The Duke Spirit

The Duke Spirit Biography

Many bands claim to practice the true elementary arts of rock'n'roll, but hardly any truly understand them. The Duke Spirit, though a five-piece from London — are one of the few that do. They have been using London and the areas surrounding as their history book perfecting their own unique and jagged take on the history of rock'n'roll music. The first public notice of their intentions appeared in 2003, when they released both a critically-acclaimed single ('Bottom Of The Sea') and mini-album ('Roll, Spirit, Roll') in the UK, which showcased a scuffed and soulful guitar aesthetic, redolent of everyone from the Velvets and Nico through to The Gun Club and Patti Smith.

Everything about their music — from the arcane supernatural imagery on the sleeves of their records (drawn from 17th Century English woodcuts) to the raw, instinctive recording techniques — underlined The Duke Spirits sensibilities and purpose... "We're basically a raw, rock'n'roll band," explains guitarist Luke Ford from the corner of a backstreet London bar, "but at the same time we want to make records and music that drag our listeners right down to the bottom of the pit."

"We want our music to be redemptive," continues singer Liela Moss. "We want to expose emotions without spelling it out. I want a generosity of spirit there, a baton for people to hold onto."

The Duke Spirit (Luke and Liela are augmented by Dan Higgins - guitar, Olly Betts - drums and Toby Butler - bass) are one of those lucky groups for whom this kind of music, and life, comes naturally. Luke describes what they do as "something that captured the healing power of rock'n'roll music. When we thought of it, we were listening to things like (Jonathan Richman's) 'Roadrunner', (The Lovin' Spoonful's) 'Do You Believe In Magic?' and (The Velvet Underground's) 'Rock'N'Roll'. They're all songs that immediately make you understand how music can change your mood and life in an instant." Liela is a stunning blonde, who could be compared to Debbie Harry fronting Sonic Youth. She manages to flail to her fuzzy guitar riffs and sings rock in a soulful, sultry tone that mesmerizes any one who watches.

If you click on, you'll see something called The Duke Spirit Alphabet, an A to Z of everyone who's ever inspired them, from David Attenborough and Bo Diddley through to Neil Young and Zorba The Greek. Liela: "We realised that we were drawn to these people because they had "the spirit"..." Dan: "These names are the the people that got me where I am today. It's the same for everyone in the band." Luke: "We've been influenced by all of them, but we've never stolen from them..."

The Duke Spirit have already built up a formidable fan base in the UK via tours with the likes of British Sea Power, Mercury Rev, Mark Lanegan and Razorlight and Kasabian.

In 2005, The Duke Spirit played SXSW in Austin, TX and were unprecedented enough to garner a healthy dose of early press. V Magazine saluted, “Aside from the big, menacing guitars and great hooks, most of The Duke Spirits obvious charm lies with lead singer Liela Moss- a pixieish blonde with a powerful howl (think young Patti Smith or a less operatic PJ Harvey) and a wicked way with a tambourine.” SPIN were spurred to declare them as “A smouldering blues-rock quintet from London fronted by a tambourine-slapping, microphone tossing banshee who wails and struts like a blonde Karen O.” Filter Magazine celebrated their music as “completely enveloped in a shroud of huge emotion-a mix of warm swirling dissonance, minor chords and a pounding minimal ‘60’s rock rhythm section.” Interview boasted “London quintet The Duke Spirit’s heady brand of goth-pop seems to emanate from an era before office jobs and brutal hangovers, when one felt free to shamelessly indulge every emotion.”

2006 will see the force of The Duke Spirit finally unleashed. Recorded sporadically over the best part of a year first with ex-Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde and then with the legendary producer Flood, Cuts Across the Land, their upcoming debut is a force of nature, flicking wildly between the tranquil (the strung-out “Lovetones” or the heartbreak of “Bottom Of The Sea”) and the stormy (the chaos of their last single “Lion Rip,” the wired stridency of “Love Is An Unfamiliar Name”). Musically, it’s a dark, beautiful and occasionally malevolent record (check out the gallows’ rattle of “You Were Born Inside My Heart”). If you imagine the third Velvet Underground album or '60s soul singer Irma Thomas fronting The Rolling Stones, you're in the right ballpark. Add to this Moss’ raw and powerful lyricism, and you’ve got something that’s both mysterious and unique. The title of the record is important, referring to both the band's determination to "leave a mark on the world", as well as the ties the whole group feel to the countryside and the superstitions and folklore that surround it.

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