Thursday, April 13, 2017
If necessity is the mother of invention, then longevity is the mother of reinvention. Few bands exemplify this as much as New Order, the British electronic-music powerhouse act that has courageously remade itself time and time again after forming in 1980. With a new album, Music Complete, released just two years ago, the band’s still going strong, and it will be bringing its timeless, lovelorn dance-rock epics to the Santa Barbara Bowl on Tuesday, April 18, with Minneapolis synth-pop act Poliça.
“I think the band’s motto is always to go forward and be creative, to think outside the box and regenerate themselves,” said bassist Tom Chapman, who first joined the band in 2011 and went on to cowrite Music Complete. New Order formed after the difficult dissolve of its previous lineup as Joy Division with the tragic loss of singer Ian Curtis, a shadow they’ve more than managed to outshine with later hits such as “Blue Monday,” “Ceremony,” and “Bizarre Love Triangle.” “That’s the key to longevity of a band, really,” Chapman said. “You always have to reinvent yourself and think about different things to do musically in that sense.”
Music Complete sees the band furthering its explorations into dance music, with songs such as the piano-laden “People on the High Line,” perhaps its most house-music-influenced song yet. Chapman said the new album “feels like a band rejuvenated,” and he was honored to be a part of the process. “It’s a privilege, first of all, to be working with the [original] members of New Order,” he said, “and I’m really proud of the work we did on Music Complete.” When he joined the band, he said, "I was always encouraged to sort of do my own thing as a musician, to bring something new to the fold. Being part of New Order is a real creative process."
Beyond its tour, the band is engaged in a wholly different creative process. This summer, it’ll be deconstructing and reinventing its works with a 12-member synthesizer orchestra in collaboration with visual artist Liam Gillick. The unique event will surely be one of the highlights of the Manchester International Festival, taking place in the band’s hometown stomping grounds. Chapman described compositions as “pretty fantastic, very, very special” but “a lot of work.” “We’re almost breaking all the elements of New Order songs in having to piece them back together, with each individual part as a synthesizer — it’s exciting, totally different, and original.”
Of course, the classics in New Order’s catalog still pack a punch, a feeling Chapman can experience doubly since he was a fan before joining. “‘Crystal,’ ‘Ceremony,’ ‘Temptation’ … those are really special songs to play live. It seems to be the poignant moment in the set where we really connect with the crowd,” he said.
With some hiatuses and rocky band relations punctuating its existence as New Order, it’s a group that has a way of reordering and renewing ever since the beginning. “New Order the band’s experienced a lot of difficulties in the past, shall we say, and always been able to move forward and deal with those problems and make it a positive thing,” Chapman said.
So what comes next for the endlessly inventive group? Will it take its New Order synthesizer ensemble on the road? "Maybe we will; maybe we won't. Who knows? … We live in hope," Chapman said. "New Order never makes plans." Fitting enough for a band always ready to embrace the new.
4∙1∙1 New Order and Poliça play Tuesday, April 18, 6:30 p.m., at the Santa Barbara Bowl (1122 N. Milpas St.). For more information, visit sbbowl.com.