RETURNING for a spell by the sea in Worthing after the best part of two decades away makes it something of a special occasion for Dodgy.
The last time they were in West Sussex, Blur and Oasis had yet to clash with their landmark battle for Britpop chart supremacy and Tony Blair’s Britain was still a twinkle in the former Labour leader’s eye.
While these may well be more austere times we inhabit, the unexpected re-emergence of the well-regarded indie outsiders with a remarkably credible batch of new material is a genuine cause for celebration.
Their freshly-released album, Stand Upright In A Cool Place, proves they’re still more than capable of sprinkling the old magic over their harmony-fuelled pop.
Granted, they may be back among us a little more careworn than the laid-back image of old, yet they’ve lost none of their winning way with a melody.
As Dodgy’s drummer Matthew Priest explains, it feels natural being together again after a lengthy spell away from touring and more than a decade since their last studio album.
Now living happily with his family near the Wiltshire border, the 41 year-old says life is treating the group well as they set their sights on hitting the road once more.
He’s keenly awaiting a warm welcome when the band play Grand Central in Railway Approach this Saturday (March 10), which will be the venue’s biggest gig to date under its new management.
“It is great to be back and we feel the new album is our best yet and we knew that we had something that still sounded vital. I believe it was actually seeing Take That re-form that made me think if they can do it and come back with things that were getting into the charts, why can’t we?
“I remember we played Worthing back in 1994. We played on the Pier and it was quite an important gig at the time, as not many bands came to Worthing then. It was a great night and I recall someone opened a club up just for us afterwards.” enthuses one third of the group, who has in recent times been enjoying experimenting with sideline musical projects including a 60s flavoured northern soul outfit.
He’s been nothing if not adaptable down the years having previously played with renowned indie acts including Ian Broudie of the Lightening Seeds, Brighton outfit Gene and Electric Soft Parade. But it’s Dodgy which perhaps holds the strongest hold on his affections.
The band’s admirably optimistic philosophy of Dodgyology’ – a belief that anything is possible has carried them through their fair share of backlash from critics eager to dismiss them purely on the basis of their name alone.
Yet the naysayers couldn’t argue with the band’s eventual chart recognition in scoring several memorable top 20 singles including Staying Out For the Summer, If You’re Thinking of Me and their biggest to date, Good Enough, which continues to be a radio and fans favourite.
Seeing their most commercially successful album, Free Peace Sweet, reaching the upper charts must surely have offered another moment of vindication. But are there any favourite personal highlights that stand out?
“I think there are lots of moments, but some just blur after all the years. I’d love to have a memory rewind so I could recall certain things.
For instance I was shown a picture of us taken from the back of the stage at Glastonbury 97 looking out at this massive crowd there for us. I just can’t remember that at all.
But there are things you do remember and being on the road with your friends when you’re in your 20s is the best thing ever,” adds Matthew who says there’s a strong bond of genuine friendship between the trio.
But perhaps like some of the best things in life, the good ship Dodgy was not built to last the all-too intense course of media spotlights. The frenetic pace of continued touring and recording took its toll and after around seven years together, just as they were finally gaining a commercial breakthrough, frontman Nigel called time with the group.
“The pressure of it just gets on top of you and it becomes really crazy. It gets to the point where you just don’t want it any more. Nigel had a young family and it was getting too much for him,” explains Matthew.
“He lost it for a while – when he said that he didn’t want to be with us it was a shock and I was hurt, but that’s life. If we hadn’t have been through that I don’t think we could have made this album,” admits the drummer who feels re-energised by getting their latest songs out there. We’ll we’ll be hearing plenty of them on their visit to the south coast.
“We’re looking forward to being back in Worthing. It’s really important there are venues like Grand Central, as where else are people going to be able to see bands? It will just become something that they hear about rather than go to, young people need somewhere that offers an alternative.
“That was always the way the case with places like the Free Trade Hall in Manchester when the Sex Pistols played and Morrisey was there and formed the Smiths out of it. If these kinds of places didn’t exist, all kids would have is The X Factor!”
- Tickets for the gig are £12, visit www.grandcentral.uk.com 0775 905 4270