The incredible enigma that is MSQ goes right back to the early nineteen eighties when founder member Darren Hillier formed the band as a young schoolboy at The Cavendish School in Hemel Hempstead. MSQ stood for Mabel Stringer Quartet named after a mythical figure! The band began as a Ska act inspired by the 2-Tone wave and influenced by The Specials but also by the punky Soul music of Dexys Midnight Runners. After a short time the band’s creative drivers became Darren (Bass Guitar) and Dominic Elton (Keyboards) and their music took on a more overtly Soul-orientated direction helped by the recruitment of singer Billy Hunter but when Dominic left for University in 1985 Darren met Neil March and the pair then led all subsequent incarnations of the band.
After periods as a funky Soul 12-piece, a Swing/Soul 12-piece and an Acoustic Soul Septet the band eventually relocated to London in 1988, returned to playing Ska music with a strong Soul influence and a year later they signed their second record deal (the first having been with Hemel label Lost Moments) with Unicorn Records who put their song Modern World on a compilation album which saw the track receive the lion’s share of praise in press reviews and elevate the band’s popularity with Ska fans in Europe, Australia and the USA. A year later they signed to Bluebeat Records, the legendary Ska label which had been bought by Buster Bloodvessel of popular 80s Ska band Bad Manners but work on an album fell through when the label went into bankruptcy only to be sold to another entrepreneur a year or two later.
MSQ played their last date with that line-up at the end of 1990 before reforming two years later with a new line-up now fronted by Dee Rose. Although they did not record any tracks the new line-up had a more contemporary sound mixing Ska, Mento and Lovers’ Rock with poppier influences. But despite prelimenary talks with Chrysalis they split before a record deal could be signed in 1994. Dee and Neil went on to form Acid Jazz outfit Entourage.
There have been various attempts to reform over the years. 1999 saw Darren and Neil strike a production deal with the famous Ealing Studios where they recorded three new Soul-influenced tracks before recruiting singer Kevin East and recording an unreleased 5-song EP in 2000.
But it was in 2016 that Darren and Neil teamed up again to record new material in Mayfield Studios in Portsmouth whose owner is Dominic Elton. They roped in Dominic and his band’s (Mayfield) horn section on the single Wind me up (which also contained Say what you wanna say and the instrumental Wind me up [Holiday Miz]). That song was released by DPT Records in late summer 2016 to an enthusiastic response from Ska-orientated radio stations. The follow-up The Blame Game was released in late 2016 and a third single Our World will be released in Spring 2017.