Hi guys, do you fancy telling us a bit about yourselves?
Yes, why not. We are an alternative pop band from Manchester, who add lots of guitar to a saccharin melody. We are Alex, Jonny, Grant and Luke. We are twenty-somethings with a taste for craft ale.
What was it like to record your debut EP at Abbey Road Studios?
Abbey Road is an ethereal establishment. Recording there was out of this world. The ambience and equipment, the history and the spiritual charm. I think we peaked too early; it was all downhill from there…
Since the release of your second EP ‘Champagne of the People’ in March what’s the response been like?
We have not had a bad review yet, which we were extremely surprised about. Naturally, we were buzzing about this. The consensus seems to be that the sound was more mature, and that as a collection of songs, they were fitting of each other more so than the first EP. We felt good going into the studio to record it.
Out of all of your songs, which best describes you as a band?
Stop and Go has inter-playing guitars, a big chorus and terrible lyrics, so is a good shout for this accolade. It is also a song which has stood the test of time, and gets people singing. But I would say Love’s Labour’s Lost covers all bases, too. We are growing as band each day, so the question becomes increasingly difficult to answer. The next EP out early next year will certainly have a few contenders on there.
What would you say your favourite lyric of all time is?
This question is the reason I am answering the questions, and not others, because it caused so many schisms in camp Darling. I think John Lennon had a knack for wearing his (he)art on his sleeve. ‘Gimme Some Truth’ is a fine example: ‘I’m sick and tired of hearing things/From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics/All I want is the truth/Just gimme some truth’. Nobody can accuse him of beating around the bush in this song. I always come back to a lyric by John Frusciante, too: ‘where you are is a state of mind’. I could really learn a thing from these guys.
If could meet your musical idol for the day who it be and where would you take them?
Again, as we all have so many different musical influences, this was a tricky question. In trying to answer it, we have all left the band at least once. I would take Jimi Hendrix to a huge guitar emporium, and set up a groove so infectious that the middle-aged divorcee treating himself to a new keyboard cannot help but jam ‘Chopsticks’ over the top, and the store manager has to prevent any more customers from entering as his staff have climbed the Marshall stacks. A beautiful chaos will ensue for hours. We would probably have a few thirds at Port Street Beer House in Manchester of the finest craft beer after this: a great selection but also near the station, just in case he had to dash.
Are there any bands people should check out at the moment?
We have been fortunate to have played with a lot of great bands in Manchester, having put on our own free night, Ale-ternative, for over a year. Bands like The Minx have blown up in the last six months, and solo acts like Mog Stanley and David Shurr are getting some well-deserved attention. We think that Frank’s Wild Years and Clockwork Radio should be treated to similar booms as they are both very tight bands, with lots of ideas and energy. They are also great lads. We rave about these two bands so much that we should charge commission!
And finally, do you have new material coming out?
We have a single, ‘Svengali Says’, due out early December, with a third EP due out in March. We are taking a gig hiatus until March so that this EP can truly be the next step for us. There are lots of songs and ideas floating around the ether, but we really want to channel some time and energy into bettering ourselves as musicians and bettering our opus. We don’t rest much, but we love this band.
I can’t believe I haven’t stumbled across Duke and the Darlings before now. They are high-energy indie with an old-fashioned charm that carries their guitar-led songs and leaves you with an infectious grin on your face.
Having formed in summer 2011, Champagne of the People is the Manchester quartet’s second EP. It follows their self-titled debut from May of last year, which earned them praise from ilovemanchester.com who said of them:
“The record companies are missing out here. They should be banging the door down -they are just that good.”
Indeed, the latest record is a fabulous showcase of the band’s songwriting abilities. It begins with Love’s Labour’s Lost, which starts with an atmospheric guitar. Melodic indie vocals come in and it takes on an upbeat summer rhythm. Metallic drums join and the quirky style continues. A bluesy riff takes hold just before the final chorus rounding it off in an old-school way.
Second is Whiter Than White, a retro indie classic. A catchy melody which will continue looping your ears for a long while afterwards is pushed along by a sing-a-long pop happiness. Although the title is referring to Class A drugs, there is no darkness or negativity depicted in the song. It simply jumps along its repetitive riff and drum beat, taking on a festival-ready, commercial style.
Don’t Need To is as downbeat as Duke and the Darlings get. Kooky scraping riffs with sad, drawn-out strums fill the intro and the backing harmonies create the signature retro indie feel. The guitar sings along to the melody, which is something I thought very clever. It’s a more chilled track but with a definite tinge of sadness instilled. It ends with electronic fuzzes which cause it to simply cut out.
Ending on Walk Away, which has the same retro vibe and indie vocal but another negative subject matter. It’s about being unlucky in love and being worried about a special relationship ending up the same. The drum rolls bring the drama of the situation while the catchy chorus makes sure you’re left with something to take away from the EP.
There is no doubt that it’s the perfect showing-off of Duke and the Darlings talents. It’s a very well put together EP with several stories told and a cool, professional vibe given off. They’re still a young band with so much more to give, so I hope they continue to produce some killer tunes.
Duke and the Darlings are a band like any other, but what sets them apart from the pack is their passion and dedication to their craft, and their overall love for music. Noting this last point, they founded their own monthly live music nights, calling them Ale-ternative, which showcases the best local and homegrown talent there is to offer, they are true music lovers and as testament to this they put these nights on for free, for all of us to enjoy and the nights couldn’t be more great if they tried. Duke and the Darlings are ones to follow, they make melodious, catchy indie anthems and I am proud to say, they are a credit to Manchester’s music scene.
I caught up with the band’s frontman, Alex Reed, to discuss what’s next for the band and what it was like to record at the world renowned, Abbey Road Studios.
Describe Duke and the Darlings in three words or less.
1. Please 2. See 3. Below
If anyone reading this hasn’t heard your music before. How would you describe it to them?
Infectiously subtle and subtly infectious, that is, big melodies, heaps of guitar and an explorative optimism.
You have released two EPs so far as a band. The most recent one being, Champagne of the People, how has the response been to that?
So far so good. The written response has been extremely positive. We felt we knew the music more with this EP; most of the reviews have been in-tune with our own thoughts, which is gratifying, certainly. If anything, we have been chuffed with how closely reviewers have listened to this EP, with plenty picking apart lyrics and deconstructing melodies. We’re almost into double figures with sales, too.
You recorded your first EP at Abbey Road Studios. How was that experience? I expect it was a very humbling moment for you all, especially with it being you’re first recording experience as a band.
Incredibly humbling. We recorded in Studio 3 at Abbey Road Studios, where Pink Floyd and The Beatles had recorded. That sentence still blows us away. We were so respectful of the place, the staff and the overall institution, that we simply did not play tourist enough. I remember breaking a string and having to dash to Soho; as soon as I opened the front door the people outside brought their cameras up in anticipation. Then they realised it was me, or rather, that it wasn’t a Beatle, and I got on the tube with relative ease.
You have been hinting to the possibility of some new material being recorded for release before the year’s end. What could we be expecting to hear from that?
We have plenty of material and motifs, some of which even existed before the last EP was written. I write songs all the time, and I’ve been saying to the lads that ‘I’ve written the next EP’ for a few months now. But we are more democratic than that. We would like to complete a song called ‘River’ which is more Katie Melua than Duke and the Darlings. We have so many sides to the band, some of which we haven’t even played live, that it would be impossible to capture our quiddity completely, as with any artist; we will simply ready 6-7 songs and see if we can put a thread through an EP’s-worth. Expect melodies, though, whatever the groove.
When it comes to writing the songs, is it a collaborative process?
Yes and no. I write the basic song, but then everyone chips away until we think that it would work live. We then try the songs live, and again, thereafter, we alter and adapt the arrangement and all. A song like ‘Stop and Go’, from our Abbey Road EP, for example, sounds better rendered and more improved since we recorded it in 2011, but when we recorded it we thought it was the bees knees. Bands should always be willing to adapt, as music is alive and it breathes.
Who inspires you?
Musically, I take a lot from those swines who can get a melody from doing very little. John Frusciante, Cody Chesnutt, Fugazi, John Lennon, Lauryn Hill. I would argue that their greatest attribute is their involvement with an idea, and not with the idea of being involved: they simplify greatness until it is greater. I think a lot of UK hip-hop operates on a similar Occam’s Razor approach, too. This said, I love pop from the 90’s. Give me The Cardigans and TLC over The Rolling Stones any day. And what happened to UK garage? There was some great songwriting in that scene!
Your monthly live nights, apply titled Ale-ternative, are a must for any music lover. You get a lot more control and freedom through organising the events yourselves, was this one of the reasons why you chose to do this?
Completely. We get to choose the venue, the bands, the day of the week, the ticket price (free) and pay ourselves and the bands with money and ale. We have never met a promoter we didn’t like, but a lot of their models are antiquated. We made zero contacts through using promoters over a year, so we had to jump ship. We were playing midweek gigs to nobody, and some weekend gigs to plenty of people but getting next to nothing for it. With our Ale-ternative nights we get the one thing that matters: an inclusive atmosphere where everybody is having a great time.
Your Ale-ternative nights are a great way to showcase local talent. Who has been your favourite act so far and can you give us a tease into who’s coming up?
Everyone who has played has been our favourite. We selected them because we love their music. And that’s still the point: we have Black Lights up next, followed by The Scandal (Leeds) and then Band of Jackals (Nottingham). We have plenty of bands and artists with whom we want to play, but we will have to record at some point, so that may be the list until next year!
What’s a Duke and the Darlings show like, for those that may have not seen you live before?
Often they are tipsy affairs in the key of E major. High energy gigs performed above sea level.
We’re big supporters of new music here at Bitter Sweet Symphonies. Having said that, are there any new artists that have caught your attention recently that you’d like to share with us?
Anyone we have played with on Ale-ternative, firstly! There is a great songwriter scene Blackpool/Preston way: we have been lucky enough to have had David Shurr, Mog Stanley and Russ Erwin from that way, but there are plenty more. More locally, we like Clockwork Radio, but who doesn’t? Frank’s Wild Years have got it nailed too, and their frontman Mike is extremely hard-working, which we dig (not that the others are lazy). Seriously, anyone who has played with us! I’m going to throw you a curve ball and say Broken Dialect, who are a hip hop group based in Wolverhampton, I used to be in that group. Funnily enough, they got a lot better when I left.
Do you have any tips for new bands starting out, any advice that you could give them?
There is no formula to success, because if there was, we would be successful by now. Just imagine yourself telling your grandchildren about your band: make sure that you can honestly say, ‘we put in 100% and had a laugh’. Record deals are a bonus.
A special thanks to Duke and the Darlings for this interview and for more info on the band, check out the following links below.
"I feel that represents my listening experiences quite well, from teen to twenty-something. They’re all albums that have influenced me in some way. There might be some on there that I’ve not listened to loads recently but I’ve had a great relationship with them all."
Duke and the Darlings are not like every other band that you have come across, they are distinctively different. They realise that music is about giving and enjoying it with others, so as a testament to this, Duke and the Darlings put on regular free gig nights, every month in fact, to celebrate their love for live music, aptly named Ale-ternative. For a list of all their upcoming gig nights, see below, and be sure to check one of them out. I mean it’s good music and it’s free, you seriously can’t go wrong with that combination.
Duke and the Darlings have released two EPs in their time together as a band, their début being recorded live at Abbey Road Studios, which is impressive in itself. Their most recent offering, entitled Champagne of the People, released earlier this year, is a collection of brilliantly, catchy indie rock tunes, that will get stuck in your head for days.
“Love’s Labour’s Lost” comes in hard and strong with a luscious, gritty riff that grabs you by the hand and won’t let go. Cut to Reed who sweeps in and instantly steals your attention, as the song takes a little respite from the fast-paced, no holds barred monster that it is. We hold on his every word, as the track once again picks up pace and goes straight into killer mode, and sweeps you into a delicious chorus. The heavy mix of drums thrashing against the surging guitars is purely a wall of sound that works perfectly with Reed’s and Saatchi’s vocals.“Love’s Labour’s Lost” is a truly magnificent track, that can’t help but wet your appetite for the wonders which follow.
“Whiter than White” doesn’t slacken grip, as we charge into the track, which is a real stand out, in my opinion.“Whiter than White” really showcases the brilliance of Duke and the Darlings, both musically and lyrically, in the best of ways possible, “you say you wanted some time away, they say till death do us part. You say you wanted to see me, but you’re a fly on the wall”. A real triumph, an angst ridden track fuelled with a killer drum beat and a beautiful melody.
“Don’t Need To” is a slight change in pace, a slow-burning tale of the aftermath at the end of a relationship. We move swiftly onto “Walk Away”, which again picks up pace and storms in with another catchy chorus and a heavy dose of drums. A heartfelt plea to save the relationship and for their other half to “please don’t walk away”. A great track to finish on, cementing just how great Duke and the Darlings are.
A solid EP, arguably their best yet, showing that they are a band to be taken seriously. In my opinion,Champagne of thePeople, is one of the best EP’s I’ve ever heard, a truly remarkable EP to say it’s only their second release to date. Duke and the Darlings are the type of band that you don’t come across regularly, diamonds in the rough.
The second EP, Champagne Of the People from small-time rock group Duke And The Darlings is one for such a list. The Manchester four piece infuse a delicate indie-rock style and entwine it around upbeat vocal hooks, enthralling solo’s and hard hitting melodies that leave an impressionable impact.
‘Don’tNeedTo’ tackles the solemn issues that may be flying round vocalist AlexReed’s head as the band drop down to bring forward a consistent, static piece of music that in some way lacks the flair and diversity that the band show prior, but on the other foot; The track isn’t intended to create a party-themed dance-till-you-drop vibe and instead stays in fitting with the lyrical theme. A track that doesn’t grab, or command, any attention but yet still doesn’t lose it.
The EP, which was recorded live as well as being mixed and mastered, all in the space of one short weekend feels in no way rushed. Whilst the up-tempo style and catchy approach works so well for Duke And The Darlings, it wouldbe unfair to say they haven’t explored their options on the EP.
All in all, Duke And The Darlings are a band whose hard-work and obvious talent can only grow in popularity. Their radio friendly indie-rock hits cast a certain element of fun into you. If you’re looking for something to inspire you to run around the garden in the sun with your boxers on, look no further. I’ll let you decide whether that’s good or not.
As they groove their way through opener ‘Love’sLabour’sLost’ they capture your attention with a consistent and catchy as hell riff that keeps you coming back for more. That sounds cliché as shit, right? The first thing I did when it finished was restart the song, hearing so many different elements, as the drums accolade the neat, on-point, vocals. Leaping onto the swiftness of ‘WhiterThanWhite’, the four piece show that they can regulate their sound with such precision, so effortlessly. The various dips in pace show off a certain togetherness as musicians and a talent that oozes from every beat of the EP.
This four-piece not only recorded their début EP, live at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, but they have also subsequently released their second EP, just this year, entitled Champagne of the People. This EP astonishingly, was recorded live, mixed and mastered all in the same weekend; this shows the bands drive and absolute dedication to their art, a very rare trait to find in this day and age of manufactured bands.
In their short time of being active as a band, they have progressed very rapidly and have perfected their sound to something that’s nothing less than magnificent. They don’t hide the fact, that they are purely doing this for their love of music and playing live. As tribute to this, they have played many free gigs, quoting the band themselves “Duke and the Darlings isn’t about making money. It’s about playing music, enjoying ales and having a good time”. Raise your glasses to these guys, and if you ever see them, go buy them a drink or a couple, they deserve it.
Their style of heavy-hitting guitar infused indie pop, really packs a punch, making them one of the best new bands I’ve come across recently. A real credit to Manchester, I can’t recommend them more, a brilliant, brilliant band. They are currently unsigned, but seriously the record companies are missing out here, they should be banging the door down, they are just that good.
They commonly cite their influences as Stout, Porter and Ale, their love of ale has become a common theme with the band. Going on to inspire their current residency at The Castle Hotel, here in Manchester, apply naming the nights “Ale-ternative” and also featuring a host of great up and coming Manchester bands and musicians alongside themselves. The comradery becomes very apparent here, as music is supposed to bring people together and that’s exactly what Duke and the Darlings are doing. You have to commend these guys for doing this, all music lovers out there rejoice and embrace our great city’s music scene, head down to The Castle Hotel and enjoy the musical delights that you will find there. For the full list of their upcoming gig dates, see below and don’t miss out, go see these guys for free while you still can.
Friday 19th April – The Castle Hotel, Manchester with Mog Stanley & The Minx – FROM 7:30PM – FREE
Friday 17th May – The Castle Hotel, Manchester with David Shurr & Vienna Blood – FROM 7:00PM – FREE
Friday 21st June – The Castle Hotel, Manchester with Milk PunX & Hundred Dollar Cigar –FROM 7:00PM – FREE
Duke and the Darlings are a four-piece band from Manchester consisting of Alex Reed, Jonny Saatchi, Grant Tildsley and Luke Wilkinson. Their second EP, ‘Champagne of the People’ was released on the 22nd March on Sweet Sweet Records and I’m already a big fan.
The EP, although only four songs long is a sufficient enough gateway to give you a little introduction to Duke and the Darlings. Opening track ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ is a short and punchy alternative pop-rock track. The track’s strength is with its melody, that being the piece left with you as you’re left humming it all night. The track’s playful bassline is the stem that the rest of the song grows upon leading into a much more obvious and blatant energy in the following track, ‘Whiter Than White’.
Track two is a lot more energetic in pace with an infectious and relentless chorus. This is Northern indie-pop at its finest, with bursts of aggression cutting in and out alongside the jittering of lead singer Alex’s vocals.
‘Don’t Need To’ is a more of a ballad than the energetic aggression of the EP’s first two tracks. The vocals are top notch, revealing that the band can harmonise and sing in a conventionally well manner as opposed to the more punk orientated vocal style of the first two tracks. Final track ‘Walk Away’ is a more introspective sounding song of built up frustration with lyrics, “Please don’t walk away” being the driving point of the song. Again, the harmonies are an example of how the band can be versatile and sing much more ballad style songs. The track has a climactic ending, forcing that pent up rage to be releases in the second half of the song.
Although short, the second EP by Duke and the Darlings, ‘Champagne of the People’ is a record of versatility and fresh Northern indie-pop. The EP shows promise and we will be looking forward to more releases as we follow the band in the future.
This is the second EP from Manchester-based alternative pop band, Duke and the Darlings. Released on Sweet Sweet Records, it is considered to be instantly infectious and have songs written about marriage breakdowns, flirting and drug-induced fits…
Track listing: Love’s Labour Lost, Whiter Than White, Don’t Need To and Walk Away.
“Love’s Labour Lost” starts with a catchy electric guitar solo followed with a full onslaught of guitars and drums. It then settles into a repetitive mellow tune until we reach the chorus when all hell breaks loose again. The vocals are smooth and convincing. ‘We’ll never know’ what this song is about, as it is quite ambiguous enough to be about anything. “I know that you like it, I can see it in your eyes you’re quite delighted”. Some good riffs too as the songs progresses, vocals pause, and then come back into play again. A good catchy tune of a tale.
“Whiter than White” is a quirky upbeat tale of looking for answers and not quite understanding them. A paralleled tale of the two halves of marriage. She wants/he wants. The melody and music gallop along consistently. Guitar chords match the vocal tone, a nice easy listen on the ears. Lyrics are contradicting, “they say we live for the daytime but it’s a stab in the dark” and “you say you wanted to see me, but you’re a fly on the wall”. Reflecting the squabbling that goes on in any tired relationship. A tale of modern romance with cool guitar hooks. This song seems more soft metal that alternative pop.
“Don’t Need To” starts with steady beats and electric guitar chords. The electric guitar seems to tell the story here, echoing the vocals, with additional low toned vocals echoing the lead singers voice, which add to the atmosphere of the song. Repetitive lyrics, perhaps to get the meaning of the song across – “take what you want but I don’t need too”.
The electric guitar progresses the song along in “Walk Away”. Quite a few hooks and licks. Head nodding and foot stamping ensue without you even noticing. The vocals are begging the protagonists subject not to walk away, well at least not all the way. Heavy guitar chords hammer home this requirement. The hooks within the middle of the song are reminiscent of Coldplay. This song will have you singing and nodding along at the first listen, although it gets a bit heavy and like the previous song is repetitive especially towards the end of the song with a sudden halt…
Collectively this EP works and flows well. This Manchester-based band sing about happenings in our everyday lives and when you’re feeling in the mood for listening to uplifting tunes of reality I would definitely recommend this EP. ‘Champagne of the People’ is fun and fresh, with musical motifs aplenty.
I think we should hire Hugh Grant, Colin Firth and Renée Zellweger for their latest adventure - Champagne of the People. I was rather excited when I received the digital present through the post/email box. I opened it and noted down each emotion, with pen and paper, as I listened through four wonderful tracks. Here’s what I wrote -
Don’t Need To – is a break-up in a relationship. I can feel the vocalist massage his sentiment into the listeners mind with aggravation and remorse. The other instruments take a different path and reminisce memorable times. What a mind fuck, I like it.
Love’s Labour’s Lost – is a track you have to listen to in a dark and miserable room. Much like the previous track, we’re kicked and punched until we understand each segment of the song. When you find the end of the path you can leave the bad thoughts in the damp (SEXY) and devious room and go outside and enjoy the sun as you listen to – LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST.
Walk Away – is my favourite track on the EP. It sounds like the band are taking a holiday to find captivating culture, it wouldn’t be out of place in an independent film. The imagination and creativity in just over two minutes is inspiring; its like listening to Stephen Fry read one of your favourite books, the act take it to the next level.
The last track on the EP is – Whiter Than White and our second favourite on the album. WHY? I hear our readers and Duke And The Darlings shout….WELL – the chorus is memorable with hints of repentance, the guitar and drum sections team up and provide an entertaining listen, while the whole piece wreaks of promise. I wouldn’t be surprised if this track is played on national radio stations and featured in mainstream magazines. GOOD WORK.
You mentioned last August that you would be doing free gigs in Manchester, what made you decide to do this? And do you think this has contributed to a more relaxed and natural sound? And how many have you done to date? Will you continue? The Ale-ternative nights, our free monthly shows, have been truly successful, both in that they have attracted some truly brilliant acts (check out the listings on our Facebook page) but most importantly that they uphold our integrity. We are not anti-promoters, per se, as often they can provide acts with the skills and experience necessary, but certainly we have been frustrated by some of the nights they have hosted in the past: taking money from friends; bands on a bill being musically incongruous; mid-week shows; lack of genuine interaction with bands and media alike. The nights are free entry as we take the hit, and the acts are mutually encouraging: we compere each night to ensure that each band is introduced and made to feel welcome; after all, we have manners.
March saw Ale-ternative #4 at the uber-cool pub The Castle Hotel in Manchester’s hip Northern Quarter; we have five more shows booked there until Summer. Come August, we would love to host an Ale-ternative show at a micro-brewery, as they seem to be the unsigned bands of the beer world, but this is very much a star in the sky.
We are delighted with how they have taken off so far, and certainly we play better on the night as you know that there is no obligation within the room, for supporters and performers alike, and that everyone is there because they want to. The ales may help, too, but there is no scientific research into this as of yet.
Last time we discussed a flash mob and you said you had been working on one (possibly not seriously), but you made mention to a song that you perform live called Momma Fle, did you consider putting this on the EP for those of us who can’t get up to Manchester to see you live? The flash mob is on the back-burner for no reason in particular. Maybe we have a stronger online presence than when we first conjured the idea; we have certainly explored many different means of promotion, with the flash mob still a good thought. We expect it to be stolen by whoever is reading this.
We do wonder whether we should record our live sets to share, but being perfectionists we tend not to. Maybe we should relax more. Maybe we could record the whole Ale-ternative night and host online gigs. We expect this idea to be stolen also by whoever is reading this. But with regards to Momma Fle, they simply don’t make computers powerful enough to record that song in its entirety, or capture the essence of its ironic thrust; we only dabble in it live, really.
There were aspirations to have the EP out by Christmas, was it delayed due to not being able to choose a name? And what were the best ones you didn’t use? And why Champagne for the People? Ironically, the EP was recorded for those that listen to our music in far-flung places, but only have access to the three songs we recorded: the delay probably left them sick of those songs and they have now lost interest, just in time for the EP release! The delay itself was just circumstance, the juggling of variables, karma…one does not rush karma, that’s sort of the point: we don’t feel like we have missed any boat, though. We promised each other after recording in March that we would not leave it so long again.
We must have created one hundred distinct EP titles. At least. ‘Loiter’ stuck for a long time. ‘Champagne of the People’ was the first suggestion and we couldn’t better it. For the record, most of those hundred possible titles were, shall we say, inspired and not very good. But we’re happy with the title; it rings bells with our ethos and is suitably charming.
For the first EP you had a trailer for it, you don’t have one this time, but what about a music video? Is that something in the pipeline and for any particular track?We had a mini-documentary arranged, which was exactly to explore the pride and/or pretention of unsigned music, but the producer postponed it very late on, unfortunately, due to personal reasons. He is still a good lad, and we understand why it didn’t happen then. A music video will occur if the EP is well-received; unsigned bands have a backwards alchemy, you know. ‘Whiter Than White’ is a favourite of ours, and always gets a lively response. Although it’s a song about divorce, it is quite empowering, and this would probably transpose well into a video.
When is your next gig? Our next gig is Ale-ternative #5 on Friday 19th April. We have the fantastic Mog Stanley opening proceedings, we are on second with the headliners not able to reveal themselves until they come home from a national tour. Fancy it?
For ever and ever we will forever endeavour, but it can be quite healthy to decompartmentalise this into targets more tangible every now and again. The imminent prospect of a new year has got Duke and the Darlings all reflective.
What can we achieve in 2013? We don’t know. We cannot predict the unpredictable.
But. However. Despite this. Here is our wish-list for the next 12 months:
1. Record the second EP and release it early Spring
2. Tour the UK and play festivals across Summer
3. Record more visual material; a video here, mini-documentary there…
4. Take Ale-ternative nights to some interesting venues…micro-breweries, anyone??
Duke and the Darlings are cask-conditioned. We are pop music matured in an oak barrel.
In October, we hosted our first night of live music: Ale-ternative. We wanted to make exceedingly good alternative pop free to those human beings boasting ears. Sunday 23rd December saw Ale-ternative #3 packed to the rafters, with attendees left gasping for more.
And there will be more.
We have never truly accepted the idea of promoters as facilitators of introductions. Put another way, we have played many gigs with promoters who have slewn Duke and the Darlings on a bill with other bands, with whom we were never acquainted, and unfortunately with a small handful of bands whose music we could not enjoy.
Salacious confession, hey?
Worse still, it has been more than seldom that we have been placed on a bill with umpteen bands, and so the fervour of isolation and that of being perceived as performing monkeys, wound for the pound, was exacerbated.
The bills of Ale-ternative nights are carefully considered, in order to provide a musical thread upon which the button familiarity can be sewn. As evidence, Duke and the Darlings would gladly not play an Ale-ternative night if we another band could complement the bill better. Furthermore, we insist on compering through the evening, to show our appreciation to the bands and also to the crowds.
The crowds, by the way, have not paid a penny to be there.
2013 should see Ale-ternative nights unsheath themselves from their youthful cocoon, and flourish wonderfully. But only if those ears of yours are willing.
As if subject to the madcap logic of Dorian Gray, whereby one’s image appears much younger and inexperienced than is actually true, we would like make clear that despite this barren blog suggesting a neglect of duty from ourselves, we have in fact been working tirelessly as a band.
The truth is that unsigned bands run their own social media.
The truth is that unsigned bands run themselves ragged.
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Originality is something only claimed to be achieved by an unhealthy handful of liars.
A band can seldom be quoted on saying ‘We are not original’. Instead there is a fashion for fashioning oneself as John Lennon reborn, or an abstract alchemist with byzantine song structures and prophetic lyrics. It is difficult enough to believe a lot of what one reads in interviews with product-placement and clandestine agendas, without spurious claims of being unique and doing something ‘new’.
A general modicum of modesty is needed, and influences should be cited with pride and not with envy. Don’t let the fact that you listened to a lot of Simply Red in your formative years be a skeleton in your cupboard.
Derivation can be a skill, as can the acknowledging of deriving one’s idea from another’s. Duke and the Darlings is composed of four musicians who are each influenced by different sets of bands and artists with very little inter-section, and this can prove quite fortuitous when a cul-de-sac is seemingly reached during a writing session as there are four different answers to the question, ‘What would X do?’. On paper we think we’re quite distinctive, but if you don’t think we sound very unique, then we’re doing our job; we want to make accessible the musically interesting and complex.
We are not saying we are original in our honesty, though.
A band can be defined as ‘a group of people formed for a mutual purpose’, but what is more important, the group as a whole or the people of which the group consists?
Blink-182? Teenageism. Rage Against The Machine? Anti-imperialism. The Roots? Cool-as-you-like-clever-as-you-can-get-ism. Intentional or not, a band can come to symbolise a particular notion or movement, with each member of a band often compounding the symbolism with statements, vocal, sartorial or otherwise. A ‘band’ in this sense is very much the sum of it’s parts.
What about personality?
Another possible understanding of ‘band’ is to see the fact that each member is in the same group as neither here nor there; what is important in this understanding is the idiosyncratic qualities of each individual person as an individual. The closest fit to this oft-forgotten glass slipper is/are The Spice Girls, where individuality is celebrated. See also: The Village People.
But even The Spice Girls ‘fought’ for Girl Power. It would seem that the constant overbearing of ‘group’ is more salient than the beliefs and thoughts of each individual member.
It could be possible that a certain degree of tangible cohesion is necessary for reasons of marketability. This is certainly the case with more mainstream bands where calculation is key. Often with more alternative genres the ‘mutual purpose’ can be far more incidental, or rather subsequential, as the mutual purpose of a band such as Biffy Clyro could be as trivial as each member persisting to play in a band called ‘Biffy Clyro’.
Where are the people? The gauntlet is firmly down.
Duke and the Darlings play Dry Bar, Manchester, Friday 7th September. Tickets £5, doors 6.30PM.
If you have a friend who is in an unsigned band, then you have probably been asked to attend one of their gigs. And listen to their music. And make other people listen to their music. And maybe even get the T-shirt.
Unsigned musicians desperate for their band to achieve something tangible in an increasingly competitive and dilute industry will try any technique conceivable. If you have a friend who is in an unsigned band, you have probably witnessed The Presumptive Sell, The Cross-Sell, The Up-Sell, or The Bait-and-Switch.
Hello. My name is Alex, and I’m a band-oholic.
I can probably trace my obsessive traits back to our first gig as Duke and the Darlings. The promoter had shown faith in our sound, in return for a guaranteed audience. We shook his proverbial hand, and set about gathering attendees. Wide-eyed, we never saw the eventuating pressure to attract. Put one way, most promoters would not want a band back for a second gig if they sounded beyond excellent, but drew in no guests (see also: punters).
It is now Duke and the Darling’s true intent to work with promoters who love our music more than money and themselves. In the meantime, expect Duke and the Darlings to host free gigs, to cosmically balance any past misdemeanors from previous addiction. This is our first step to a full and healthy recovery.
Should we relapse, however, you have been pre-warned about the following gigs:
The Scene Is Dead But Manchester Is Still Restless
Today is Manchester Day, and was celebrated with a parade through the glorious metropolis, with revellers treated to various festivities throughout a grey, Lowryesque day.
The relation between Manchester and music is symbiotic. Oasis. The Stone Roses. Joy Division. The Buzzcocks. The Smiths. The Verve. Elbow. James. Ad infinitum. Moreover, we are now reminded of this inter-relation on a daily basis, due to the fadish revival of many of these bands. Madchester is back.
However, the music presented at the Manchester Day Parade was more on the community side of things; Manchester Youth Steel Orchestra, local choirs Sing for Water and Golden Voices, and Brazilia and Manchester Music Service. On the one hand, it is positive to support such municipal initiatives, but on the other hand, the hand that is swathed in festival wristbands and swamped in music venue stamps, a trick was missed to represent the music scene of Manchester.
Technically speaking, none of the bands listed above are part of the music scene of Manchester. They are part of the festival scene, and the gigsandtours scene, and all the scenes where they can be seen and heard. They now transcend the Manchester music scene, which is certainly no impeachment of duty. The boys just done good.
So then, which bands are part of the current Manchester music scene?
Every band that plays in Manchester is not then de facto part of the Manchester music scene. A scene entails comradery and supportive interaction between bands. We are not able to offer an objective answer to the question, but instead we offer a list of bands that we feel involved with.
On Manchester Day, we now unveil our Manchester music scene:
Amida - Jangly pop minimalists, and some of the friendliest folk in town.
It can be argued that the lost art of busking no longer provides an unsigned band with a concrete platform for networking, precious contact with screaming fans, and unprecedented visibility. It can be argued that busking never did any of these things anyway.
But is busking as dead as the dodo? Or as obselete as Dada? Or as irrelevant as Dido? Interestingly, if we bend the truth, commit a few logical fallacies, and rustle up a handful of false deductions, it can also be argued that busking is a form of social media.
Think about it.
Passers-by glance at you, and possibly tune-in to a leitmotif or two, as if they were scrolling through their News Feed on Facebook, waiting for the kettle to boil; an appreciative pedestrian may pass on a complimentary recommendation to a friend or colleague about your music, along with instructions on what to ‘search’ for; inappropriate buskers can be reported; a busker can usually drum up a bigger audience if he/she has more ‘friends’…ad absurdum.
Manchester City Council do not request a licence or any notification for busking. They do not even request Oasis covers. The medium of busking is therefore as accessible as any platform of social media for us dukes and us darlings, and is probably worth a punt. The challenge to be heard, however, remains both online and on the streets of England.
The next time you stop to listen to a musician on the street, for God’s sake press ‘like’.
A large percentile of the people working in the music industry are trained and paid to primp and present musicians in a marketable fashion. A stronger claim is that the music industry is in fact a sub-sector of the marketing sector.
It is a struggle for an unsigned band to construct an image that simultaneously preserves a respectable modicum of integrity. The fear of ‘selling out’ looms like Damocles’ sword, so a band breaking into the UK Top 40 under the moniker The Coca Colas is at best unlikely.
With what then can bands connotate themselves, without selling out?
Beer is an infallible product in the heady world of rock ‘n’ roll. The bands drink it. The venues sell it. The fans drink it. The bands drink a bit more. However, it tends to be festivals that best lend themselves for sponsorship from breweries, and even then the whole arrangement seems a little…forced.
Critically-acclaimed Scottish brewer Brewdog has created a dynasty on what may appear to be the prime example of the difficulty described herein. The brand and marketing of Brewdog relies heavily on a non-conformist attitude, and punk ethos, with alternative bands such as Radiohead lending song-titles to beer names, and phraseology which propagates this association:
'Our approach has the same contempt of the mass market that the old-school punks had for pop-culture.'
In sum, a band would do well to be sponsored by Brewdog, and Brewdog would do well for their brand integrity to sponsor a band, as thus far the two realms are mutually contingent. But just as musicians have to be careful with which ‘band’wagon they jump on, brewers of beer surely have to be careful which bands they associate with.
But is all this marketing spiel and being careful really the ethos of punk?
So without further ado, the music. Drinking a beer is optional.
The first commandment of being an unsigned band has changed. No longer does it state that ‘An unsigned band must be in the right place, at the right time’, but in fact pluralises the sentiment to read: ‘An unsigned band must be in ALL the right places, at ALL the right times’.
The emergence of social media as a crutch and cane to musicians has coerced the expectations of potential fans to alter. Unsigned bands are expected to be on all platforms of social media: ‘I don’t use Facebook/Twitter/Myspace are they on Facebook/Twitter/Myspace?’
But this isn’t a tightening of the criteria for success, but simply microwave culture. Unsigned bands are now resigned to the fact that the fans expect to be approached on Facebook, that ‘the next big thing’ will ‘follow’ them on Twitter. All unsigned bands are subject to an online interview with a panel of millions.
Much akin to the inhabitants of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, however, it is advisable to obey Napoleon’s ammendments rather than revolt. At least for now. Afterall, if one fan is gained through social media, nothing is lost.
Further Reading: Duke and the Darlings are also available at the following links:
As if predicted by a Kilgore Trout novel, Duke and the Darlings have been been compressed and encapsulated into MP3 format. Lost are our excuses, manners and ceremony, as we have been forever preserved in the amber of our live EP.
Fortunately enough, we have been preserved in the finest amber available; we recorded our EP at Abbey Road Studios.
The three-track EP was recorded live in Studio 3, the very same studio where famous albums by The Beatles were recorded, such as ‘Revolver’ and ‘Let It Be’, but also the transcendental sounds of Pink Floyd on ‘Wish You Were Here’.
And we wish you were there.
It would be too arduous to depict every moment of the recording sessions. Instead we will provide you with the music, the most redolent account of our time in this legendary studio.