Few New Wave hits have endured and retained their charm and innocence as effervescently as Modern English’s sparking 1982 gem, “I Melt With You.” The video was a staple from MTV's early days (when the channel was still a fierce contender in breaking new acts here in the States), and its heavy rotation not only exposed the British band to U.S. audiences but led to the song's pervasive appearance on radio airwaves and a host of movie soundtracks. And while many era fans were introduced to Modern English via the bubbly hit lifted from their sophomore album, by that time, the band had already had another full record under their belt -- their dark, evocative well-regarded 1981 debut, Mesh & Lace. Alongside other post-punk heavyweights like Cocteau Twins and Bauhaus, Modern English was among the elite stable of artists on the prestigious and groundbreaking UK indie label, 4AD records.
The classic breakout lineup (Robbie Grey, Mick Conroy, Gary McDowell, and Stephen Walker with Roy Martin on drums) have decided to tour the U.S. again and will perform their Mesh & Lace in its entirety. I had the opportunity to pick the brain of Grey via e-mail recently, as the band was gearing up to kick off the tour. Check out our exchange below.
GABE: On the eve of your tour kickoff, what are you looking forward to most?
Robbie Grey: Playing the whole of Mesh & Lace for the first time.
What can longtime fans expect from Mesh & Lace?
A lot of atmosphere and noise.
How do you think the album has aged?
It seems to have aged well. It's rawness shines through.
What were the greatest similarities and/or differences between Modern English and the rest of the artists on the 4AD roster at the time?
The similarities were that all the bands were experimenting with sound and effects. The differences were vast. Each band had its own sound. The Birthday Party with Nick Cave were swaggering live. The Cocteau Twins, gentle and swirling. Modern English, direct and passionate. I could go on. Most of the people in the bands were from working class backgrounds also.
What’s been the proudest moment you’ve experienced in terms of the use of your landmark song “I Melt With You,” whether be it in a film, in the praise its received over the years or the longevity its endured?
The movie a couple of years back, I Melt With You, was special. It was based on the French film Le Grande Boeuf which we all watched in the '70s. The longevity has been incredible. Wish we could have another one
That song is a timeless piece of music that sounds as fresh and vibrant today as it did upon its release. Can you think of any other songs that you can say the same about?
“Boys Don’t Cry," The Cure. “New Life," Depeche Mode. There are others…
What does the future hold for Modern English?
The future’s open wide.
What are your feelings on all those 1980’s package tours making the rounds in the UK and the US?
They are usually the pop '80s. Which is fine. We have done a couple. They pay the bills.
Describe the feeling of hearing yourself on the radio or seeing yourself on TV for the very first time?
Just making a record was fantastic. To see ourselves on MTV was crazy. A guy approached us in a restaurant in New York…we thought he was going to beat us up. He said, in a New York drawl, “I seen you guys on MTV!”
It’s Saturday night and you’re at a party. You’re asked to throw an album on the turntable that'll raise the spirits of everyone in attendance and make them dance. Which album do you choose?
For dancing and lifting spirits ... a single hit of Bowie’s: "Jean Genie”!
Modern English lands at the American Legion in Seminole Heights (Seminole Post 111, 6918 N. Florida Ave., Tampa) on Wed., May 25. Tickets are $12 in advance and can be purchased in advance here. The show starts at 7 p.m. with warm-up from Atlanta’s Entertainment and Tampa-based Sleeping Pills.