The Duke Spirit | Linen Suits & Stereotypes

prof_duke-spirit_sm.jpg[Incubus’s] Brandon Boyd is a massive fan of ours.







The Duke Spirit are returning to St. Louis on July 23 with their fuzzy, soulful noise gems in tow, but here’s the kicker: They’re opening for Incubus! Yes, you’ve read correctly. They’ll be playing the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater to a crowd of young, Brandon-fanaticized girls and those wishing to hear just a nugget of S.C.I.E.N.C.E. slip onto the Incubus set list. I spoke with Olly Betts, drummer extraordinaire of the Dukes, and he opined on everything from barbecuing with Queens of the Stone Age to Brandon Boyd’s love affair with his band. He also shared his deepest influences as a drummer, and talked about the writing process and how The Duke Spirit will finally have some time to write on the road.


I saw you in 2008 with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club here in St. Louis at The Pageant; great show. What was it like touring with them?

Oh, yeah, that was fun. The Pageant was a cool little venue. We’d never been to St. Louis, so it was a great introduction to the place. Touring with [BRMC] was great because I feel like a lot of the fans got us. It was just good timing for us in our album cycle to go out to a lot of places like St. Louis and other towns in the Midwest that we had never been to. We tried to be culture vultures when we were on the road; we tried to experience and really see places.

You recorded a track with UNKLE called "Mayday" at the Rancho De La Luna studio out in Joshua Tree, California. That must’ve been a liberating experience.

It was, and that was pretty much why we ended up doing [Neptune] out there; it was because of that one day. We were just finishing up a tour, and we played Coachella, and the opportunity to collaborate with UNKLE came up and our initial reaction was like, "Oh yeah, we’re in America so we’d love to do it," to "But it’s going to be really hard, isn’t it?" It turned out that they were right down the road in Joshua Tree, though, so literally the day after Coachella we drove down there and met Chris Goss and Dave Catching, who owns and runs the Rancho. We were really taken by the whole process, and when the opportunity came to pick where we were going to record our full-length album, we unanimously said, "Well, let’s do it at Joshua Tree," because the whole "Mayday" experience was awesome; it was a no-brainer for us. And geographically, [Rancho] has such an amazing feel: You’re in the middle of the desert, you’re far enough from L.A. that there’s no light pollution. None of us realized there were so many stars! You can’t get that where we live because all the cities are so close together.

Did you run into any bands while recording at Rancho? I know Queens of the Stone Age record there pretty frequently. Did you get a chance to see them?

It’s funny you should say that because the day we arrived, the Queens were having a press day there. We’re jetlagged to hell, driving out to the desert as the sun was going down, and we literally opened the door and there’s the Queens of the Stone Age. We had a barbecue with them, and that really set us on the right track. At the end of the album process, we ended up doing a show with them and Eagles of Death Metal. It book-ended a great experience, and we’ve forged some amazing relationships.

The Duke Spirit is touring with Incubus. How did you guys hook up?

It’s kind of a weird one, isn’t it? About three years ago, we were asked to go on the road with them in Europe because Brandon [Boyd] is a massive fan of ours. We’d heard from DJs and journalists, and ultimately that’s a great compliment. People who wouldn’t necessarily get into The Duke Spirit—fans of Incubus—have now gotten into us because of [Boyd] championing us. We went with them all over Europe and have since gained some amazing fans, and we hope to do the same over here [in the U.S.]. It should be a great experience playing to an audience that’s never heard of us, and may never hear of us. It just makes sense.

I’ve read in different places that your nickname is "The Kid." Is that true? How’d you get name?

Yeah, that’s true. It’s slightly exempt now that I’m no longer a child. [Laughs] But I am a 28-year-old kid, yeah. That name came about when The Duke Spirit first started, because of [Duke Spirit guitarist] Luke [Ford] being the oldest in the band and me being the youngest. It was a term of endearment, which at the time, I didn’t really like. But as I got older, I sort of clung to it more and more.

Who are you listening to currently, and who are some of your influences as far as drumming is concerned?

As far as current bands, I love the Heartless Bastards. I saw them in London a month ago and was really just blown away; they’ve been kicking out the jams in my house at the moment. An old band that I’ve recently rediscovered is the MC5; I got into them about ten years ago, but have since been listening to them a lot within the last week. I quite like the new Dan Auerbach album, actually. We were in Australia last month; we had just finished a tour there and we’d heard he was in town, so we went along to the show. I was really impressed; he’s definitely someone who I’d say has the blues in his blood, but he puts a 21st-century stamp on it.

With the drumming, I think my favorite drummer is Mitch Mitchell [from the Jimi Hendrix Experience]; my mom and dad are massive Hendrix fans. I love Charlie [Watts, from the Rolling Stones]—the simplicity, and the less-is-more approach, I love that. I love Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine, the two session guys from L.A. who did a lot of stuff in the ’60s and ’70s and did a lot of the Phil Spector "wall of sound" stuff.

Do you guys ever write on the road?

We’re starting to. Up until this point, we’ve always written and demoed at home or taken ourselves off to a little corner of Wales or England and chipped away at it. We’ve been touring around two years and we’ve never really found ourselves writing, mainly because of time. But this tour, being a support band, we’re probably going to have days where we’re sitting around with the acoustic guitars, tambourines, shakers and the floor tom, and I think things will come together. We are itching to write the next album, and we’ve got six or seven songs in the bank that we hope to play on this tour. I don’t think songs really come to life until you’ve played them in front of an audience.

Is there a specific city that you’re looking to cross through on this tour?

We’ve never been to Arizona, so we’re sort of looking forward to that. Personally, I’m looking forward to Florida; I’ve never been there and I’d like to see the Art Deco of Miami. Luke has been there when he was a photographer’s assistant, and he said it was pretty crazy. There are apparently some real stereotypes of guys dressed in linen suits with crazy sunglasses walking around, so I’m sort of looking forward to experiencing a bit of that. [Laughs] Really, though, we love meeting new people and making new friends, and playing to different cities is just great. | Justin Curia

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