UB40’s Robin Campbell chats to Lawrence Smith about the upcoming event, the new album and the band’s 40th anniversary.
UB40, Aswad and The Gipsy Kings are set to perform at a new feel-good festival at Borde Hill Garden, Haywards Heath, this July.
A Boundless Summer takes place on Saturday and Sunday, July 7-8, bringing these world-famous bands to the beautiful, historical site.
More special guests will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
UB40 guitarist and vocalist Robin Campbell is looking forward to performing at the picturesque venue.
“It sounds beautiful,” he says, explaining that he doesn’t know too much about the location just yet.
“But I’m well into listed buildings,” he laughs. “ So I’ll probably be having a look around.”
It’s an unconventional setting – parkland in front of lakes with an Elizabethan Mansion House as the backdrop – but music-wise audiences should know what to expect.
It’s the same thing you get at every UB40 show, says Robin, a big party where the audience can join in the singing and dancing.
“We have a very strong and loyal following that have been with us for the past four decades,” he explains. “So we know that our audience will be mostly made up of those people.”
“But also, the reason we’re still going is because we’ve gathered a lot of new fans over the years. So we have literally three generations of fans and we know that they’ll all be there.”
And the fans will want to hear the hits – ‘Red Red Wine’, ‘(I Can’t Help) Falling In Love With You’, ‘Homely Girl, ‘Cherry Oh Baby’, the list goes on.
“We’ll also be playing a few tracks off our last album and possibly even one or two tracks off our up-and-coming album,” Robin adds.
The band sometimes resurrect songs they haven’t played for a while and sometimes offer a few surprises, he explains, but the classics simply have to be there.
“The second we do ‘Red Red Wine’ and the audience sings it back at us like a football crowd, that’s a buzz that you can’t replace. I love playing songs that the audience want to hear.”
Robin is also eager to play on the same stage as Aswad once again.
“We’ve played with them before in the past but we haven’t seen them for a long time and we haven’t played with them for a long time, so I’ll be looking forward to that more than anything.”
“Aswad have always been a great live band,” he continues, explaining that the long-running group have a similar attitude to their concerts.
“They’re a great reggae band and they play dance music so it’s a party vibe and that’s the kind of thing I’m into too.”
Away from the stage, UB40 have been working on their new album, which should be out this year in conjunction with PledgeMusic.
So how’s that all progressing?
“Uh, slowly,” Robin laughs. “We’ve been working probably for the past two years on it now. We’re still a very hard working live band...so it’s whatever opportunity we have to get into the studio.”
Robin reckons that, in total, they’ve probably put in a few weeks of studio time during this period.
“But we’re getting near to completion,” he confirms. “I’m actually in the studio at the moment, working on finishing stuff and mixes.”
“It’s been a long time coming and I can’t wait for people to hear it.”
The release date has been put back a few times, but Robin now estimates it will be May.
“Whether we can actually hold to that I have no idea,” he says. “I’m trying my damnedest, but it will definitely be this summer. Definitely.”
“We’ve been writing while we’ve been on the road in the same way that we always do. We write the lyrics between us and we jam the music together as a band and that’s the same way we’re doing it this time around.”
“I’m really pleased with the album,” Robin says. “It’s very varied, it’s very different. It’s not one style, you know? It’s not a UB40 Labour of Love style, it’s not all poppy and commercial, there’s going to be lots of dub on it. It’s a mixture.”
On top of all this, the band has just entered its 40th year, having formed in 1978, famously taking their name from an Unemployment Benefit card.
“I can’t quite get my head round that really. When you start you hope for longevity and you think that if you get ten years out of it you’ll do well, but that’s longer than most bands’ careers.”
“I still can’t believe that this is what I do for a living,” he marvels. “I could have been stuck in a factory for all of my life but I’m still doing what I love doing.”
“I don’t know how long I can keep this up for, but as long as I’m loving it I’m going to keep going. It’s a wonderful way to spend your life and it’s great way to earn a living.”
Looking back, Robin is proud of the band’s success – almost 40 singles in the UK Top 40 charts and more than 70 million records sold worldwide.
But Robin’s also proud that they’re still going.
“The fact that we’ve done everything we’ve done, had the success that we’ve had, that’s all in the record books. That speaks for itself. But just the fact that we’re still doing it makes me immensely proud.”
Anyone who knows about the band’s difficult period a few years ago will understand that this is no small feat.
It all begs the question: what are the reasons for the band’s enduring appeal?
“Ooh, that’s not an original question,” Robin laughs. “I really haven’t got a clue what the secret is.”
“We are the sum of our parts and luckily we have a sound that’s original and that people love,” he says. “And we’ve got a very loyal fanbase. I don’t know how you get that.”
“You just have to keep doing what you do and do what you like and hope that your fans come with you.”
Tickets start at £30 (booking fees apply) and can be purchased at www.boundlesssummer.co.uk.
About the festival
A Boundless Summer is presented by Boundless and Neil O’Brien Entertainment.
The confirmed line-up so far is UB40, plus support from Aswad (Saturday, July 7), and The Gipsy Kings, featuring Nicolas Reyes and Tonnino Baliardo (Sunday, July 8).
Boundless is a club dedicated to civil service and public sector workers – active and retired. Members pay a small fee per year, and are given access to exclusive days out, holidays, ideas and offers. A Boundless Summer, the company’s inaugural festival, is being opened up to the general public, who have the option to join Boundless upon buying tickets, which will give them access to exclusive deals.
Boundless Member ticket holders will have access to Borde Hill Garden from 5pm to 7pm free of charge. There will be catering and refreshments available and guests can pre-order a picnic hamper for collection on the evening of the show. Attendees can also bring small camping chairs and blankets.
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