Band of the Week (Week 1) – Modern Day Dukes

Monday, 6 January 2014 | By | Add a Comment

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Anyone that has given a passing nosey into the UK underground scene in the past few years will have heard Pais. He once told me he has practices for different bands five nights a week then chills at the weekend by drawing cartoons and programming games at the weekend. Pais is a walking, talking Ritalin advert.

Way back in my uni days I cut my live teeth at a place called Bar: 120 doing open mike nights and upon discovering Facebook, talked online with the regular strummers and squakers. Articles and videos, endless photos and other viral media was shared on the bar page. Some was informative, some encouraging, and some funny. One post I ended up saving to my ‘Keep hold of this for years to come’ folder was a black and purple call stylized call to arms for music lovers to attend more underground shows. Highgreen Dawn was the posting page (named after the student housing next to my beloved Boothroyd Court) and it stuck with me. Years later I would be reliably informed that the Silverjet bassist was the creator of these weird little indie cartoons about musicians we knew that littered the internet, and he wasn’t strictly limited to one band. My girlfriend and her family had recently sold merch for a band that had Pais’ latest project opening for them, and I was intrigued. They were an underground side band that existed outside a bedroom recording studio. They had two singers. Their single referenced a cult Hideki Kamiya game. I had to know more.

I devoured the video in all it’s stark brilliance. Develmaker isn’t one of those songs you can listen to once. Ben and Pais clearly follow the Ginger Wildheart school of ‘riff after riff after riff’. Eloise has hair and harmonies flying all over the place in a spray of tamborines and Nu-Rocks. Dom’s thighs go into spasm on those double bass pedals. They…er…appear to have a member of the Hair Bear Bunch on bass. The band fill a warehouse with light, sound, twirls, melody, samples, unpredictability and pop sensibilities in three minutes flat. This is no ordinary local underground band. This is a cool as fuck local underground band, and they don’t even know it.

 

I went straight ahead and committed that mortal sin of being won over by a band based purely on their CD alone. If you haven’t bought it yet I highly recommend you do. The artwork and layout give nods to a time when bands had PO boxes instead of facebook addresses and art was put together with a Stanley knife and a photocopier rather than Adobe Illustrator. The production is as clear as glass and allows every honey soaked note to stand out. The songs are unashamedly off kilter sing-alongs: I challenge anyone to get past the second chorus of Sleeping With Skeletons without humming along. Try it. You hummed didn’t you? You just hummed along and tapped your feet to a song about a serial killer. ‘We could talk about a Jeffrey Dahlmer situation’ isn’t a line about your teenage romances or how much you like to drink. This band don’t write to your rulebook. They stared out your Sunset Strip cock rock song collection and went back to absinthe and Playstation and Emilie Autumn and playing Led Zepplin ‘4’ backwards.

 

I was really hoping I hadn’t shot myself in the foot the first time I’d broken my own rule. I mentally butcher music in my own head, chopping and carving until it slots into my own mental tapestry of how music should be rather than how it probably is. I had placed myself in a precarious position of exhalting this collection of oddballs as the heavenly union of Happy Days, Hendrix and Placebo and still hadn’t seen them strum a chord. Furthermore, the Modern Day Duchess Kerry had headed for pastures new and for all I knew she could be the glue that held together four tune deaf bastards.

 

You can’t remove a whole room from a house and expect it to stand up straight. You can’t cut out a lung and watch someone carry on regardless. I find it intriguing  hen that music is this strange formless beast, in that removing an integral part just makes a different sort of music. It turns around and looks you in the eye like it had caught you reading over it’s shoulder and asks you what the fuck you think you are doing, and if that page is so damn interesting then why don’t you have this riff to go with it, or this song, or this scissor kick. The Dukes live are the Dukes live and that’s all you need to know. Pais introduces a song in German (I think). A stripped down version of a club hit is the first thirty seconds of another song, itself a theme tune for a tv show that never existed. The associated horror film juxtaposing across my brain to the Feeder-esque ‘Theme for a Handsome Man’ is deeply unsettling. The band seem loose and at entirely at ease with each other in the way that friends do when the only communication is oblique references and in-jokes.

Before our own set, my guitar carries out a week long threat and breaks. Ben lends me his guitar with no deliberation. After an energetic set it gets a four figure price tag attached to it and my heart jumps into my throat. At another show I watch Dom plow every calorie of energy in his body into the enthusiastic gestures and incredulity with which he communicates to my stickman Nish how much he loved his drumming.  Eloise provides a feed of positivity and exuberance in a sea of ‘woe is me’ internet updates, showing interest in society’s fringe issues. Rory stomps his way through Leeds to see us play at daft o ‘clock in a half empty bar – at any half empty bar – determined to support a band he believes is rather than one that is popular. Pais eagerly coughs up money into the Idol Dead bank account to become the second person ever to sport my homemade ‘I Wish I Was Stevi Rox’ tshirt. In no obvious way Modern Day Dukes are wonderful people that have no interest in making you like them or their kooky music. There is no pretension for a band that references more cult phenomena than your average day at Comicon.  They ‘leave on time, and courteously too’, and they inhabit their own little spot in my music collection reserved for bands that only have one comparison: Other bands with no comparisons.

 

– KC: Idol

 

Category: General

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Guitar battering, lyric bellowing merch seller. Give me pepperoni pizza at shows.

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