Genre-fusing outfit, New Model Army, is set to once again headline Willowman Festival this year. Ahead of their second stint topping Northallerton’s intimate surroundings, Callum Thornhill quizzed frontman Justin Sullivan on what we can expect this time around.
You’re headlining Willowman Festival this year. How are you feeling ahead of it?
We did it once before actually. I quite like little festivals – in fact, I like all festivals and gigs. At festivals, you’re always a prisoner to the weather.
From past experience, how do festival slots differ from headline shows?
The big difference is when you play your own show everyone is there and has paid to see you. When you play festivals, people aren’t primarily there to see you. I like that, though – I quite like playing to people that don’t know us.
Are festivals the place for a ‘Greatest Hits’ kind of set-list? Or does the fact people may not know you allow you to experiment with new tunes?
We just mix it up, which is the same as what we do in the club shows. We never think there is anything we have to play, ever. We never had a hit, although in the history of New Model Army we have about ten big songs and we ought to play at least one of them. We just set out to play a set that is good. There is always a summer festival agenda and Willowman is one of the first.
How do you think Willowman Festival differs from other festival?
I’m happy to go everywhere in the world really. Some musicians travel and tour because they have to, but eventually the travelling gets to them and they’d much rather be at home. Personally, I always wanted to travel and the fact I am a musician is a bonus. I like to keep moving.
In terms of genre, it has always been difficult to place New Model Army. Has not being pigeon-holed helped or hindered your career?
It is a help in one sense because after thirty years we are still free. There’s something that Neil Young once said, which is that if you follow your own staff for long enough then people start to trust you. That’s very true in our way – we just went our own way and weren’t interested in what people thought we were ought to do, but what we wanted to do. The thing about influences is everyone in the band has been in different bands outside of the band.
Does the ‘New Model Army’ genre differentiation change the way the band is perceived by festival-goers?
I was talking to someone from Japan recently and we’ve never done very well there. I think it is because they like to know what it is so they can make the right responses and wear the right clothes. With New Model Army, it is a bit of a problem. In successive weekends in 2010 we played a folk festival, a metal festival, a gothic festival and a hippy festival – basically all with the same set.
Tickets for Willowman Festival are available now from www.willowmanfestival.co.uk/tickets and are priced from £69.00.