Written by Laura Hamlett Monday, 14 April 2008 14:07
The thing is I always find myself setting at the kitchen table; it's something of a superstition that if I don't sit there, it wouldn't work.
The Duke Spirit are returning to America bearing gifts: a brand new album entitled Neptune and an opening slot with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. These throwback Brits make music in the vein of the Brian Jonestown Massacre or...well, let's face it, older BRMC. With a sassy frontwoman in Leila Moss, The Duke Spirit are laid back and sexy, inviting and relaxing.
I spoke with bassist Toby Butler just before the quintet left London for an extended stay in the States. Aside from superstitions, we talked a bit about the differences in our home countries and the recording process of the new album.
You're in London right now?
We're in London. I'm actually with my wife and her family at her family's house. I just have one day off and its brilliant.
And they're making you work.
It's cool; don't worry.
When do you set out on tour for the new album?
First we go around England island and then we're off over to see you guys next week. We're doing few East Coast shows and then we're going to do a slot with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
They put on a really good show.
I don't really know their music particularly well.
You know what, when I listen to you guys it kind of reminds me of them. It's the same kind of '60s sounding, underground, throwback sound that's so hot today. I think you'll be a great fit.
It should be fun.
How many dates are you playing over here?
I think we are doing about 10 or 12 of our own and about 20 with that Rebel Bike Club, if my memory serves me well. It doesn't always serve me well.
How extensive was your tour for the last album?
That was two years ago. It was pretty extensive, but we also had a lot of mishaps. It's surprising how you get it in perspective by coming there. It feels like it's more of a place; it's quite unnerving, actually.
Yeah, I don't know why. Kind of like maybe dreaming but you just think. I don't know why, but I kind of like a bit of expansiveness.
There are plenty of places you haven't seen yet so there is still some mystery.
I guess there is, yeah. But it's like anywhere; I mean, there are still a lot of places to go in England that I haven't.
It seems like it's so small that you'd know the whole country before you're five.
No, no, no, no way. Like Scotland; I've never really been to Scotland.
How far is that from you?
It's maybe 500 miles.
Wow, and you've never been? Crazy.
I know. Shocking, isn't it?
It really is, I can't tell you how many times we drive 500 to 800 miles.
In England where you have to work hard, you don't get time to be gallivanting unless you're a lorry driver.
Tell me a little bit about the recording process for the new album and how it differed from the last one.
Half of it was made in a kind of residential studio, and the new was made way over in the United States. We were living in and working in the area, we were living in the area but working at a converted ranch, a little building where they catch eagles. It's very kind of down home, you know, very relaxed and go in and track. We'd do some live rhythm takes that we would all play along with, including the drummer, and then we'd track really simply. In the evening, we'd make food and just hang out and talk rubbish.
It was a proper studio setup but it's maybe a bit more organic.
It's interesting you have to leave your home country to work more organically isn't it?
Travel is like great fun if you have the option - "Hey, come record in the States." It was honestly a lot of fun to be seeing another country and living down there, too, for seven weeks.
So we did that and we were just really proud of it. We just love the studio. It was a lot more time and cost a lot more money, but I think we pulled off this really great album. You know, we made a record that sounds better than a lot of people's records, and it was made in a ranch home and we hung out and we had a breeze.
How do you feel that this disc is an improvement on the last one?
We're more open to trying different stuff, essentially. It's just got great songs as well, better songs.
Tell me about your writing or creation process.
All of our record pretty much was all written in England. Demos we started to record in England, which didn't really work. But we our recording process, I don't really know. We normally come in with a little bit of music or a section or a whole song worked out, and then we sit around and jam. We kind of have a fairly kind of clear idea of what our songs should be. So we kind of play it through and really take it any further and then we collect these songs together. Then we play them and play them live and try them out. Sort of all works pretty nicely. That's the kind of back process, the kind of creative process I guess. The thing is I always find myself setting at the kitchen table; it's something of a superstition that if I don't sit there, it wouldn't work. I kind of have to sit in one particular place now. Sounds a bit Brian Wilson doesn't it?
If it works. At least you're not building a sandbox in your dining room.
Yeah, I know; not yet anyway.
That's probably good.
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