A Flock of Seagulls so thoroughly embodied the music and style of the 1980s that, in some ways, it has come to define the decade. The band's New Wave sound and hilariously bad music videos (and hairdos) helped it become iconic.
Lead singer, songwriter, and lone original member Mike Score isn't immune from nostalgia for the '80s. Every time he plays one of the old hits, he's transported to the time when he wrote the melody and lyrics, and he occasionally indulges in what-if scenarios. "I'll kind of wander off in my mind, and sometimes I'll even write new lyrics for the songs while I'm playing them, which is a strange thing," he says. "It's like, what if I had done it all differently? It definitely is a nostalgia trip, but it's a different one for me than it probably is for you."
The Score, now 60, is set to play New Times' Brew at the Zoo this Saturday, May 12, with the most recent iteration of A Flock of Seagulls. And speaking of nostalgia, he recently traveled to England and reunited with the band's original lineup — his brother Alister Score (drums), Frank Maudsley (bass), and Paul Reynolds (guitar) — to record orchestral versions of the band's greatest hits with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The album, Ascension, is due out this summer. It will mark the first time all four original members have appeared on a record together since 1984's The Story of a Young Heart.
"When we recorded in the '80s, we used synthesizers where there could have been an orchestra," Score says. "Now it's gone the other way around. They basically took what I played on the synth and expanded it with orchestral runs and slightly different melodies. It makes it fresh again."
Slower numbers, such as "Space Age Love Song" and "Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)," naturally lent themselves to symphonic treatments, but more synthetic-sounding, Devo-esque deep cuts, such as "Electrics," were given totally new life thanks to the classical instrumentation. Pervasive hit "I Ran (So Far Away)" is reimagined with greater dimensions and a totally new composition, and Score considers the difference refreshing.
"After playing that song for 35 years, I'm like, 'Change it all,'" he says with a laugh. "Some nights, I really enjoy playing it, but most nights, I do it because the crowd wants it. So you put a lot into it. That was the biggest hit, and people always want to hear it live. Really, it's for the people who come to see us."
Through the process of re-recording his vocals, Score noticed how much his voice has changed since he began performing in the early '80s — it's deeper and stronger, he says. And this time around, his voice wasn't treated with nearly as many studio effects; they're left unaltered so as not to distract from the orchestral elements. "People know the lyrics; people know the vocal melodies. So it's more about what the orchestra is doing."
Despite having written a few international hits, Score says he's never really identified as a musician. "I can't imagine having to sit down and practice scales," he says. "I would go out of my mind." He's simply a creative person who happens to love messing around with synthesizers. "When synths came out, nobody could tell you how to play or program one. It was up to you to mess about with them, and I never got past that stage."
As a keyboard player, he says he never rehearses but relies on muscle memory — and his bandmates. "I'm not really what you'd call a player," he says. "So right before the gig, I'll go, 'Oh, yeah, that's the chord there.' And I often ask the other guys in the band, 'How does this start again?'"
Score has a studio at home where he "plays around with his toys," but, likely to the disappointment of gearheads everywhere, he has long since sold his collection of vintage synthesizers. "It's too much trouble," he says. "They always break down, and then you have to wait six months for them to find that one little switch, or you've got to send it away and risk breaking it even further. I used to have a few [Roland] Jupiter-8s and [Yamaha] DX7s, but you can do the same stuff in software, and to me it sounds just as good. I don't have hi-fi ears."
Something else has changed since A Flock of Seagulls' glory days: Score's hairdo. A former hairdresser, he famously rocked a style that resembled the inverse of Cameron Diaz's do in There's Something About Mary. But in recent years, he's taken to shaving his head completely.
"People always want to know why I don't do my hair like that anymore," he says. "Well, it's because I'm an old man now. It was a wonderful thing. I look back now and think, What a great image, and what a lunatic time that was. Everybody loved it, but if I tried it now, I'd just look like a fool. Generally, I don't want to look like a wrinkled old man with a 1980s haircut."
A Flock of Seagulls at New Times' Brew at the Zoo. 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at Zoo Miami, 12400 SW 152nd St., Miami; 305-571-7579. Tickets cost $40 to $80 via newtimesbrewatthezoo.com.
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Howard Hardee is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, he has a BA in journalism and writes stories about music, outdoor adventures, politics, and the environment for alt-weeklies across the country. He is an aficionado of fine noises and has a theremin in his living room.