Previewed: Supergroup ShadowParty at Night People

ShadowParty will headine at Night People Manchester - image courtesy TravellingSimon

After supporting Slow Readers Club on tour, ShadowParty headline a hometown gig at Manchester’s Night People.

ShadowParty are a group unlike others.  They are united by a common thread, with each member a latter-day addition to a huge band.

The group began to take shape when Josh Hager (The Rentals and Devo)  and Tom Chapman (Bad Lieutenant and New Order) met in Boston.  The band completed when Phil Cunningham (Marion and New Order) and drummer Jeff Friedl (Devo) joined the line up.

They released their eponymous debut album in 2018.  It takes inspiration from each of their previous incarnations and features vocalist Denise Johnson (Primal Scream, A Certain Ratio) and The Verve guitarist Nick McCabe.

It’s been some time in the offing, dating back to 2014 when Chapman moved across the Atlantic.  How they came together is easiest explained by the band:

“I started to get a bit restless and thinking I should be meeting with some musicians and doing something with the time on my hands,” says Chapman of his move. “I put the word out there and Josh Hager’s name came up. It was just a matter of getting in touch with him, being brave and knocking on his door.”

Josh, too, was in need of a new thing. “This was before I was in Devo. I was playing with my band and doing solo stuff but it was depressing,” he says. “I was feeling… you know when you sort of surrender to the universe and just give up? That’s how it was. But that’s when the best things happen.”

“We got on straight away because we had a lot in common, a lot of similar records in our collections – Kraftwerk, early 80s punk bands, electro, Joy Division,” says Tom. “And he had one of the Devo plant pot hats in his studio.”  “We literally just sat down and started writing, that first night we met, and wrote the basis of three songs on the album,” says Josh. “We hit it off right away. For me, having somebody as motivated as Tom and as talented as Tom… I’ve always been the guy in the band who’s been pulling the train along, so to have someone lighting a fire under my ass is a completely new experience for me.”

They also found common ground in their experiences in New Order and Devo. “We laughed about how sometimes you’d do aftershows and people would queue up for autographs, and as the line shuffles through they’d skip over you,” says Josh. “Or they’d slide the CD right past you saying, ‘No offence, man, no offence.’”

With the project taking shape, Chapman asked New Order bandmate Phil Cunningham to listen to album track ‘The Valley’. Chapman and Cunningham form one of the writing partnerships on which New Order operated while recording 2015’s acclaimed Music Complete album. “I think I’d have been slightly pissed off if he didn’t ask me to get involved! ”Cunningham jokes. “Me and Tom come from the same place musically, so I instinctively knew the vibe him and Josh were going for.”

“Phil was a no brainer,” says Tom. “And for Josh, getting Jeff, who drums in Devo, was the same. The nucleus of the band is very much the four of us – now two in Manchester, one in Los Angeles, one in Boston.” As an international band, recording sessions have taken place in Boston, Los Angeles, Manchester and, of course, Macclesfield. “I feel like we’ve done a world tour before we’ve even played a show,” says Phil.

In Manchester the band invited various collaborators to appear as guests, such as former Verve man Nick McCabe, who plays guitar on ‘Even So’ and ‘Marigold’. “Personally, I think he’s probably the most underrated guitarist of his generation,” says Tom, “We all respect what we each do and there’s no big egos in there.” adds Phil.

Another guest, Denise Johnson lends her considerable talents to six of the album’s tracks, including the band’s future single Celebrate. “She’s worked with us in New Order but I’ve always wanted to work with her on a personal level,” says Tom. “I’ve always been a huge fan of her vocals and her contribution to the record was invaluable.”

Completing the guests are Whitney Fierce, a DJ from Los Angeles who appears on backing vocals, and Joe Duddell, the Manchester-based arranger who’s worked with Elbow, Doves, Blossoms, and New Order.

When do ShadowParty headline at Night People?

ShadowParty headline at Night People, Manchester, on 21 March 2019

image of ShadowParty courtesy TravellingSimon

Mark Kelly

Author: Mark Kelly

Music lover. Gig reviewer.
Often found at the merch stand.