Dukes Of Windsor - The Royalty Of Rock
Dukes of Windsor may have broken through to the big league with an electro remix of their first single, but they’re still a rock band at heart, as 3D’s Steve Tauschke discovers.
Before the hip bars and boutique tapas joints moved in, the inner-city Melbourne enclave of Windsor was home to old banks, Jewish food marts, dirt cheap op shops and grunge-era venues such as such the Highbridge (now the Prahran Hotel), the colourful Railway front bar and of course, the bluesy Windsor Castle.
But while the price of a pot and a pair of flared cords may have tripled over the years in the ’burb known as St Kilda’s kid brother, traces of ye olde Windsor still abound. And aptly-named local electro rockers Dukes of Windsor are doing their bit to keep the area’s unpretentious spirit alive.
“We actually played at the closing night at the Duke of Windsor,” says bassist Joe Franklin of the former Chapel street rock venue’s farewell bash in 2005. “There are just so many different places in Windsor where we all just hang out and meet up including the Back Bar where we actually had our first photo shoot years ago.”
Still residing within Windsor’s 3181 postcode, except for Franklin who’s now across town in Ivanhoe, the Dukes unveiled their tech-savvy rock sound on 2005’s Foxhunt EP followed by their debut album The Others a year later.
“The band was just so young and the songs were so just, you know, ‘this is all we can do at this point’,” says Franklin of the band’s early releases. “We did everything then and there in the moment.”
After Melbourne dance act TV Rock successfully remixed the album’s title track as a charting single and radio hit, major labels came calling in time for the quintet’s finely-honed second album, 2008’s Minus.
Working with Scandinavian engineers Pelle Henricsson and Eskil Lovstrom (Refused, Poison The Well), the band spent a freezing couple of months tracking and mixing new songs in a disused Swedish mental institution.
“You wouldn’t know it was an old asylum from inside the studio,” says Franklin, “but once you headed downstairs into the basement you could see the tunnels connecting all the buildings – and that’s how they used to transport patients, along kilometres of tunnels. And you realise what used to happen down there – about 5000 lobotomies were performed at this place.”
Franklin says the dank echo of Sweden’s sub-zero winter weather certainly influenced the sound of the album.
“It was minus-15 on average with only four or five hours of daylight a day,” he says. “It was dark and cold a lot of the time and so I think where we were and what was happening around us can be heard in the album if you listen closely.”
Promoting Minus’ third single Runaway across Australia in March, Franklin says the album is a quantum sonic leap from their debut.
“It’s definitely been a massive learning curve,” he says. “You get better at writing and in every aspect of the band’s life it’s developed musically and in terms of performance. And playing festivals and some of the bigger shows, it hasn’t seemed like a massive transition but it’s a real natural progression. But we’re still the same band, still just five mates hanging out and making music.”
And still in Windsor.
WHO: Dukes of Windsor
WHAT: Play Garden Party, Wollongong University / O Ball, Newcastle University / Wagga Wagga Botanical Gardens / Annandale Hotel
WHEN: Thursday 12 March / Friday 13 / Saturday 14 / Friday 27