The Duke Spirit
The Duke Spirit
|Genres||Alternative rock, indie rock, garage rock|
|Labels||You Are Here|
|Associated acts||Roman Remains|
|Past members||Dan Higgins|
The Duke Spirit are an English rock band based in London. Their sound has been seen as a melding of influences ranging from alternative rock bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain and Spiritualized, the tremulous rock'n'roll of bands such as The Gun Club and The Patti Smith Group, to distinctive rhythmic 'Atlantic soul' and Motown influences. Band members Liela Moss and Toby Butler also perform together in the electro-rock duo "Roman Remains".
The band was formed in London in 2003 by Luke Ford (guitar), Liela Moss (vocals), Toby Butler (bass) and Dan Higgins (guitar).
Ford and Moss met at art college in Cheltenham where he was studying photography and Moss was taking a Fine Arts course. After moving to London and a short period writing and performing as Solomon (in which they were later joined by Butler) they formed The Duke Spirit. Along with guitarist Dan Higgins they set about writing, recording and self-producing a group of songs that formed the basis of their first single and EP. Higgins also creating the woodcuts that served as the band's early artwork.
The band released their second single "Darling You're Mean/Bottom of the Sea" in May on the City Rockers label, without having performed live. The line-up was completed by drummer Olly "The Kid" Betts, and the band played their first show at the Brixton Windmill later that year. They released the Roll, Spirit, Roll EP toward the end of 2003, which won the band critical acclaim from publications such as NME.
The band's debut album was due to be released in September 2004 until their record label, City Rockers, ran out of financial steam. They moved over to Loog Records/Polydor and released the album in the UK on 16 May 2005. The album's producers were Simon Raymonde (formerly the bass player in The Cocteau Twins, and now Bella Union Label boss) and Flood, best known for his work with Nick Cave, NIN and U2. After headlining tours of the UK, the album was released in the U.S. and the band found themselves travelling through America for much of 2006, including a highly praised  performance at the Coachella 2006 festival, California.
The only release of 2006 was a downloadable EP and limited 7" single entitled Covered In Love, released through the band's own Velo Recordings. This was a collection of songs, recorded to 8-track by the band, written by the recently deceased (Arthur Lee, Desmond Dekker and Jessie Mae Hemphill). In early 2007, the band signed to You Are Here a new independent Anglo-Canadian label. The track "Mayday", a collaboration between UNKLE and The Duke Spirit was released on the latest UNKLE album, War Stories, in the UK on 9 July 2007. The track was recorded with Chris Goss at the Rancho De La Luna studio in Joshua Tree, California  where they returned in April 2007 to record their own second album, also with Goss. Neptune was released in February 2008. Shortly afterward, Higgins left the band to concentrate on his family, which prompted a personnel shuffle: Toby Butler switched to guitar, with longtime friend Marc Sallis replacing him on bass.
In February 2009, the band released a 10-track compilation CD featuring three songs never released in the US ("Masca", "Souvenir", "Do What You Love") as well as a cover of Alex Chilton's "Baby Doll". The CD was sold alongside an Alexander McQueen collection, one of the shirts of which featured the face of singer Liela Moss.
The band's third album, Bruiser (produced by Andrew Scheps and UNKLE's Rich File), was released in September 2011 through Fiction in the UK, Shangrila music in the U.S. and Co-Operative Music throughout the rest of the world. The album was preceded by the Kusama EP in early 2011, named in tribute to the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama whose work had become an inspiration to the band during the writing of the 3rd album. Yayoi Kusama was also the main inspiration and lyrical focus for the song "Sweet Bitter Sweet" on the Bruiser album. Bruiser brought several more U.S. and European tours and they released a live LP, 'Dresden Live' (recorded as the name would suggest in Dresden, Germany) for Record Store Day 2012 with a sleeve design by British artist 'French'. Following this the band went into a 2-year period of hibernation, Moss & Butler releasing new music under the moniker 'Roman Remains' and Betts producing and drumming with London Band 'Furs'.
In October 2014, the band re-grouped and working between London & Somerset they began to shape new sketches and demos into a set of songs for a fourth LP. They again called on producer Simon Raymonde and in January 2015 they threw themselves into recording the new album, to be titled Kin, in Urchin Studios, Hackney, London, over a period of 3 weeks.
September 2015 brought with it the first Duke Spirit performance in three years at the End of the Road Festival with new bass player Rich Fownes (Bad for Lazarus, Unkle, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster) and also the first release from Kin, the song "Here Comes the Vapour". The following single, "Blue and Yellow Light", was released in November with an accompanying music video.
The Duke Spirit have received acclaim and increasing success despite relatively little advertising based promotion on television and radio. Initially a 'word of mouth' band, their touring schedules have helped them to spread their music across the country and eventually into America and the rest of Europe, which culminated in a nomination for "Best Live Band" at the 2011 Artrocker Magazine Awards. They have played a number of high-profile support slots for Queens of the Stone Age, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, British Sea Power, R.E.M., Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Supergrass, Eagles Of Death Metal and Jane's Addiction. Since 2008, the band have performed on American and British TV more than seven times - appearing on Later... with Jools Holland, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Last Call with Carson Daly, It's On with Alexa Chung, The Henry Rollins Show, Shameless, and the Late Show with David Letterman. Their song "Send a Little Love Token" was also included in the fifth title in the Guitar Hero video game series. Released in September 2009, it had sold nearly 1 million copies worldwide by the end of the year.
- Current members
- Liela Moss - vocals, harmonica, piano, percussion (2003-present)
- Luke Ford - guitar, backing vocals, Farfisa, piano, Autoharp (2003-present)
- Toby Butler - guitar, bass guitar, backing vocals, organs, piano (2003-present)
- Olly 'The Kid' Betts - drums, glockenspiel, percussion, piano, backing vocals (2003-present)
- Rich Fownes - bass guitar (2014-present)
- Former members
- Dan Higgins - guitar, autoharp (2003-2008)
- Marc Sallis - bass guitar (2008-2012)
- Shangri La Music
- "Biography by Heather Phares". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 9 January 2009.
- Murray, Robin (7 October 2015). "Premiere: The Duke Spirit - 'Blue and Yellow Light'". Clash.
- Itzkoff, Dave (15 January 2010). "Beatles Video Game: Sales Not So Fab". The New York Times.
- Official website
- Interview with Toby Butler & Leila Moss - October 2007 from The Line of Best Fit
- Live in-studio performance on Morning Becomes Eclectic - KCRW