1. Your debut album, Cuts Across The Land, was released
just 1 week ago (after changing record labels and putting it back to
include newer songs). How are you all feeling and what are your hopes
for the LP?
Dan: "Well, we're feeling very excited and relieved, that it's
out at long last. We recorded most of it about a year ago, so like last
January, and then we moved record labels and it got put back. We then
got the opportunity to work with Flood, so we recorded 4 extra songs
through that, but just to actually be going on tour and to have an album
out at last, is kind of the most exciting thing. Because now, people
have a chance to hear what we've collectively recorded, before they
come to see us, whereas for a long time, it was just a handful of singles
or the EP."
Toby: "You start to get recognition from people who are hearing
it as well, they'll start to know the songs, and that's a nice feeling
you know - it is exciting! We hope the album is going to do everything
that we hope it's going to do, which is to put all of these great songs
out, that we obviously all believe in, and really make them (pausing),
let people live with them."
Liela: "I keep saying, that I feel like we've nurtured these songs
for ages, and that they haven't had their time yet. I mean they've been
played, but not to people who'd recognise them, because they don't have
them at home. Now, they can play them at home, and then come and see
us and feel the excitement, because they know what's about to happen,
and where the song is going to go. Maybe they'll sing along and things
like that, so it feels like the songs are having their moment (laughing)!"
2. You said that you "feel like a family," and that when
you recorded your album, you tried to "maintain as much connection
as when you play live"?
Liela: "It's kind of staccato. I mean sometimes, people go off
home and write something completely alone from start to finish, and
maybe they'll live with it for a week, before all of us actually lock
into it and start contributing. Or sometimes, we sit round in a circle
and something comes - ooh (laughing), that sounds rude (laughing)."
Toby: "The whole family thing is kind of nice though, because when
we did go and record the majority of the album, we all stayed in this
cottage together, and we could all sit down, cook and eat together
Liela: "Get drunk together (laughing)."
Toby: "Yeah, get drunk together (laughing), and kind of maintain
that closeness, because communication's got to be good to survive."
Dan: "We sort of carry it on, on tour as well. We all get on very
well, and we look forward to sitting in the van, for these poxy journeys
between Liverpool and wherever - these great places (laughing). Travelling
between them, you can get a bit (pausing), well, we talk a lot
Liela: "Yeah, we talk a lot of nonsense (laughing). I mean there's
elements of this that are really boring, which is a terrible thing to
say, when you've pretty much well got the best job in the whole world.
So learning to deal with long journeys and repetitive things, and going
out on tour to the same string of cities again, we know we have to keep
each other's motivation up really. Just by making sure, that even if
you're having a grumpy bit of time, someone will pick you up again you
know? You do that to support each other, because if you didn't, then
it would be a band for people with egos, who were just blustering through.
But it's not like that. It feels delicate and you want to invest your
time into this band."
Toby: "People have been saying it quite a lot to us, when they've
been to see us play live - you get the odd comments like, "You
look like you all get on really well," or, "You look like
you're all very close," as far as the way we portray ourselves
onstage. It's always kind of a quite weird thing to hear, because you
think, well surely you've got to be close if you're in a band? But I
guess that a lot of bands aren't. Maybe bands don't connect properly
in that sense - there are more individual personalities? We've just
always thought of it as an extension of us hanging out together, when
we're playing together on stage."
Liela: "Yeah. I mean that's not to say (pausing), I mean some weeks,
especially with songwriting, you feel that some people are more active
than others, and take the lead really, and maybe dominate the situation
for a while. Then somebody recedes, and someone else takes over you
know? But it's all fair in love and war isn't it (laughing)."
3. As a band, you must have learnt a great deal from recording your
debut mini-album / EP, Roll, Spirit, Roll, with former Cocteau Twin,
Simon Raymonde. But you recently said, that "it was a product of
a band still finding its bearings"?
Dan: "I guess when we (pausing), that was the first bunch of songs
we'd really written - we didn't write a lot of songs, then pick a few
to go and record. We were literally still in the writing process, as
we were going into the studio, and it was the first batch of about 6
or 7 songs, that we'd ever written together as a band. So at that point,
we were still fairly insecure about how good we actually were, or whether
we were doing exactly the right thing. We were demoing a lot at home,
on our own little recording studio, and we kind of liked the sounds
that we were getting, and things like that. So we kind of took that
ethos into the studio, and we ended up using a lot of the stuff that
we'd already recorded at home, and added bits to it in the studio. We
did it quite back-to-front (pausing), I guess to a traditional way,
and Olly had only just come joined the band, so he was playing along
to stuff we'd already recorded. So it wasn't a very traditional way
of going in to record an album."
Liela: "It sounded really good at the end, and we were really pleased
about it, but then, we had made this mini-album, and we were put on
tour and sent away - so we went and played all of those songs to people.
But of course, when we actually laid those tracks down, some of the
things that you hear, had never been played openly to ten, twenty, or
hundreds of people, they'd been played to maybe 3 friends, in the back
of a rehearsal room. So we then sort of learnt to go and play these
songs. But now, they're much more together. But I really like those
recordings, it's a really good moment, and we'll never have that moment
again, because we can all play our instruments better now (laughing)."
4. You worked with several producers on Cuts Across The Land, including
the renowned producer, Flood. Why did you decide to record in this way?
Liela: "We didn't really decide, it's just what fate threw in our
way. The record company went down, and then we didn't know who would
put the album out, but Polydor took over. Then they said, "We can't
release this yet, as it doesn't fit in with our schedule." So we
were like "Oh," and carried on touring, wrote some new songs
and then said, "These songs would make it really relevant and they'd
be good - can we have these?" Then we said, "Well who's available,
who could we record with now?" A few people were mentioned, and
Flood was one of them, but a few months beforehand, he'd already got
in touch to say that he liked the band, so it seemed natural. But it
wasn't a plan to say, "Hey, let's record over the process of a
year and work with different people," it wasn't like that at all."
Toby: "It never really occurred to us, to just naturally think
of going back into the studio with Simon. Not because we were disappointed
in anyway, it was just because suddenly we had these new songs, and
new names were being put forward to us, and we just went with it, rather
than going back on ourselves."
Liela: "Yeah, you want to know who might bring out a new twist,
like, "I wonder what else we don't know about ourselves yet?"
Someone different can pull that out of you, and that's what's going
to happen on the next record."
Toby: "We're all big fans of the stuff Flood's done, like Nick
Cave and PJ Harvey. So it was quite flattering and kind of an honour,
that he actually wanted to work with us, because he can obviously charge
ludicrous amounts of money, to work with the biggest bands in the world
Liela: "And we're not one of them (laughing)."
Toby: "No (laughing), we still feel like a tiny little band, that
gets flattered when people like that want to work with us!"
5. The Duke Spirit's sound, has been described as "a British
take on the Blues," as "all-enveloping," and as "brutal,
soulful and dangerously beautiful." Would you agree with these
Liela: "Yeah, I like those (laughing), they were good." I
would also say, that Dan and Luke are fucking loud (laughing)!"
Dan: "Somebody called it "Pagan Soul music" once, and
I quite liked that, that was good! Probably undeserved, but I like it
and someone said it, so (laughing)."
6. Prior to The Duke Spirit, Liela, Luke and Toby, were in another
band called Solomon, but it was "never quite what you wanted."
Can you tell us about this, and how The Duke Spirit eventually formed?
Liela: "From a personal point of view, I hadn't really found how
I wanted to sing - I sung much more softly, which was fine, and there
are songs now that are softly sung, and there will be more in the future.
But that was a band, where most things started off on an acoustic guitar,
and so I didn't have the volume, nor the rhythmical force, to push much
from around the side and behind me on stage. So it never really occurred
to me, to sing with any musical toughness, and everything was kind of
one-dimensional. We also got bored and found it frustrating, that the
other 2 people we were with, just didn't really give a monkeys. They
never really analysed it any further than "Oh, when's our next
gig?" We were the songwriters, so it just felt like we were having
our energy sapped away from us, for no real reason. So that was it,
we put a stop to that, and we carried on writing - but this time, we
had a blank page in front of us, of how it could sound. We were like,
"OK, that drummer's gone and that guitar sound has gone, so we
can have whatever else we want now." Then we got to a point and
it was like, "Hang on a minute - let's just not even think any
further than this little song, that we're writing at the moment,"
which I think was possibly Darling You're Mean? Then we said, "Let's
forget anything about a plan, and just work out who's a fucking cool
guitar player, that we can work with" - and it was Dan! So from
that moment on, when the 4 of us started talking, then we all felt more
like, "Write, write, write!" because we all wanted to be in
a band, and it was a completely new canvas. We could picture things,
and we started talking about artwork, names and titles."
Toby: "I think basically, it just took us a long time, to actually
learn how to do what we really wanted to do. I mean some people can
get to 16 or 17, and suddenly produce some amazing songs. Whereas for
me and Luke especially, it just turned out that it took us quite a few
years, to learn how to actually put together a song - using the right
sounds that we wanted, and all of that kind of stuff you know? It's
not a particularly embarrassing thing to say, as some people just get
it straight away, what they want to do, and are really clear and focused.
But it just took us a little while, to get all of the elements in the
right place, as far as songwriting, sounds and musicians - just putting
it all together - it took much longer than it takes other people."
Liela: "Yeah, but sometimes, it's to do with circumstances. You
can be in a band, but you're doing a crap job at the same time, and
you realise that it's taking up all of your time. So the time to sit
at home experimenting with ridiculous pedals, and having fun, is maybe
not so great. In a way, it takes something to completely implode, where
you have to absolutely stop, and then, when you're pushed up against
the wall, you think, "This is going nowhere and I haven't even
been able to think straight." Then that's when you go, "Right,
fuck it all - let's clear the way!" and quit jobs or change jobs."
Toby: "I think I always used to know a lot of the sounds that I
liked, but I never really had the application to be able to express
them, which is like a band really."
7. Is it true, that your name was taken from a book that your manager
was reading, and that the idea behind it, is that "it aims to reflect
what you want to feel, and what you want your listeners to feel."
I.e. "A sense of being regal (Duke), gained through the power of
rock 'n' roll, and a communion or a shared experience (Spirit)"?
Liela: "Yep, yep, that's pretty good (laughing)!"
Dan: "You've just answered the question anyway (laughing)!"
Liela: "It wasn't our manager though - we were with Simon Raymonde
in his office, as not only is he ex-Cocteau Twin, but he produces records
and runs Bella Union, the indie label. Anyway, we were in his office,
and we were sort of half-frantic and half-laughing (pausing), because
we had started the recording process, and we still hadn't decided on
a name, and they had printed up some 7"s! They said, "You
have to know what you want to be called tomorrow - your label's going
on these!" But we were like, "Simon, this is ridiculous isn't
it?" and we just started to be a bit Dada about it, and said, "Right,
everyone, open a book now (laughing)!" I don't know, there was
no (pausing), it just became a random exercise in the end, which I think
names are really, unless you have a nostalgia or real sentimentality
about a name - some memory or some word, that resonates in you for a
reason. You may have had it for years and said, "If I'm ever in
a band, it will be called whatever." But we hadn't, we were 5 people
trying to sort it out, and we just decided to be completely illogical,
or random about it, and then project on to it. So it kind of worked."
Toby: "Yeah, I think something we quite like doing, is having weird
phrases and words, and kind of applying a meaning to it afterwards -
rather than researching what it would actually mean. Painting a set
of words with your own imagery, and that's exactly what happened with
*Dan has to leave the interview due to a call on his mobile*
8. Can you tell us about the artwork used on your record sleeves?
Liela: "Well Dan's the man, who's the real archivist in the band
- he has lots of books and imagery, that show out of copyright things.
He's a real collector and is a very knowledgeable person, who just knows
lots of obscure things, and collects obscure things (laughing). I'd
also been talking to him, about some studies that I'd just finished
at college - Postcolonial Studies - thinking about the way that the
Colonists, reflected images of what they'd found, when they went abroad
you know? They always vastly exaggerated and created these horrific
images, of people eating bloody parts, in that sort of very racist /
expansionist time. I was blathering on about that and saying, "Yeah,
I've seen all of these photocopies of woodcuts, of people eating legs
and stuff." Then, that kind of set of another conversation, and
the next time we met up, he just brought along loads of images, which
sort of ranged from the 1700s to the 1900s I suppose, or later. Anyway,
we all looked at them and could all really get into that aesthetic.
So Dan's really good, he collects stuff, and then he combines different
things - like he'll get a frame and he'll put a character inside it,
then he'll chop something up - so it's a collage of different things."
Toby: "Dan also puts together a lot of the colours (pausing), well,
everyone has a lot of input I guess, because we want the sleeves to
look as striking as they possibly can."
Liela: "One of the first things that maybe set us all off, which
doesn't look like this at all, but when we were signed to City Rockers,
the Head of that, kept banging on about this band, The Gun Club. Immediately
when we heard the record, we all went, "Oh God, how come we've
never heard of them before? Still, this is great!" So if there
was one good thing about being on a label that then went bust, it was
that we all came away going, "That Gun Club record's brilliant
(laughing)!" So a couple of year's back, we all bought it - most
of us got it anyway. But the sleeve has a real acid / bright pink colour
in there, and maybe some yellow, but it also has these collage black
& white things on it, and we just said, "It's really great
when you have old imagery with bright colours!"
Toby: "And the point is to make them look like a collection - you
can line them up and they'll look good as a piece together!"
9. One of the most interesting pages on your official website (www.dukespirit.com),
is The Duke's Alphabet, which is an A - Z of your wide-ranging influences.
Do you have any particular favourites on this list?
Toby: "What, a favourite letter (laughing)? Well, I think it was
Luke's idea to put that A - Z together?"
Liela: "Yeah, it's good!"
Toby: "It's purely there, just as a way of communicating with people.
It shows some of our influences and the things we're into, so it's like
a little keyhole into us as a band - what we're like as people and what
influences us. It was just a simple, fun thing to do, as far as the
website goes. It's quite interesting, because a lot of people really
pick up on it, they really like it, which is perfect! But I don't know,
a favourite influence on it? What would you say (looking at Liela)?
Zorba The Greek, that's a good one on there!"
Liela: "One of mine that I put up there, is the artist Frida Kahlo,
who I think is about to have a massive exhibition in London actually,
so she must be back in peoples' consciousness again. She's a painter
that I studied for quite a few years, and I was really interested in
her life - there's been a film made about her and stuff. I just really
like her artwork as visuals go - I think she's a great painter - and
I really like the naivety in there. I quite like the way (pausing),
I'm not trying to elevate myself up to her, or anything like that, but
I like the way she always used to put so much about herself - because
she had to, she was bed-ridden. But I can spot little recurring motifs,
and I think that maybe I do that when I write words - I turn inside
and pull my insides out. So she's a bit of a heroine for me!"
10. When John Peel sadly passed away last October, you posted a message
of sympathy for him on your official website. What did John mean to
Liela: "He was just like the last vestiges of what a proper human
is - sense of humour, relentless standard (pausing), I mean some nights,
you'd turn it on and go, "Bloody Hell, what's this fucking noise
he's playing you know (laughing)?" But that was his whole point,
he relentlessly played new and interesting things, and he represented
being anti- homogenisation of stuff that's going on now. So I kind of
just saw him as someone who was totally human. You could obviously go
and have a pint of beer with him, and a cheese & pickle sandwich,
but at the same time, you could talk (pausing), he'd met so many heroes
and he just stood for real quality (pausing), I'm trying to think of
the word - Enthusiasts!"
*The Duke Spirit's Tour Manager, Giles, brings us all a cup of tea*
Liela: "Ah, look at that, I was making the tea - sorry babe (laughing).
He's our sound engineer, tour manager and tea-maker (laughing)! But
we would normally make the tea I'd like to point out, we're not that
up ourselves (laughing). Thank you Giles (looking back and shouting)."
Giles: "That's alright."
Toby: "I kind of think John Peel (pausing), I think a lot of musicians
somewhere within in them, maybe have a rebellious nature, and I think
that being a musician, also involves having to strike out on your own,
and being headstrong about doing what you want to do. So I think a lot
of musicians especially, felt an affinity with John Peel, because he
was like that as well."
Liela: "Yeah, within the radio."
Toby: "So many DJs, really tow the corporate line, or play playlists,
and are quite happy to just voice, and not actually have any personality
or individuality. So I think a lot of musicians saw themselves in John
Peel, because he was (pausing), not rebellious for the sake of it, he
just did exactly what he wanted to do and what he liked, and that's
what I think a lot of people found very endearing about him."
Liela: "I fell in love with him all over again, when he started
the Radio 4 Saturday Morning Show. Because then, people of his generation,
who perhaps wouldn't sit up on a Thursday night listening to Atari Teenage
Riot or something, would actually be (pausing), someone of my parents
age would be able to talk about John Peel, while we'd talk about John
Peel in a different context. But you'd turn over on a Saturday morning,
and it was his sense of humour, he was just fucking hilarious and really
articulate. So for someone to aspire to be like, then he's a really
Toby: "Someone told us, that he actually managed to watch us at
Glastonbury, when we played last year, which was a big honour! We would've
loved to have done a Radio 1 Peel Session, but we never got the chance.
So to know that he managed to watch us live, is a good feeling!"
Liela: "Yeah, this guy from Rough Trade just said it in a bar.
He said, "Did you know? Yeah I was with him, he stood near me and
he really liked your show!" I nearly cried, I was like, "Really
(surprised)?" and I shouted, "Oi, fellas, come over here (laughing)!"
11. The Duke Spirit, have now toured extensively as both a headline
and support band. But do you have any special memories, of places you've
visited, bands you've met, or standout gigs / festivals?
Toby: "A big one for me last year, was the Isle Of Wight Festival,
which was the first major festival that we'd played, and I was born
on the Isle Of Wight, so that was a weird return to home (laughing).
So that's a major point in my career so far I guess, that's a good one.
Glastonbury of course, having been there for so many years and actually
getting to play on (pausing), not just one of the smaller stages, but
we played The Other Stage, which was completely mind-blowing!"
Liela: "Yeah, definitely (laughing)!"
Toby: "Playing the Festivals I think, was a really big deal for
us straight away, because they're so huge as well. As soon as you step
on those massive stages (pausing), I mean we weren't playing at 8pm
in the evening, we were playing quite early, but you still have a good
crowd come to see you. And this tour has been really amazing so far
Liela: "Oh yeah!"
Toby: "We've been quite surprised at how many people have been
turning up to the gigs."
Liela: "We've just had 2 nights in a row, of the finest fun you
can have! We played Manchester - it sold out - and it was so, so hot,
that both the audience and us were sweating! Then it heated up again,
and turned into steam (laughing)! We were like, "Fucking Hell,
it looks incredible (laughing)!" And then, to get up the next day
and be knackered from that, knowing that you've got the Astoria - you're
so nervous, but you can't really describe what it is. It's just nagging
nerves, but it's quite exciting to have - you wouldn't really want them
to go away, because then you wouldn't be psyched-up. But then you realise,
that you're not really eating (laughing). So the last couple of days
have been brilliant, and Glastonbury was amazing! The first time that
it felt like we weren't just doing small gigs (pausing), we did a run
of touring and they were very small places. But we always felt, that
the core of the people were nice, but it was all very small, and you
wouldn't have anyone checking you out (pausing), there wasn't even somewhere
to put your stuff say. You'd turn up, play, and then go away again.
Anyway, the first time it ever felt like something was being organised,
that we were maybe being respected, which was quite weird (laughing),
was when we supported The Rapture. They played at Heaven in Charring
Cross, London, and we sort of arrived and the place was pretty big,
the stage was really high, and someone met us and said, "You can
have a dressing room, and here's some stuff to eat and drink (laughing)."
I was like, "Really (surprised)? Bloody Hell (laughing)
Toby: "Yeah (laughing)!"
Liela: "The gig was great, and I was really nervous, because it
was just a step up into a world where people promote things I suppose?
As I mentioned, I remember it being a really good gig, and some people
that I really admire came down, and they really liked us, so I suppose
that was a turning point, it was like a right of passage really."
12. Was it a conscious decision, to tour relentlessly and to release
a 'Taster mini-album / EP', in order to help build up a devoted following?
Liela: "Well, it wasn't really a 'Taster EP', because we felt that
we'd put out our first piece of work! Then we toured it, and in-between
that, we were writing towards an album which just got delayed. So I
suppose (pausing), you do what you should do really, which is go out
and play to people."
Toby: "I mean, it's kind of like what we said earlier on, that
EP was literally all we had, as far as songs go. As far as writing an
album goes, at that point, we were nowhere near able or ready to do
that I don't think? So that EP, was the entirety of everything, of all
of our work at that point - so we just put that out as a big gesture."
Liela: "I suppose from an outside perspective, or even if you're
someone else in the music industry, you go, "Alright, here's this
band and they are now recognised by the press - I'm aware of you, so
come on, what's next?" Whereas we were literally put out on record,
and written about in a few publications, as we were sort of born I suppose.
So it was like, "Well hold on a minute, we've only existed for
5 minutes - you can't know now, because we don't know what it is yet."
But I wouldn't do it any other way now, it's fine - although maybe in
hindsight, you should really collect your body of work, and then let
your record company say, "OK, release the hounds, off you go!"
But we didn't, we just kept saying, "Well this is what we've got,
let's go on tour." It was just completely natural, and there was
no business thought behind it, it was just "Let's put out the songs
Toby: "I mean, it was a deliberate idea to go on tour as much as
we possibly could, because we'd recorded an EP, that we'd never played
live before, and we just felt like we had to go and learn how to be
a good live band. There's no other way to do that, unless you go out
and play as much as you can. So we kind of disappeared into a rehearsal
studio for a couple of months, and got half-decent, just to prove ourselves
- and then, because the album was delayed, delayed and delayed, we just
thought, well let's just keep playing live and tour as much as we can.
So it's just about building up a reputation as being a good band, because
people can come out and see you, and you can actually prove that you're
a live band there and then, rather than telling people that, just by
releasing singles. It's about the reality of seeing the band play live,
because we love playing live!"
Liela: "Yeah, it's weird. I suppose when you're a teenager, and
if you live somewhere rural, you perhaps hope that there's lots of things
you can buy to take home, so that you can still feel connected to the
band, who may not come round again for another 6 months. But when you're
actually in a band, every time you play, you're confirming that you
exist, like, "Yeah, we exist, this is what we do - so we don't
need the record right this second - you could come and see us."
On the other hand, you forget that when you're inside the band, that
someone might live in Kidderminster, and they've got one record and
have played it loads, and all they want to do, is to hear where you're
going to go next. But unfortunately, we're actually travelling round
Liverpool, Glasgow, Belfast
(laughing). So yeah, I suppose we're
becoming more aware, of why people were becoming impatient, and that's
why we just feel completely proud and euphoric, to release a larger
body of work this week. It's good (laughing)!"
13. As a powerful frontwoman, the British music press has compared
Liela, to the likes of PJ Harvey, Nico, Patti Smith and Hope Sandoval.
However, you said that you are "uncomfortable with being thought
of as a sex symbol," and want to "inspire people, without
your femaleness ever becoming separate from The Duke Spirit"?
Liela: "Yeah, and I know that's probably quite naive, because it
will do, and there's 5 of us, but 4 of them are the same and I'm different.
It just seems a bit boring, to constantly go, "Ooh, sexy Blues
Rock" - and you think, well is it? Or are you focusing on the sexuality
of the person who's singing the words, and then turning it into something
that you want? When actually, I'm spouting words that are to do with
universal emotions and ideologies, or some political spite and anger
that's going on. Some of it's very, very female and other parts of it
are human - I feel like I'd rather be a human symbol, than a sex symbol.
Rock 'n' roll is sexy full stop, and that's what its been about for
fucking decades. So once we're aware of that, you don't have to keep
banging on about it. I feel like we're all symbols. Toby is a symbol
of (laughing), well, of what he expresses through his instrument and
his songwriting - he's standing up for his thoughts and emotions, and
manifesting it in his way. So it's just a bit limiting, that's all.
That's not to say (pausing), I wouldn't like to have false modesty,
like if someone says something complimentary, you think, "Oh well,
that's really sweet and stuff." But don't take it too far, because
now, you're just making me seem like I don't have a thought between
my head - I'm just a bit of totty (laughing)! Which is not what I want
at all. It's just weird, because we all feel quite sexy when we perform,
but again, that's the nature of rock 'n' roll music, rather than maybe
classical music or whatever. We all feel quite pumped-up, whether that's
a sexual impulse for a few minutes, or an aggressive impulse, or an
elated impulse - it's all in there and everyone of us is feeling it,
and we kind of look into the audience, and hope that they're feeling
it as well. So it should be like a communion, rather than watching us
and pointing out separate elements. This isn't pornography, this is
proper music (laughing)!"
14. You also feel, that the American music press, has a much greater
respect for rock 'n' roll bands fronted by females?
Toby: "Yeah, I mean only in the sense that they seem to be far
more open and accepting, as far as (pausing), they don't necessarily
have to separate them from other bands. There are a huge number of great
American bands, and that's just what they are. They may be female-fronted,
or they may have female members in them, but they're not separated."
Liela: "We say that though - we say that a lot, and I don't know,
because we weren't reading the press when Hole came out, or when The
Breeders came out, so we don't know to what extent the American music
press wrote about them."
Toby: "I mean America is obviously a much, much bigger place, so
there's going to be a greater number of bands (pausing), but I guess
more than anything, it's just that Britain doesn't really produce that
many female-fronted bands, or
Liela: "Or maybe they are there, or they get eclipsed? We really
can't work it out. It's something we get asked a lot, but it's really
hard to fathom, because (pausing), maybe I'm not the best example either,
to answer the bigger question of, 'Why aren't there so many?' Because
when I was a teenager, I was pretty much the only person going to indie
gigs, and other mates of mine were into harder stuff - but then, it
kind of crossed over, and we'd find ourselves going to the same gigs,
from about 14, 15, 16, 17. I secretly wanted to be in a band, but I
didn't do anything about it, so I was to blame at that point. It took
until years later (pausing), I don't know whether that's confidence,
or whether that was me deciding not to do anything musical, until I
had something to say maybe? Maybe some lads find it easier to pick up
instruments, and make a racket? I don't know, it makes no sense. But
eventually the time came, and with a few nudges in the right direction,
I said "Right, OK then!" But it took a bit of convincing.
I didn't decide to not get into a band because I was afraid of something,
I just wasn't quite sure how to express myself. Mind you, I'm lazy and
I never really learnt an instrument - I learnt a few instruments, but
not for long enough to actually be accomplished. Whereas (looking at
Toby) you made sure you could really play your instrument."
Toby: "Yeah, but I think at the end of the day, if Liela can inspire
(pausing), just by us doing what we're doing, I think if Liela can inspire
girls to see it as being much more acceptable, then that can only be
a good thing can't it? Because there's absolutely no reason why, girls
can't be as creative and as forward-thinking musically, as anyone else,
and we'd probably have a much healthier music scene, if there were!"
15. Liela, do you find that girls look up to you?
Liela: "I'm just starting to notice it, and it's just really rewarding
I suppose. It's not like I want it, to massage my ego or anything (laughing),
because I still feel a bit shell-shocked doing things sometimes. Like
the other day, when we played the Astoria, I came out into the street
afterwards, and loads of girls came over, and it just makes me feel
a sense of (pausing), it's quite sweet I think. Because I was like that,
I was just like an ordinary, slightly fat teenager (laughing), who got
excited by listening to music and trying to find out more about it.
Feeling like I was part of some secret gang I suppose, because not everyone
where you live is into music, some people are into playing fucking computer
games. So I'm just glad - I'm like, "Good, good, well fucking get
into this!" Because through music, you will find yourselves getting
into politics, art, emotions and relationships, and this will serve
you well for the rest of your life. So good (laughing)!"
16. Joe Strummer once revealed, that when he was a teenager, he always
thought of the music industry as, "a mystical world where only
mythical-beings could actually play." What are your feelings on
the division between musicians and fans?
Liela: "Well that's exactly what I thought, I thought it was so
special. If I went to gigs, and I happened to see someone in the band
after, I was like, "Wow (excitedly), I spoke to them, I can't believe
it (laughing)," and I thought how do you get from being a normal
person, to up there? I suppose having the myth is quite nice, but if
we meet people, we try to demystify it, by saying, "No, it's just
Toby: "Yeah, well that's kind of what Strummer did as well wasn't
it? When you look at the industry as being that mystical thing, as soon
as you're in it, it's just so satisfying to break it all down and say,
"Look, it's not like this at all, you can get involved if you want
to." You can come up and talk to us, because we're no different."
Liela: "Yeah, anyone can do this!"
17. Would you agree, that Pete Doherty has also helped break down
Liela: "I think Pete has done it, because he's taken it to quite
an extreme and everyone has got involved, and I think it's nothing but
a good thing really! The only problem is, is that he's got some serious
fucking drug problems, and I hope people don't get drawn in because
of that. Because there's nothing worse than hero-worship gone wrong.
But I reckon his fans are pretty savvy, I haven't noticed five hundred
thousand 14-year-old crack addicts, hanging around North London. So
I'm guessing it's OK (laughing)."
18. Liela, you have said that your lyrics "are made up of layers
and perspectives, which people can get high off or feel a kinship with."
Could you elaborate on this, and discuss some of the themes that you
Liela: "Yeah, my lyrics are from various different perspectives,
and quite often, I'm talking to myself (pausing), it's like me talking
to my subconscious. That's the best way that I can say it! Some of the
funniest misinterpretations, are when people think that I'm singing
to an ex-lover or something. But actually, quite a lot of the spitefulness
is about (pausing), well one of the earliest songs that we wrote, was
about watching one band fuck up and go wrong, and starting a new one.
Which perhaps I shouldn't say, because it will ruin it for people you
know, because they may've projected some really intense meaning onto
it. But some songs, are about having the confidence to find the artist
inside you. The reason that they're not literal, is because they're
from my subconscious, and I try to feel quite intuitive about what I'm
doing, so I don't really analyse them. But afterwards, I often find
that they mirror something back to me more clearly, after I've digested
them properly. Sometimes, I even predict things - it's quite weird (laughing).
There's such a mixture of themes - anything, from heartache about things
in the past, to excitement about potentials that lie ahead in the future
19. Your promo videos are very stylish and atmospheric. Do you have
a lot of input into the concepts behind them, and do you enjoy the whole
'making a video' process?
Toby: "We've had a lot of input into them so far (laughing)."
Liela: "Yeah, we're going to come up against some trouble soon
(laughing). We really enjoyed making the last one, because the guy who
made it is superb! It didn't take a ridiculously long, long time - we
got up in the morning and we did it until the evening, and that was
it, and while we did it, it was really fun! It's a slightly skewed thing,
where we're all kind of looking ill, but that was quite good as well.
We've made a couple of videos before, and they were both quite fun,
but sometimes, they just take longer than they promised, and you're
so tired and cold, and you just feel like a bit of a fool. You've got
loads of people around you, and you're doing the same thing over and
over again, and you feel like (pausing), a twat really - I mean I do
Toby: "Yeah, and that was kind of why we decided to do the last
video, not as a performance video. It wasn't just a band, in a room,
playing - we put a twist in it, and we were all slightly more up for
(pausing), some form of minuscule acting (laughing)!"
Liela: Yeah (laughing), which Olly did!"
Toby: "Just to keep us entertained, and not to be too formulaic
with the way we shoot our videos all of the time (pausing), trying to
do things which are different."
Liela: "We've got some trouble up ahead though, because (pausing),
I mean we've got a record contract which allows us creative control,
and that's why you don't take a hundred million pounds, because if you
take that much money, they can fucking do whatever they want with you.
For the most part, they're very happy for us to organise things, and
we read peoples' ideas and we choose which one we like, stuff like that.
We feel a little bit of pressure now, because we're noticing that someone
from way up above is like, "Right, let's just have the singer."
So we're totally getting ready for rebellion now."
Toby: "We've been quite self-sufficient up until now, and now that
the album's out, we're starting to notice more and more pressure, because
other people that weren't so interested, are now getting more interested.
But hopefully, we can keep a balance between keeping everyone happy,
and still creating our own aesthetic that we're happy with."
Liela: "Just create an anaesthetic (laughing)!"
Toby: "An anaesthetic, yeah (laughing)!"
Liela: "We'll make them all go to sleep, while we make videos (laughing)."
Toby: "Yeah (laughing), but we'll see."
20. You have described The Duke Spirit as, "a very binary, oppositions,
light-and-dark kind of band," but how do you think your sound will
evolve in the future?
Liela: "I suppose what we mean by that, is that within in a set
that we play live say, we go from really brutally loud, with Dan kicking
on all of his pedals, to something really stark and gentle, within a
few minutes, and we really like that contrast. Some of the words are
like that as well, so yeah, I think we are a 'light-and-dark' kind of
band. The next direction (pausing), I don't know, it might be ever so
slightly more optimistic - it might be 'Party Time!' (laughing). What
do you think (looking at Toby)?"
Toby: "I'd like to think, that we could take it to even more extremes
maybe, just increase the widths and boundaries, of what we've so far
done. We may be even more brutal, and even more stark in certain areas.
But more than anything, I think we're all excited about (pausing), the
last particular song that we all wrote, was Love Is An Unfamiliar Name,
and that felt like a real departure, in the way that we set about to
write a song, and what we actually ended up with. So almost using that
as, I wouldn't say a blue-print, but maybe as a stepping-stone to something
quite new and exciting for us."
Liela: "We've had a lot of hard guitars, and that will always be
there, but maybe now that we've shown you the tough exterior, we can
go one way and then the other way. Maybe strip something right down,
to like a knackered old acoustic guitar, and just a voice with clapping
and stomping (pausing), then bring in some more keyboards and brass
instruments, things like that. We don't really know yet, but it's brewing
21. If you were to compile and burn a 'Mix CD' to leave with me,
what would be on it?
Toby: "Oh wow, that's putting us on the spot! How many songs?"
*I say 10 or 12 songs, to make it an album's worth*
Liela: "Alright, I'll do 5 and you do 5 (looking at Toby) - I can
think of some! Well straight off the top of my head, is a song by Eddie
Floyd, called Big Bird, which is fucking cool and we might cover it.
A song by Candi Staton, Love Chain, that's really good. Dexy's Midnight
Runners, Geno. 100% by Sonic Youth, and Start Choppin' by Dinosaur Jr."
Toby: "It would have to be, Mannish Boy by Muddy Waters. Train
In Vain by The Clash. Go With The Flow, Queens Of The Stone Age. Tracks
Of My Tears, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and Time Is On My Side
by Irma Thomas."
Liela: "Ooh, that was good. Yeah (laughing)!"
Toby: "That's 10!"
22. Lastly, chips or cream buns?
Toby: "Ooh (thinking)
Liela: "Chips - not too many chips though, but chips, because then
you could have a whole array of sauces!"
Toby: "That's true (laughing). I'll go with chips as well, because
I like a chip butty!"
Liela: "But you know
Toby: "You couldn't live on it."
Liela: "Yeah, you can't eat too many carbohydrates when you're
in a band, because it will just make you fall asleep and you can't play.
I've already got a beer-belly, so if I start having too many chips,
I won't be able to actually walk up the steps to go on stage (laughing)!"
A very special thanks to Liela, Toby, Dan, Luke and Olly, to The
Duke Spirit's Tour Manager Giles, to Dean @ Darling, and to Jo @ Loog
Records, for all of their time and help.
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