There are some of you who don’t know who New Order is. In a way, we envy the journey you’re about to embark on. As a band, they made timeless music - but that’s only part of why they mean so much to us. They’ve had a long and lasting influence on music, nightlife, and culture and showed how big the creative act could be.
“We’re not here to live up to somebody else’s ideals - we’re here to write music, music that we like.”
- Bernard Sumner of New Order
New Order’s music has evolved so much that it’s hard to pin down. Re-invention is in the band’s DNA, which goes back to their formation in 1980 - when the surviving members of Joy Division chose to continue on after the passing of that band’s lead singer and guiding light, Ian Curtis. They invited another musician into the band and became New Order.
They quickly found a voice of their own - finding common ground between club music and punk to make something that was like nothing else we had heard. The music they made was electronic, but not electronic music. It was punk in spirit but not in sound. It could be as catchy as any pop song but miles away from anything else you could hear on the radio.
We thrilled at every new record - each one expanding our idea of what New Order could sound like, yet always sounding like them. They took us on a journey that continues to this day.
“When I bought a piece of music, I always thought I was buying two pieces of art - I was buying the album and I was buying the cover.”
- Bernard Sumner
As distinct and innovative as New Order’s music was, the design of their records matched their creativity and came to feel like an extension of the band itself. The album covers felt mysterious, important, and alluring - just seeing them on the shelf, we wanted to know what they sounded like.
We learned they were the work of designer Peter Saville, a collaborator they’ve been working with for decades. Over time, we came to understand how those record covers related to the world of fine art and industrial design, and how they tapped into the same spirit as the music. It’s almost like the music and design were parts of a bigger conversation, one that elevated a record sleeve from packaging to art.
It was one of the first times we remember seeing something a mass-produced object link the worlds of culture and design in that particular way, and they did it time after time. It’s stayed with us ever since and in a very real way, it’s at the heart of what we do.
“We lived out an ideal, without business calling the shots.”
- Peter Saville, designer
Design was just one example in which New Order made an impact outside of the music they made. Another was closer to home, in their native Manchester. Having been inspired by some of the legendary clubs of New York City - places like the hugely influential Paradise Garage - they decided their home city could use one, too. They partnered with their label to open the Hacienda, which would go on to be ground zero for a new wave of dance-inspired bands to come from their home city - groups like the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays.
The Hacienda also set the scene for a dance-oriented rave counterculture, when a generation of music lovers from all backgrounds and walks of life learned to lose themselves in the moment - celebrating what united them instead of focusing on differences.
It’s not unusual now for a band to give serious thought to packaging or open up clubs, but at the time, it was almost unheard of - especially for an independent band. And whatever New Order did, they did it to the highest level possible, regardless of whether or not it made money. The original sleeve for the “Blue Monday” single was so intricate that it’s said to have lost their label money on every copy sold. But that’s missing the point - that single turned out to be one of the most influential singles of all time, with an iconic design to match.
New Order proved that following your vision could pay off. And once we saw what they could achieve, the possibilities became endless.
If you aspire to be creative or to live your life the way you want, you know there’s not always a roadmap. Watching New Order succeed - on their own terms - gave us the courage to make our own path. We hope they do the same for you, too.
For your listening pleasure, we asked our friend Teddy Rebel to put together a little mix of our favorite New Order tracks: