New Street Adventure: “There have been so many stops and starts”

Singer and guitarist Nick Corbin talks the band’s journey from university to the release of their second album

Birmingham-conceived soul band, New Street Adventure, brought out their album, Stubborn Sons, on 24 March. The first track of the album, ‘(What’s So Good About) Happiness’ is upbeat yet satirical; Corbin sings: “greatness is a click away,” despairing of the social media dominated world we live in.

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While New Street Adventure have always dealt with social issues in their work, they have adapted their sound since the release of their debut album, No Hard Feelings, in 2014. The band have dropped their backing vocalists and honed-in their instrumentals for Stubborn Sons.

No Hard Feelings included material dating back to 2007, when Corbin had only just started learning to play guitar and was still a student at Birmingham University. Tracks on the debut album reflected Corbin’s frustrations at the lack of employment opportunities coming out of uni. Now, he is ready to talk about different issues, like the government’s cuts to arts funding in ‘Why Should We Do Anything?’ and Islamophobia in ‘One And The Same.’

Ahead of the Stubborn Sons tour, Jocks & Nerds caught up with New Street Adventure frontman Nick Corbin.

New Street Adventure have a unique sound. Who would you say your main influences are and why?

All the band members have different musical influences, which hopefully explains our unique sound. I grew up listening to a lot of 60s and 70s soul – thanks to my Dad – and became obsessed with the Impressions and what they stood for. Curtis Mayfield made me realise that songs needn't just be about love and that socially conscious lyrics were the way forward for me as a writer. We're all big Bobby Womack fans too and love anything with a groove. At the same time we feel it's important to keep up with contemporary music. There's a lot of soulful stuff coming out at the moment and you can always pick up interesting ideas from that.

Explain your creative process to us. How does a track come to life from an initial idea?

My phone is full of short voice recordings, which are usually barely audible over traffic and sounds of the city. I get my best ideas when I'm travelling around; I do a lot of walking which is a good opportunity for thinking and ideas invariably come to mind. Often, I'll develop these myself and take them to the band but more recently we've been sharing these recordings around and writing more collaboratively. I prefer it when everyone has an input; we are a band after all.

Was the success of No Hard Feelings daunting to you? How did you evolve for Stubborn Sons whilst staying true to your original vision?

I wouldn't say daunting because we believe what we're doing deserves that kind of praise. The fact it keeps selling is great because it means new fans are discovering us all the time. We recorded No Hard Feelings with strings, horns and backing singers and then dropped all those elements just before the album came out so in a way it was easy for us to evolve while writing Stubborn Sons. We've been a lot more clever with the writing and recording of the new album; nothing is there for the sake of it but at the same time, the songs are similar in style and all heavily influenced by black music.

You started out in 2007. Do you think having a few years' more life experience has helped or hindered you?

A bit of both I guess. It's helped in that I've honed a style and learned what works and what doesn't. I've learned who to trust and who not to and that it's important not to burn bridges and just to treat people as you want to be treated. What's hindered us is those 10 years have not been continuous. There have been so many stops and starts; we've had over 30 line-up changes with only myself as the constant and often you find that just when you're hitting your stride you'll hit another brick wall and have to reinvent yourself again.

I really wouldn't change anything though. In 2007, I'd just learned to play the guitar, so I did start late. I'm really proud of the band's journey.

Which of tour venues are you looking forward to playing at and why?

The Ruby Lounge because we've not played a proper headline show in Manchester since 2012 but have had a lot of support shows. I'm looking forward to seeing how worthwhile those shows were and hoping we get a really good crowd along. I've also heard great things about the venue.