Interview: The Duke Spirit

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Image courtesy of musictour.eu

The Duke Spirit have finally returned after a five year wait with their upcoming new album KIN. I caught up with frontwoman Liela Moss to talk about new lyrical approaches, side projects and the cyclical nature of life impacting upon their music.

So, we’ll start with the obvious question: was the 5 year break intended to be so long?

Oh, no, not at all. I think once you’ve made a record and toured it you don’t necessarily go home and sit down with a calendar planning big meetings, you know? But in this particular gap we’ve had so much happen on a personal level. It’s been overwhelming, changing and strange all at the same time. I lost someone I really loved – I lost my step-mum – and there wasn’t really any space, once you’d stepped away, to go and be creative with your friends. So for me that was an essential ‘everything stops’ kind of thing, really. Bizarrely, at the same time as all this (it’s one of those amazing circular human things really), Luke [our guitarist] was having a baby. So you’ve got all these things going on around us, affecting us massively, so I guess that kind of explains a lot of it. I think you could say that we’ve all just had a really intense time of growth and evolution, and that’s contributed massively to the record; the feelings it evokes and the atmosphere we tried to capture. Lyrically as well I feel like I’ve just got a really sharpened awareness, and it’s really put a sort of character into the record.

Would you recommend going on a break to other bands?

[laughing] Yeah, definitely. I mean it depends: if you’re touring massively in huge spaces and you feel rewarded for it energetically and financially then there’s no need to take a break. But if you’re losing a bit of a sense of yourself and not having anything interesting to say then, you know, experiencing real life is very humbling and good. I think it definitely feeds into good lyric-writing and, you know, I look back on some things I’ve written and think “what the fuck is that?” But with this record I can really stand by some of the phrases and images, and I stand by them as things that are important to me. Obviously they might have an effect on other people but that doesn’t really matter because I know it is really spoken to me. It’s been like a companion.

Has touring with your side project Roman Remains influenced the sound on the upcoming album at all?

Well we’ve toured with Gary Numan, Toby [our bassist] and I, and it’s through wanting to learn new technology as a hobby, you know, and through one thing or another it ended up becoming an album. So yeah [laughing], we toured that and ended up in sort of an electronic gothic environment which was amazing but we were like: “What the fuck? How did we end up here?” But that was totally regenerating and it then meant we had all these ridiculous anecdotes to tell the other Duke Spirit guys. You know they’d been doing some of their own things and it just made everything much funnier. It was five of us doing the same thing for twelve years, so when we’ve all gone off in different directions it just makes things more colourful.

Considering all the side projects and collaborations you’ve done, do you think there is more artistic merit in keeping things diverse?

Yeah, I mean I think it’s reflected in all aspects of life. Look at agriculture: if you seed the same plot of land over and over again the nutrients and everything change. If you keep things heterogeneous and you keep cross-fertilising ideas and meet with other people all you do is add character, and interest, texture and contrast. That to me is what life’s about. I get quite frustrated when things plateau – I think I’m quite impatient and a bit pathetic like that. If you keep interacting with people that have amazing personalities and character then you constantly get inspired.

In the new album you seem to focus more on mood rather than riffs; do you think there is more emotional significance to this approach?

Yeah, without a doubt. I really just can’t stress enough, with everything that I’ve talked about, just how much my awareness changed. You focus more on being alive and we’ve all heard these things before, about human mortality, but you cannot help having this hyper-vigilance. You cannot help it after you lose someone, or indeed when someone new comes into the world. You become more aware of temperature and colour, and the way the light falls across the room, the lilt in someone’s voice or the touch of someone’s skin. All of these tiny details become extra-vibrant, and everything seems to be sort of vibrating in a different way than it was before. In terms of putting that into music, it’s got to be through the atmosphere for me, rather than through the melody and the really wordy details. It’s not something that’s going to be described in a thousand words: it’s going to be ushered in by a bit of space after a word, or space before a surge of melody. That for me is how to best put your heart on the table, share it and analyse it… I suppose.

What is the future of the Duke Spirit after KIN?

I think we’d all just like to work a bit quicker now. After touring and working and travelling, sometimes you’re surprised that you’re still driven. Then you realise that you just want to get stuff done quicker, instead of pontificating and analysing it. You have more of an understanding of yourself. It’s like, ‘let’s make it and put it out’.  There’s a bit more of a carefree feeling among us now.

The Duke Spirit will be touring throughout February and March.
You can purchase tickets here: www.thedukespirit.com/tour