London’s The Duke Spirit have just released their second album Neptune. From the British surging sea to the savage Californian desert and the legendary studio Rancho De La Luna (that has hosted Queens of the Stoneage, Bjork and PJ Harvey), guitarist Luke Ford and band heed Neptune’s call of the wild with rock abandon.
I was listening to Neptune while sailing around the Whitsunday Islands and noticed there was a nautical theme, not just the title. How did that come about? Liela writes constantly in her notebook and starts to form lyrics around what she’s written. I don’t think she started writing around the theme of King Neptune. But influences did start and then she sat back and thought about why. It’s about chaos, the tumultuous notion of the sea and the metaphors of emotions. I suppose it wasn’t thought out, it just weirdly happened, which is odd as we were in the middle of the desert. To dry out these ideas, let them breathe.
There’s been a number of sailing albums of late from Modest Mouse to Funeral For A Friend and The Decemberists. What is it about the sea that inspires? As well as Ocean Songs by The Dirty Three, the Australian band. Being British with that island mentality – and though a lot of the songs were written in London – we all come from the country and a few of us grew up by the sea. If you are in tune with the sea and the rain, those scenes are always going to inspire you. Sorry, I’m really jetlagged, so I don’t know if I’m talking complete bullshit.
You’re doing great. How does Neptune and Cuts Across the Land differ? The funny thing is we went into Cuts Across the Land to make a really raw album. But we hadn’t played much live, but had realised the music we wanted to make: a live raw punk rock album. We needed to be direct, to the point, lean. So this time we chose to make a record that had our other influences, to broaden the palate, try more stuff and not be rushing in. But while we tried to be expansive with it, we had played the songs a lot more. In a way they probably do sound more raw rock ‘n’ roll, even though we have piano, and horns that may not necessarily be there on our live shows.
You recorded Neptune in the Californian desert town of Joshua Tree, best known as the Queens of the Stone Age’s recording home? I imagine lots of Tex Mex, tequila and peyote. About right? I’d say more Crystal Meth. The town around Joshua Tree is full of Meth-heads. On the other hand it’s an incredibly inspiring landscape. It’s a clichÃ©d thing to say but it’s a dangerous place to live. Everything seems out to get you there; snakes, spiders, coyotes, even the plants are out to eat you with cactus fucking everywhere, you’re bound to get spiked. That’s the contrast amongst the danger, you see a lot of painters out there and outsider art in bars and cafes and sculptures in the desert. It’s just weird, especially coming from London. There’s definitely good tequila and conversation to be had out there though.
Did you have most of you’re album written by the time you went out there? We’d written and arranged it all so we were really influenced by the records made there and the people who had gone through there, Queens, PJ Harvey, Foo Fighters. The studio is owned by Dave Katchin and Eagles of Death Metal, formerly of QOTSA, hung out with the Gun Club, new the Cramps – you get these stories from people like that when you’re making a record and we were buying into it all wholesale and it lived up to everything we wanted it to do. So we went there with the songs, they just needed colour and be kicked around and settle on the right tempo and breakdowns and things you get in those records that have been made there.
You’re about to play South By South West, Have you been to SXSW before? We’ve been 2005 & 06 and got ourselves into as much mischief as possible. With our album about to come out hopefully it will be a good one. It’s great One big long street full of acts, every cafÃ©, bar, pub, people playing anywhere they can fit a drumkit. You end up seeing some great stuff, new bands and drink shitloads.
Is it almost overkill with overcrowded venues and long bar queues? It’s difficult and last time we were right in the middle of a tour, so we dropped in there and it was full of British people, who’ve obviously come over for the festival so that was weird, and slightly annoying. And sometimes it’s hard getting into places but generally the busy stuff are bands you’ve already heard of anyway. The beauty of it is you could stumble into a bar with five people watching an it could be amazing. That’s the spirit of South By South West?
Have you done much travel outside of the band’s duties? When you love music and movies America still holds that massive appeal, there’s so much bullshit that goes on in this country that when you see the landscape and meet the good people it’s amazing. We did a big trip over here once which was influential. And we’ve done plenty of trips around Europe. I guess we see being in a band with five great friends, although we are doing a job, we are kind of on a big holiday. We went to Iceland in December. I don’t think we would gone there had we not been in a band. Hopefully we’ll come to Australia, we’re talking about maybe October or November.
Neptune is out now on Etch n Sketch.