The purveyors of the finest British pop Dodgy are back in their original line-up and preparing to brighten up January for the good people of West Berkshire with a date at Arlington Arts. CATRIONA REEVES is rather excited as she interviews Dodgy’s drummer MATHEW PRIEST
AH, the 90s. Happy days. Life was easy back then. Summers were longer (for those of us at uni), alcohol didn’t give you hangovers (honest, kids), and no one made any effort whatsoever with their hair. And the airwaves were full of shimmery, summery guitar pop sounds all year round, with the toppermost of the poppermost being Dodgy, a trio of cheeky chappies from the Midlands who delighted (and maybe occasionally slightly grated - not everyone is a fan of their biggest hit, Good Enough) with the cheeriest sounds around, including Staying Out For The Summer, In A Room and If You’re Thinking Of Me (OK, that one wasn’t so cheery).
But before those of you too young to remember Dodgy are thinking “must have been a boyband”; the band comprised three strong musicians, songwriters and harmonising singers with an inspiration that meant their reformation in their original line-up around 2008 after nine years without frontman Nigel Clark was more than just about getting back on the road to revive their greatest hits. And so a new album has been written; the sound of a band older and wiser, but still with that distinctively shimmering Dodgy vibe, and the band’s current live dates include a showcase of the whole album (due for release in January) before a second set of old favourites.
“The idea of playing an album live in its entirety has been around for a few years now, but doing it before its release is unusual,” explains drummer Math Priest, whose effervescent presence was once a regular fixture on TV pop quiz show Never Mind The Buzzcocks (I am currently campaigning for his return). “However, Paul Weller is now doing it, so it must be a good idea. Nowadays, the shelf life of any album is a lot shorter. This way, people can hear about it and look forward to its release.
“Playing new songs is always tricky. We want to give the audience a good show, to get them clapping and cheering and going home on a high; then you slot in a new song and it’s almost apologetic. So we thought “sod that, let’s challenge people and give them the whole album”. We’ve done it with confidence, and give them a payoff with the hits at the end, and the audiences have risen to the challenge. It’s a great relief to be free of the old way of doing things.”
Luckily, the new album Stand Upright In A Cool Place (instructions on a bottle of bleach) has gone down very well indeed, both live and in reviews, with BBC 6Music’s Chris Hawkins calling it “the best stuff they’ve ever done”. But Priest says that although some of their older songs may not be as relevant to the band members today as they were back in 1994, they still enjoy playing the old hits.
“To many of our audience, those songs are part of their lives, and we won’t disrespect that. For example U.K. R.I.P. - a response to the jingoism of Britpop; one of our fans has told us that one was a lifeline to her growing up as a teenage Asian. It’s a great feeling that our songs can affect people in a positive way and make their lives better.
“And Grassman - we heard from a couple who got married to that.”
Ah yes, Grassman. My favourite Dodgy song, a sweeping, piano-led epic, soon due to be remixed by German electronic musician Kris Menace: I haven’t heard the band play that since they came back on my radar (I’ve seen them live twice this year). “The trouble is,” says Priest, “in the days when we were a four-piece with a keyboard player we had to play that all the time at the end of the set. We’re trying to vary things, to revisit some other songs, which are still some fans’ favourites which they thought they’d never hear live at all.”
I won’t hold my breath to hear it at Arlington, then [although I later discovered via Youtube that the band had in fact played it at a gig in Bristol the night after I interviewed Priest. So you never know.
So, back as a three-piece and writing songs that are relevant to them today; Priest says that although he and guitarist Andy Miller carried on with the band after Clark left in 1998, “it was like having a limb missing.
“Nigel was my best mate, so when we weren’t talking for years, it wasn’t nice. Now we know that we can go and do music with other people, but nothing will ever feel like the chemistry of the three of us working well together.
“It all feels so right now - we’ve got a team around us who are all friends and people we've known for a long time, and they’re doing it because they love it. The other day, out of the blue, we got contacted by a computer whizzkid who used to do our website years ago - he’s done a Dodgy phone app.
The band are fully embracing the digital age, with an “Advent calendar” of treats running throughout December in conjunction with Cancer Research UK (join the mailing list at www.dodgyology.com to access it), and Priest says that there is a growing number of new, younger fans turning up at their gigs who have discovered the band through blogs and Youtube. “We’re hoping to reach a whole load of new people, because we really want to carry on doing this,” says Priest. “We’re not expecting to sell millions, but we’d like to make a living out of it again.
“So far, everything has exceeded our expectations. It’s all really exciting.”
Dodgy are playing at Arlington Arts in Snelsmore on Wednesday, January 11. Tickets cost £15 via www.arlingtonarts.co.uk
- First published in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, December 8, 2011