Underwater Soul:
The Duke Spirit Makes Dark, Murky Music To Dance To (Or, You Know, To Do That Other Thing)

The Duke Spirit pic #1
The Duke Spirit. Photo by David Bowman.
Each year at South By Southwest, one band always sticks out in my mind. 2008's festival was another excellent year -- shows by British Sea Power, Sleepercar, and many more blew me away, but The Duke Spirit is a band I had never seen (and barely heard of) that still has me listening to its music on a regular basis even now. The Cheltenham, England, band hit its stride with last year's Neptune, and is now on tour with Incubus. The tour stops in Houston this Friday (August 21st).
We asked Toby Butler, The Duke Spirit's guitarist, some questions. Enjoy.
The Duke Spirit plays Friday, August 21st, at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, along with Incubus.

SCR: How have you seen your reception from audiences grow? I recall the Filter party being very excited about your show during SXSW -- I know my wife and I were blown away. How about compared to touring here before?
Toby Butler: We always seem to have a bit of a buzz around us whenever we play, which I don't mean to come across as being arrogant. We feel we made a great album with Neptune, and so are excited to play it live. We always put a lot of energy and passion into our live show, plus I feel we offer something honest in our music that gets people all stirred up!

Neptune was one of my favorite albums of 2008. Did you enjoy the recording process in the California desert better than recording your previous albums? Why or why not? You had been out there before for Coachella, right? I love that area of the country.
Joshua Tree is a strange and wonderful place. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to record out there. The guys that live out there...Dave Catching, who owns the studio, Chris Goss, who produced the album, Hutch, the sound man who cooked for us, are all great people who we stay in touch with.
You had the songs for Neptune written before going to the Joshua Tree area, right? How do you guys approach the songwriting process? Is it a collaborative effort, or does each member do their own thing, and you end up working it out into a cohesive piece?
Luke [Ford, guitarist/vocalist] and I write most of the music independently, and then sit with Liela [Moss, vocalist/pianist] and come up with vocal melodies. She writes pretty much all of the lyrics.
What do you consider to be your primary musical influences? I have been a fan of modern British music since my teens in the mid-'80s and hear some similarities -- some The Jesus & Mary Chain, early shoegazey stuff -- and there's a lot of soul, as well. Do you think these influences play into your songs?
Tons and tons of influences. Luke grew up listening to JAMC, so he brings that aspect in. I grew up listening to The Clash and other punk bands, as well as lots of old blues stuff. We all love The Rolling Stones. Soul music is a big influence, in so much as the energy and lift of it. We wanna make dark sensual rock and roll that makes you wanna dance or fuck, basically.
You guys have played with some good bands while touring the US -- BRMC, for one -- and have played with others like British Sea Power and Kasabian in the past. What's been your favorite part of being on tour?
The Duke Spirit record cover
I love seeing and experiencing new cities. Meeting bands is also a great part of what we do. Very often touring with bands takes you by surprise. The bands you don't think you'll like or get on with are often the ones that you end up loving.
Are there any up-and-coming UK bands you recommend I check out? Anything interesting you've been listening to lately?
The Archie Bronson Outfit are a great great band. Joe Gideon and the Fish, too.
Are you guys finding any time to work on new songs?
We are working on new stuff slowly. Nothing's anywhere ready to play, though.

Thanks to Toby from The Duke Spirit for taking the time to answer these questions. Check out the band online, then be sure to get a copy of Neptune -- Cactus Music has it on vinyl. END