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Robbie Grey and Mick Conroy of Modern English reflect on the past and preview the band's upcoming album

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Triple R Photography via Modern English

Modern English continued its tour in Columbus September 2 at A&R Music Bar. The band brings decades of history and new material with an infectious spirit and energy. Just ahead on Music Journeys, singer Robbie Grey and bassist Mick Conroy reflect on the past and share details on the upcoming record. We'll sprinkle in a few samples of that new material and have them try to explain the incredible lasting power of one of their early songs. The future's truly open wide for Modern English --- Robbie Grey and Mick Conroy - our featured guests on this edition of Music Journeys. Thanks for listening.

I Melt With You plays...

I Melt With You became a worldwide hit for Modern English on the radio in the early 1980's --- and in this age of streaming, it's approaching 60 million plays according to Spotify.

"The crowd love it," Robbie Grey said. "I don't even have to sing it most nights. They sing it for me."

"When you play that song in front of people, everyone smiles," Mick Conroy added "You can almost hear the sound of people's memories going crazy as well."

The music memories for Conroy and Grey began at an early age.

"Music was always a thing in my own view, but then I heard David Bowie with John, I'm Only Dancing," Conroy continued.

John, I'm Only Dancing plays...

While Bowie captivated both of them, the emergence of Punk Rock gave them confidence.

"For us to start making music, it was the Punk thing," Grey said. "You could certainly pick up a guitar and just play it."

Incident plays...

"We were the Lepers originally," Grey reflected. "We were a Punk band. Mick was only 15 at the time and the most musical and could actually play more than one note so he got the job. We bought Steve Walker a small keyboard. I stole a few microphones from different gigs. Everybody was stealing stuff back then. England was a poor place, and people would steal equipment just to start a band."

"Yeah, I borrowed your microphone and you can have it back when you have a gig," Conroy added.

"You can steal it back from us," Grey said with a laugh.

Mesh And Lace plays...

"We still play a lot of stuff from that period," Grey said of Modern English's 1981 Mesh and Lace debut record. "We're rehearsing the first singles now like Swans On Glass."

Swans On Glass plays...

"Gathering Dust and 16 Days too," Grey continued. It's a mix of things but most importantly we'll be playing songs from our new album 1, 2, 3, 4."

"The songs on the new album sit next to things like Swans on Glass," Conroy said. "There's a song called. Long in the Tooth is equally as urgent as Swans On Glass."

Long In The Tooth plays...

There's a track called Voices.

Voices plays... 

"Quite a spacey, trippy song," Conroy continued. "We recorded it live from an idea Robbie had at home.

"Yeah, we did it old school," Grey said of the new album. "We wanted to have some energy in it and keep it quite raw. The more analog, the better we felt about it. You can't really pin it to an era. It's a strong album."

Crazy Lovers plays...

"I don't know what I like about it," Grey admitted. "When you're in a band, it's hard to describe your own music. But it's chunky and rhythmical. It's quite jagged guitar work, and the lyrics are good."

The Choicest View plays...

"Our first ever gig was as the Lepers supporting Adam and the Ants and Siouxsie and the Banshees," Grey recalled. "Earlier this year at a big Post Punk festival, we played and Siouxsie was headlining so it was like a full circle 40-odd years later."

"We're still here," Conroy added. "When you love making music, there's nothing else you can really do. You always go back to your instruments. With the original four in Modern English together in the room, that's when it really sounds amazing."

"Not many bands from our era still have a lot of original members," Grey added. "Maybe you have the singer and a load of guys. That happens a hell of a lot, and we didn't want to do that. That wouldn't work at all, so it's nice to have it that way."

"As you get older, you let people get away with a lot more," Grey said with a laugh.

Even they find it hard to explain the lasting power of the song I Melt With You.

"It's a really difficult one to answer, how and why did that song strike a chord," Conroy said.

"I always say it glides like a plane and the lyrics resonate with people," Grey said.

"I would just shout on Mesh and Lace, but then our producer told me to just stand in front of the mic and talk to it. So that gives it its own nuances."

"Musically, it has about five hooks in it," Conroy added. "They're quite pleasing to the ear and there's nothing too difficult for the listener to get their head around. The lead line and the end and the melody of the humming."

"But it is amazing that it has 50 million views now on YouTube."

I Melt With You Plays...

"We love playing it," Grey said. "It's paid all the bills for us and helped us to make the new album."

Just A Thought Plays...

"I imagine if you speak to any musician in, it's the creative side," Grey said of what being involved in music for so long has meant to him. It's weird, artists want to be famous today. We never felt like that, we just wanted to make music."

"I feel the same," Conroy agreed. "I have a rotation of guitars at home in my kitchen. Some days I feel like the acoustic guitar, and sometimes I want to play the electric with an amplifier under the kitchen table."

"There's nothing more exciting than when I get a ping from Mick telling me he just did something yesterday, and I want to play it," Grey added. "We've written nearly a whole other album already between us. That's pretty quick to be honest."

Long in the Tooth, the new single from Modern English, comes out September 12. The band expects the full album to be released in early 2024.

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Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. Foley has worked in various roles, from producing news and feature stories to engineering Live From Studio A sessions. A series of music features Foley started in 2018 called Music Journeys has grown into a podcast and radio show. He also assists in developing other programs in WCBE's Podcast Experience. Foley hosts The Morning Mix, a weekday music show featuring emerging and established musicians, our Columbus-area and Ohio-based talent, and additional artists that inspire him.