The Selecter still has something to say.
Frontwoman Pauline Black is adamant on that point. It was more than 30 years ago that the 2 Tone band formed with a liberal anti-racist and anti-sexist message, celebrating success soon after with the UK Top 10 debut album Too Much Pressure and single “On My Radio,” but Black says those social ills still need to be addressed.
Racism and sexism? “We live in a sea of it at the moment,” Black says. As a woman of color, they’re important issues to her. Yes, she says, America has a black president, but his detractors aren’t always talking about his politics. Women, she adds, are abused the world over. But there’s more. Human trafficking, the fight for same-sex marriage, Russia’s anti-gay stance in advance of hosting the Olympics in Sochi are just some of the issues on her radar.
It keeps their music modern, “not to become completely dead in the head and to stay aware of what’s going on in the world,” Black said. “A lot of people don’t, probably because heritage bands are so busy counting their money [laughs]. They’re not really that concerned with what goes on in the real world, and I’ve always been fairly concerned with what’s going on in the real world, possibly to my detriment at times.”
The title of the group’s last album, String Theory, is a nod to the group’s own heritage, Black says, acknowledging that they’re tied to the music they made in their late-70s heyday, but that they’re moving forward.
They’ll play the hits at their show Sunday at The State Theatre, from the two albums the band released before breaking up in 1982. But they’ll also play tracks from the albums recorded after the band reunited to celebrate Too Much Pressure’s 30th anniversary, including String Theory, which is yet to be released in the U.S.
Their sound has changed with the times as well, Black says. Guitars are timeless, she says, but they’ve added horns, making The Selecter now an eight-piece outfit.
And they seem to hold their own with the acts of the day. The group played Coachella in April for festival-goers that, for the most part, weren’t even alive when 2 Tone music was at its height. They were considered a surprise hit of the festival, and Black takes that as a compliment.
The group has changed with the times, and with several dates this year – their first full U.S. tour in over a decade – Black says they’ll reintroducing themselves to stateside audiences.
“I think what they’re finding is that we haven’t really lost the impetus of what 2 Tone was about, but we’re moving it forward,” Black said. “I feel really that 2 Tone has started that conversation over 30 years ago, but it continues, and it continues in a different way.”
“It’s really a journey, following this piece of string,” Black said. “It ties us to the past, but nonetheless we’re following it into the future which is largely unknown for everybody.”
• For more information about The Selecter, visit theselecter.net.