THE INTERVIEW: The Duke Spirit

A New Album, A New Tour, and The Duke Spirit Keep Getting Better
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The Duke Spirit is one of the most up-and-coming acts on the indie rock scene today. They came to the Bowery Ballroom and upheld their reputation as a dynamic live act last month, and lead singer Leila Moss was gracious enough to sit and answer some questions after the show.

You guys played at South by Southwest this year, how did it go and who were some of the your favorite acts you caught?

Leila Moss (LM): The south by southwest gigs went really well this year, we did three shows all in all, good. SXSW is generally a bit weird for bands to play, I don’t necessarily think it’s the best place to see bands either. A lot of the music industry folks just come and stand around and chat while you play. Give me the Bowery Ballroom instead anytime!

You’ve been playing together for about five years. What’s it been like to grow together as a band while watching your fanbase multiply?

LM: There is always a lot of proximity with a band playing/touring/recording together which is hard to get away from. Its like, you see each other so often, you don’t notice the little changes in each other. None of the band have turned into divas from whatever success we’ve had. Yet! I don’t feel we’ve got particularly different ideas musically than when we started, to be honest. There isn’t a lot of chronology to our songs in many ways; they could have appeared at any time of our existence. The songs on ‘Neptune’ are just a better group of songs and recorded in a way we are happier with. It is very exciting to get some recognition for what we do, it’s such a tenuous thing to do for an occupation. I suppose on a purely selfish level you can talk to people like your folks about your successes in playing to a packed-out venue in LA or New York and they can relate to that and get all proud and soppy!

What are your favorite tracks off the new album?

LM: I like “You really wake up the love in me” for general bombastic rockin’ duties, but also “Dog Roses”. I feel that song was snatched from the jaws of defeat when we recorded it, it didn’t have a lot of interest in it around when we were choosing what to record but its gone on to be a little beauty.

What was it like working with James Lavelle on the UNKLE album?

LM: He was very in tune to the music he wanted to make, a real music fan, obviously. I liked how him and Rich would get enthused and passionate about fuzz tones from guitars, or whatever, having come from what’s perceived to be a more ‘electronic’, sort of, area of music. They totally knew what worked for them and that’s admirable. I think they got a really good, eclectic selection of collaborators for their record and it shows.

You play all over the US and UK, how much has the quality of your live shows contributed to the growth of your fanbase, and how does NY as a city and the Bowery Ballroom as a venue stack up?

LM: Our live shows have given us a great reputation, its been a big part of whatever success we’ve had. I think its got to be a combination. To be a really great band, your records have to be really exciting, too, not a damp squib compared to your live show. I hate it when that happens. New York is a great place to play, obviously, and the bowery ballroom is easily my favourite venue . I like the size of it, and the layout. Maybe its an aesthetic, architectural or spatial thing, but its great.

Do you have any favorite venues, bars, places to eat when you make it to NY?

LM: I’ve found a place recently called Great Jones Cafe on Great Jones Street, serving creole/cajun food, which I could visit everyday I believe, and another taco stand called La Esquina near there too, which is great. You don’t get much Mexican/Latin American food in the UK, it’s a bit of a rarity generally, so I load up whenever i’m here. I do like a big proper vodka martini, clean, with an olive, so I might end up going to a posh hotel bar to get one of those, like the Tribeca Grand. Its just medicinal, you know!

Marc Amigone

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