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The Duke Spirit - In High Spirit

Author: Nina Bertok
Monday, 16 March 2009

Having worked with the likes of a Cocteau twin, Kyuss’ producer, Unkle and fashion designer Alexander McQueen, The Duke Spirit are no regular British band. 3D’s Nina Bertok speaks to bassist Toby Butler ahead of the quartet’s first Australian tour.

They may be as British as bangers and mash, but when it comes to their music, The Duke Spirit are all about channeling their inner Americana. Ever since their 2008 sophomore album Neptune, American audiences – including super producer Chris Goss – fell hard for the English four-piece, who these days consider the US something of a second home.

Bass player Toby Butler reminisces over the band’s Neptune recording session with Goss – quite literally out in the middle of nowhere.

“We’re all big Queens of the Stone Age fans and Chris has produced a few of their albums,” Butler explains. “They have this really cool studio out in the desert called Rancho de la Luna at the Joshua Tree, two hours outside of Los Angeles. It’s just this crazy part of the world that has turned into such an incestuous scene with the people from the Queens and the Eagles of Death Metal. It’s basically this small Mexican-style house in the middle of nowhere full of crazy artwork like animal skulls and weird figures. There are loads of mad, old vintage amps and guitars there and all the people cook barbecues every night and drink tequila cocktails – it’s a real community spirit with a creative vibe.”

And as far as Butler is concerned, recording a quality album is all about the right location. “It’s absolutely important to the extent of being one of the first considerations when you’re writing an album,” he says. “We’ve gone into a posh, expensive London studio before which we’ve never liked because it was too sterile and clinical, with this big piece of glass there in front of you which makes you feel like you’re making music in a lab. It’s exciting to be in a big, cool, expensive studio, but it’s not particularly inspiring.”

But then again, as Butler points out, The Duke Spirit have never really been the types to stay hauled up for long periods of time anyway – give them the road over the studio any day.

“We are a band that loves touring and America was very quick to offer us that; maybe that’s part of the reason that we’ve done so well over there. The other thing is that people are not as accepting in the UK and if you’re not in NME every week or belong to a particular scene, it can be quite hard to tour. America is such a huge place with so many acts that it’s a lot more open to bands like that.”

Not that The Duke Spirit haven’t gained any buzz in their home country – frontwoman Liela Moss and the bluesy, dirty rock n roll stylings of the Cheltenham-based quartet recently inspired British fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s collection.

“We’ve done a kind of compilation album of our different songs to go with the collection,” Butler says. “It’s kind of B-sides and unreleased tracks which will be released with the clothes throughout Target in America. Alexander approached Liela to be his muse, so they designed clothes while listening to our album and looking at pictures of us playing. It was flattering but kind of weird. At first we thought, ‘what the fuck do they mean- Do they want us to design clothes-’ so it’s a bit of a relief we can just stick to the music.”

WHO: The Duke Spirit
WHAT: Play Oxford Art Factory
WHEN: Thursday 26 March
MORE: dukespirit.com

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