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Duke Spirit Interview

| April 28, 2006

The Duke Spirit
Cut Above

“This band grew out of friendships,” says Liela Moss. “I don’t see that happening.”
Moss fronts The Duke Spirit, one of these shit-hot, media-darling bands from the U.K. But already in her young career, she finds herself addressing breakup rumors, that in a matter of time she will fly solo and go the way of Janis Joplin and Gwen Stefani — leaving her male bandmates in the dust. “It is not like we are clamoring around the photographer and we all need to get our face in there,” she says. “We came from several years of friendships — at least with most of us — and there is mutual respect in this band. We all want to keep making records and keep doing this.”

The Duke Spirit has had the great fortune — or misfortune, depending on how you view it — of being called The Next Big Thing. In its native England, the band has been getting raves for its debut album, powerful live show, cutting-edge musicianship, and stylish visual presence, due, in large part, to the sexy Moss. Stateside journalists and insiders were given a brief taste of the band and its talents at a memorable 2004 South By Southwest appearance, and more recently at last year’s CMJ convention in New York, where The Duke Spirit wowed just about everyone who saw the show. With Cuts Across The Land recently released on Startime/Vagrant Records in the U.S., and a summer tour with Snow Patrol to back it up, The Duke Spirit is certainly giving itself a chance to meet expectations.

Despite all the hoopla and in-your-face buzz, the band acts almost obliviously to its recent indie, commercial, and critical success. The members prefer to focus, rather, on the band’s music, touring experiences . . . and passion for vintage, 1960s musical instruments, amplifiers, and effects pedals.

“Yeah, we are all a bit into that,” says guitarist and songwriter Luke Ford on the homestretch of their late-winter U.S. tour. “We generally have a lot of old amps, but it is hard to tour with them. You have to have spares because they can keep breaking down. Touring in America has been great because there is so much great stuff here in the music shops.” Talk of classic instruments and amplifiers was spurred by Moss, who was acknowledging the band’s most obvious influence.

“The Velvet Underground were one of the first bands we were all listening to when we formed this band,” she says. “So, we kind of wear them on our sleeve a little. Apart from being an inspiration, we love old gear and old amps and old pedals. So, using them, I guess, might make our music sound like we are visiting that old, hallowed ground and that classic sound from the late 1960s.”

The Velvets, circa “Sweet Jane,” are so commonly cited when critics discuss The Duke Spirit, the band doesn’t even try to run and hide from it. “Yeah, they were a big influence,” admits Moss, “but we didn’t steal from them or any of the other influences.” Adds Ford: “They were a massive influence on us, no doubt.”

Appearing: June 10th at The Vic Theatre in Chicago.

Bruce Pilato

To learn the rest of The Duke Spirit’s debut trials, grab a copy of the May Illinois Entertainer, found throughout Chicagoland.

Category: Features, Monthly

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