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Publication: The Stranger
Date published:
Language: English
PMID: 59135
Journal code: STRR



The Duke Spirit are a spitting, firing, stampeding five-piece rock band from London that you need to see, hear, and be swallowed by. Singer Liela Moss is a lithe, blond cross-up between Björk and heyday Axl Rose. As a unit, the Duke Spirit drive with '60s-torched, dual-guitar garage momentum. Toby Butler (guitar), Luke Ford (guitar), Marc Sallis (bass), and Olly Betts (drums) circulate and build behind the throat of Moss's sugar-dusted sonar. For eight months, the band holed up writing and recording their third album, Bruiser. They had just come offtwo years of touring and wanted strip down their sound, to put it on a diet. The result is effective-Bruiser is big and bare, pounding at times, and elsewhere receding into subdued dynamics. Working with producer Andrew Scheps (Johnny Cash, Weezer, U2) helped whittle and prod the arrangements into the leaner, soughtafter modes. Alan Moulder (the Jesus and Mary Chain, Depeche Mode, My Bloody Valentine, Smashing Pumpkins) handled additional mixing. Moss spoke from the Fillmore in Miami as the band was loading in. She is not down with Mickey Mouse.

Shouldn't you be helping the guys carry gear in?

I should be, but you've done me a great service, because now I get to talk to you and not carry shit in. Ooh look, there's our fruit basket-very gourmet. We've been obsessed with Clif Bars lately. They have flavors here we've never seen, like coconut and carrot cake. The carrot cake one blew our minds. Fucking hell, man, the quicker we get out of Miami the better. I can't take this much humidity and the ridiculous amount of tourism going on. We just had a moment in the sea, though, which was perfect to clear out a late-night hungover vibe. But it's too much, I can't take it.

You're not into the Mickey Mouse aspect?

No, not really. And not into the cruising Miami Beach thing, either. I've been here three times, and I can safely say I've had my fill now. But we found this brilliant little dive bar last night and met this young punk band from Puerto Rico that were just totally fucking on it, so we got a little excited about it. We got their 7-inch and their e-mail address, because I want to make sure we play with them next time we're over here.

The Duke Spirit tour so much. For Neptune, you were basically on the road for two years. What does touring that much do to your psyche? How does it affect you?

I ask myself that same question. I think I've learned to find a personal home within my mind, and to find home within a relative calm. It's kind of a Zen experience after a while, because your possessions can't sustain you, and the things that you have back home can't help you. You really only have your appetite to get to the next place and meet new people and put on a good show. Everything external falls away and is ephemeral, and what really matters is getting my voice to connect with people, and meeting people. I love meeting people- strange people, funny people, people who tell us strange stories in hotels and elevators-it all draws in a beautiful humanity.

Touring can get boring at times, with the long drives. I've gone to new levels of boredom. Then it gets so boring [that] it's meditative. You get to the other side of boredom.

What place has surprised you in a good way?

New Jersey. We had the best show there. When our second album called Neptune was out, we played in a small town there called Neptune. They had slightly redeveloped the boardwalk, and it was just a trip. It was a rammed show in a shifty bar, and it went off. Then we piled back to the hotel and there was a Hasidic Jew convention with 3,000 Jewish kids running around. They thought we were the Kings of Leon.

How do you describe yourself to people?

I say we're a heavy rock-and-roll band that also has moments of extreme tenderness.

You say your new album, Bruiser, is your nurse, your horoscope, your map, and your punching bag. Explain.

A lot of it engages slight melancholy, of being away from home and those you love. And watching people you know fall in love, and meeting people and falling for them, not like sex, but falling for who they are. The experience of what we do touring, being in places, then establishing bonds, then leaving. And contemplating separation and distance and place-the map of it all-and pouring it into song. That's where the nurse part came from. Taking care of feelings. The punching bag is being pissed when you haven't brought the best out of a situation...

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