Neville & Sugary Staple – Interview

Ska legends Neville & Sugary Staple recently released a new album titled Rude Rebels, and we had the opportunity to sit down and chat with them about it. See how we got on below!

By Jane Howkins

You released a new album called Rude Rebels last month – how has the reception been?

Neville: This has been absolutely amazing. It’s quite unbelievable what we have been through during the making and the launch of this new album, with so many funerals of family and close friends to deal with over the last year, then our grandson being stabbed to death just as we were about to launch it, was both surreal and devastating. So, to hear all the brilliant reviews and fabulous fan’s comments coming in, has really lifted out spirits up and made us very proud.

What can you tell our readers about the album if they haven’t heard it yet, and why do you recommend they should check it out?

Sugary: The album will give you a sneaky peak back in time, but with a modern twist. It celebrates the rebel music from the 2Tone days of punk, reggae, ska and bluebeat, whilst adding a modern take. You will sing along to brand new anthems, dance to some party tunes and really think about what we are saying about the World we live in too. We spoke about doing a 2Tone album, then a reggae one, then a punk one and so on. I then said, lets do them all – and Neville agreed! And it just works.

You’ve also both released music on your own, with Neville’s Return of Judge Roughneck coming out last year and Sugary’s Rudegirl Sounds EP being released a few years before that. How did you find collaborating together in this way, and how different was the process for you?

Neville: To be honest, the Return of Judge Roughneck was a joint collaboration too. Sugary worked hard on that production with me and wrote lyrics and arrangements too, as well as performed on it. Likewise, with her EP and before that, we worked on Ska Crazy together, so we were well rehearsed at working together in the studio. She is so creative and organised and is great fun to work with. Working with Sugary is so refreshing and she brings out the best in me, the best in everyone who works with her really. I feel more freedom to enjoy the experience and try new things than I felt in years gone by, when things were often more rigid and more set in stone.

You’re also both married, which we assume is still going strong! I don’t want to pry too much into your personal lives, but did you find it harder to write and record together because of that, or was it easier?

Sugary: Working together was even easier once we married. Neville has been through a lot musically in the past with a lot of his work being taken and registered by others. He wrote some amazing songs or song sections, but never got the credits. There’s been jealousy issues from his previous colleagues to deal with, being as Neville has always been a popular favourite with fans, plus lots of other awful stuff where people ripped him off financially and so on. I tried to show him a new level of encouragement, promotion and commitment so that he could rebuild his trust in people and his creative work. I guess getting married just added to that commitment. He’s in a super place now with no one stifling his creativity. You don’t try and stop the journey of a big wave, you surf with it!!

Next year is the anniversary of The Specials and 2 Tone Records. Will you be doing anything to celebrate? How does it feel knowing the impact that band had? I know that Neville played with the band again a few years ago, is there any chance you might play again with them?

Neville: Sugary manages a lot of my affairs and did have some contact with some of the others about reuniting for a 40th year, but the 2-3 members who still go out as the Specials sometimes have decided to go in a different direction. We do see some of them from time to time though, but as Terry stays in London and Lynval is now a US citizen, we mainly only see Jerry, who sometimes works with Sugary at her Skamouth Festivals, or Roddy Radiation Byers, who we work with a lot anyway, including on the Rude Rebels album. We are also working with Roddy, plus some original members of The Beat and other specials guests, from bands like Dexy’s Midnight Runners and so on, to do a run of 40th Anniversary of 2Tone shows doing all the classic 2Tone and other hit songs, plus doing a tour with The Undertones, who also have a 40th Anniversary to celebrate next year.

Sugary: There are plans for Brazil and we may also return to the Far East next year, along with some new Europe dates too and some TV appearances planned too. On top of that, we will be helping the 2Tone Village with their big exhibitions and events here in Coventry, as they also have a lot of 40th anniversary plans in the founding home City of 2Tone. Its going to be a massive year with huge demand, but we can’t wait!

What are your thoughts on how ska has changed throughout the years? Are there any current ska bands you can recommend our readers check out?

Neville: Ska has changed from the traditional Jamaican sounds of the 60’s through to a more punky and faster vibe, but it still works. The sound still makes you want to jump, skank and stomp though, even when singing about serious things happening around us. Some of the ska sound has morphed into something a bit more of a pop mix, or a dance mix. Its all good though. Sugary and I love the young Death of Guitar Pop band and have recently worked with them in the studio. Check out their brilliant song called, Suburban Ska Club Feat. Neville Staple.

Politics has always been at the heart of a lot of the music that you’ve put out – is that still the case? What causes are dear to your hearts at the moment, and what are your thoughts on the political state of the world at the moment?

Sugary: It’s all a bit of a mess at the moment. The world of politics and it’s leaders has really been dangling by a thread in recent years. So much lack of assurance and faith in those who are supposed to know best. Very messy state of affairs with democracy gone crazy too. We have written about some of these goings on in songs on the Rude Rebels album. The Border addresses the immigration crisis particularly in relation to those fleeing war-torn places like Syria. This was inspired by the sadness we felt about the tiny boy who was washed up dead on a beach, after he fleed with his family. We wrote Wrong Shoes about the growing homelessness crisis here in the UK and we wrote Way of Life, which covers the attacks in London near Borough Market, where a friend of mine was having a quiet drink with friends just minutes before having to cower under tables in fear. It also echoes the words of an 11-year-old female in our family who was afraid to go out after the Manchester concert attack, plus highlights fake news and propaganda control. There’s a lot of fun party stuff in-between the serious lyrics though, so be prepared for an exhilarating ride!

You’ve got a tour coming up across the UK – are you excited for that? Anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to going?

Neville: We love our UK fans. They are always up for a party with us. We love the huge festivals playing to thousands as well as the smaller more intimate up-close venues, so it’s hard to think of a favourite place. The tour shows will be full of energy, nostalgia and fun though, so get some dancing shoes on Jane and come and join us!!

Why do you think people should come and see you perform, and what can people expect from one of your shows?

Neville: They will love that they can listen, sing along, jump or stomp and connect with the words and the music. Its infectious stuff. Some people dress up in their 2tone gear, tonic suits, docs or loafers, some come in jeans and a smile, but everyone goes away feeling a real sense of being part of the night themselves, because we get them all joining in. A sense of unity through the music. We get a mixed crowd of people and everyone is welcome.

Sugary: The older crowd love the memories and nostalgia and our new younger fans are now taking in the fun element and can’t believe that this era of music can be so uplifting, fun and conscious.

Any last words for the fans?

Thank you all for your support, especially during some recent heartaches in our family. You are the reason we tour. We love seeing you enjoying our performances and it means a lot that so many are enjoying out latest albums too. We just want to say thanks for sticking with us and for still sharing our music and enjoying our shows. We hope to see you at a show near you soon. Please support your local live music venues and artist who still travel to perform for you.