toronto’s legendary El Mocambo Tavern.
“Last time we played there was some time in 1983, right after The Rolling Stones had played there,” Conroy allowed. “The gig came when we were promoting ‘I Melt With You’ in Canada. It was a famous place to play even then, so we are looking forward to a return visit.”
Conroy, lead vocalist Robbie Grey, guitarist Gary McDowell and keyboardist Steven Walker are all original members of Modern English who formed in 1979 in Colchester, England and are still together, supplemented on this tour by a new drummer Ric Chandler and additional guitar player, Daniel Jakubovic. This tour marks the 40th anniversary of the release of their second and most successful album, `After The Snow’ which they will perform in its entirety at the El Mocambo.
“We did the same thing with our first album, Mesh And Lace, celebrating the 40th anniversary of that release by playing it in its entirety, and it’s the same with After The Snow; we are seeing fans singing the words to all of our songs, so it’s not just about ‘I Melt With You,’” Conroy explained
Originally starting out as a punk band, Modern English evolved into a techno rock band which became popular in England at the time of similar bands like A Flock Of Seagulls, When In Rome, Psychedelic Furs and early Simple Minds. “We never saw ourselves as a singles band, so ‘I Melt With You’ almost didn’t make the second album but it turned out having a popular radio track wasn’t such a bad thing. That track has since taken on a life of its own.”
With a few interruptions along the way, Modern English has maintained a constant presence and, thanks to social media, are being discovered by new fans while still connecting with their faithful fanbase. They took advantage of the pandemic to record a new live album `After The Snow, Live At The 02’ which started life as a Livestream broadcast but was deemed worthy enough to be released as a live album.
“Recording that album proved to be quite an experience,” Conroy allowed. “It was recorded during the pandemic, and the British government kept changing the rules on what we could do. At one point, you could only have eight people in one bubble and eight in another, so we had the band in one bubble and the crew in another, all wearing masks, standing at least six feet apart; it was quite an adventure.”
But the resulting release, since their 2016 `Take Me To The Trees’ album, has inspired Modern English to work on new material, and they’ve all been learning about demo-ing via Zoom and file sharing.
“It’s all done by remote these days,” Conroy reports. “I carry a laptop in my briefcase, and there are programs like Logic and ProTools, but we’ll still be going into a proper studio once we finish this tour.
As for the band’s legacy, Conroy notes, “It’s been a great achievement to keep four of the original members together. I joined the band when I was 15, and now, I’m 60, but we all get along and still enjoy performing together.”
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