A Baa Baa Blaah with London’s The Duke Spirit, deconstructing their latest album Kin, the recording process and working in a Chapeau shop.

jamesThe Duke Spirit delivered their debut album a little over 10 years ago, Cuts Across The Land, an album of sheer force, led by one of the UK’s most powerful rock vocalists Leila Moss.  Since that release, the band have delivered four albums, their most recent and most reflective, Kin an album recorded while the band went through a few personal scenarios and journeys.  With thanks to the folk at A Badge of Friendships, we had a Baa Baa Blaah with Toby Butler (guitar, bass, backing vocal, organs, piano) for a catch up on the process of recording the album and learn just how busy bands really are.

the duke spirit

Firstly, congrats on the delivery of Kin, your fourth studio album, great to have The Duke Spirit back, it’s been around 4 ½ years since the release of Bruiser. Kin, is a “beautiful” album.  Despite a quieter time for the band collective, independently it’s been busy, for some, reflective times.  What’s been happening?

Thanks. We released Bruiser in 2011, and toured it for about 2 years, by which time we all felt like we needed a bit of a break. Luke (guitar) had just got married and had a child, and Liela lost her step mum, so it was a tough and chaotic time. It also felt like time to try something different too. Liela and I recorded an electronic album as Roman Remains and toured it in the US and UK. Olly set up a recording studio in London. Midway through 2014 we started talking about doing another TDS album, so got together for a few writing sessions and came up with KIN fairly quickly. So we’ve been busy. When you have gaps of 3 or 4 years between album there’s a common misconception that you’ve been sitting around doing nothing. That’s not the case with us. We recorded this album in 10 days, which is pretty quick. It just took us a long time to do it quickly.

You returned to the studio with producer Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins) for Kin, who also worked with you on your debut “Cuts Across The Land”, back in 2004.  How did this reunion come about? Was the process, experience and vibe any different, some 10 years on?

We’ve always remained friends with Simon, and see him fairly often. When we were writing the songs and talking about how we wanted it to sound we thought of him straight away. We wanted to record it quickly and not fuss over it too much, and Simon is great at creating a quick and easy studio environment. Plus he’s great company and very funny, and we really wanted that person in with us. We trust his ears (as he has great ones!) and that makes recording very easy. It was very similar to making the first record, lots of funny stories and jokes, however slightly less alcohol consumed!

Kin, comparatively plays out with a softer and gentle sound then your previous work.  Was this a considered approach or just where you are all at with the music and life right now?

It was something we wanted to do. I guess right now we feel like you don’t have to use brute force to be powerful. We’ve always had that other side to our band, it’s just that most singles don’t tend to be that kind of song. On a fourth album you should be pushing your own boundaries. Most great rock bands I love have many strings to their bow. It’s easy to play hard and fast. It’s less easy to create something beautiful.

There was so many great collaborations/guests on Kin, how did all this come about? Mark Lanegan, Terry Edwards (Gallon Drunk), Mara Caryle to name but a few, It’s an impressive list of great artistry.

All the guests are our friends. We’ve never felt like we wanted to reach out to someone we don’t know just to get their name on the record. We’ve known Mark for a long time. We did one of our first tours with him, back in 2004. He’s a very friendly and gracious man, and has one of the best voices around. Liela had been hanging out with him whilst we were writing KIN, as they both sing with UNKLE occasionally. She just asked if he’d be interested in singing on a couple of tunes and he said of course! We’ve also known Terry Edwards for ages, as we’re fans of Gallon Drunk, and he’s played and toured with us many times over the years. Sam from the Archie Bronson Outfit has been a friend for a long time. We both started our bands at the same time, and toured together right from the start. He has a very unique and guttural voice. We’re big fans of that band.

It looks like you are back touring mid-year throughout your homeland.  Have you missed playing live? What are you most looking forward to about playing live again as The Duke Spirit?

Liela and I carried on touring with as Roman Remains, so we only really had 2014 off. However, yes, it is something you miss doing and we’re looking forward to getting back on it. We’re formulating all our plans right now, so hopefully those dates will get added to.

The Duke Spirit on stage at the Troubadour. If you've been listening to Morning Becomes Eclectic or Indie 103.1 lately then you know who this band is. The live show lives up to all the talk and more. Even Morrissey was in the house to check them out. Eddie Argos from Art Brut also in the house sippin' a little Hennessy. What a great night with The Duke Spirit.

Can you share with us what influences you to make music and what keeps you going? If the powers above cruelly took your musical talent away, what do talent comes in second you can share with us?

I love the recording process. It’s the thing that drives me personally. Writing is a mix of fun, frustration, doubt and surprise which can be draining. However, once those songs are written then the studio is the next part. I love that process. Taking these songs and seeing where you can take them. If those mighty powers were removed, I’d probably work in a Chapeau shop. Depends what the hours are.

In 2009, you paid us a visit, on the back of promoting Neptune, you have a staple following here, can you take us back to that tour, what you remembered about the tour?  Are there plans to see you back in Australia, it’s been a while!!?!?

Yeah, that was fun. We’d been on tour in the US, and we flew across from LA to Brisbane. Then we took a few days to drive down to Melbourne and Sydney. It felt like a bit of a holiday to be honest. The guys at our label Speak and Spell really looked after us, and the gigs felt great. We have a bit of a link to Melbourne as Luke’s wife was born there. They fly back there fairly often. I hope we can get back there to play one day soon.

The Wandering Lamb has a moto “A Passion For New Music, An Urge to Share”, can you share with us any new music/artist/band you are listening too that is worth our readers scoping out?

Lift to Experience – One of my favourite bands ever. They’ve just reformed after releasing one amazing album about 12 years ago. So not exactly new, but you may not have heard of them, and you really should.

Slow Club – great band from Sheffield.

Clever Thing – weirdos from Brighton.

Gemma Ray