Alison Moyet isn’t one of those ‘80s stars stuck in the past.
Sure, she’s in the middle of the much-anticipated Yaz reunion tour, teaming up with synthesizer wiz Vince Clarke for the first time in 25 years. But she’s also releasing her seventh solo album, “The Turn” (Decca), filled with stately, Bowiesque rock and sophisticated Jacques Brel pop that is about as far from the electronica-pioneering Yaz as you can get.
“I’ve never been one for sitting-back-on-my-laurel days,” says Moyet, calling during a tour break from her London home. “But for me, this is not about some kind of maturing or growing up. It’s not a reflection on my career. It’s simply a reflection of that day. If I wake up that day and think, ‘I wonder what that would feel like. I wonder if I could hold that note longer. I wonder what would happen if I got rid of all the embellishments or if I screamed so loud that I almost lost my voice.’ It’s about the little, daily experiments that I come by and the possibilities that open up.”
For Moyet, the decision to reunite with Clarke after all these years wasn’t about nostalgia or a big cash-in.
“It was unfinished business,” Moyet says. “It’s about performing a body of work that partly only had a very tiny outing or never got to be played live at all. I think playing live is such an important part of music development. So often - well, always, in my experience - you sing songs shortly after they were written, but it’s only after you’ve played them a good many times that you get to understand the meat of them and you understand what’s important and what’s not important and what to do with your voice. That’s something I never had the chance of doing.”
Yaz (or Yazoo, as they’re known in England) were influential leaders in the synth-pop movement of the ‘80s, with their debut album, “Upstairs at Eric’s,” and their hits “Situation” and “Don’t Go” standing among the genre’s most important songs decades later. But by the time Moyet and Clarke released their second album, “You and Me Both,” in 1983, they already had split, with Moyet going solo and Clarke recruiting Andy Bell to form Erasure. The songs of “You and Me Both,” especially the hits “Nobody’s Diary” and “State Farm,” never were performed live.
There really wasn’t room for Yaz songs at Erasure concerts, and Moyet says she didn’t want to do them herself as “some kind of nasty karaoke.”
“What we were was more than the voice and the song and the electronica,” she says. “It was all those things together. For it to be a true representation, you needed all of that. Without Vince, it just wouldn’t have had the same sonic weight. I know I could’ve found someone to plagiarize him, but to steal someone else’s sound just seemed wrong.”
Moyet had her own successes - from the ‘80s pop hits “Is This Love?” and “Weak in the Presence of Beauty” to her collection of classics on 2004’s “Voice” - but she also was eager to revisit the Yaz songs. When Clarke had some time in his schedule, and Bell worked on a solo album, Clarke and Moyet jumped at the chance to work together again.
“I’ve really enjoyed the space that electronic offers, and singing these songs that have an innocence - they’re innocent lyrically, but they’re also innocent melodically,” says Moyet, adding that she and Clarke may decide to record together after the tour ends.
“You can hear the time when we knew only three chords between us and we wrote around them. Obviously, as you grow older and you learn more, your music becomes more sophisticated. In some ways, that’s a good thing, but you lose something with that, too. ... There’s a couple there where I think, ‘I wouldn’t write this again,’ but there’s a real freedom in singing something you wouldn’t write again. There’s other things that I think, ‘Oh, this has really stood the test of time,’ like when we sing ‘Ode to a Boy’ live or ‘Winter Kills’ live or do the kind of soaring singing on ‘Situation’ and ‘Don’t Go,’ it physically feels good.”