Thursday, November 26, 2009

Duke and the King Interview

The Duke & The King


“Unless you’ve been on planet Mars, you will know of my love for these amazing guys. It was a real honour to be invited backstage to meet them and run what I thought would be a short five minute interview. Turns out we kinda hit it off and it ended up running for nearly thirty minutes. Hope I managed to give you an insight to the people behind this inspirational band!!!”

Mark: Hi everyone! I was wondering if you could give our readers some background information on the band and the Catskill Mountains?

Simone: Where I grew up people run around in the woods crazy, light fires and drink beer. Listening to Jimi Hendrix, Iron Maiden, selling and doing drugs and having sex on the back of pickup trucks. It’s a place where it’s a long winter so you gotta learn how to read if you wanna keep your sanity. I have been lucky enough to travel around the world but everywhere I go I think about that place because it’s a really beautiful spot. That’s our homebase for the band we got a barn where we rehearse, a cabin where we record. When we are home we are up there in the woods.

Mark: I saw this amazing video on YouTube of you doing an acoustic version of “One More American Song” in Olana Bell Tower.

Simone: Have you ever heard of Olana ?

Mark: No not until I saw the video and it blew me away !!

Simone: Well if America has any castles it’s one of them. This guy built it – Frederic Church – he was the first internationally recognised American painter in the 1860’s. He was a friend of Walt Whitman and the other transcendental writers and they all made their homes in the Catskill Mountains around a town called Hudson. I go there to do some songwriting on nice summer days, and I went there and this girl saw me playing the guitar by the gardens. She asked to take some photo’s so I said I was kind of busy so she said please I wanna film you. So I said listen I have been coming here since I was a kid but that bell tower has always been out of bounds. If you can get me up there you can film me. So she went and got the skeleton key and the go ahead from her boss. It was a magical day and she said sing a song so I sung a song and it ended up on the internet like everything on the internet!! (much laughter from the room ) You know naked children and beheadings all kinds of shit. It’s a strange world we live in so we are trying to be just as rooted and on earth as we can as a band!!

Mark: I described that song in an article dunno if you ever read anything as I know people write some strange shit!

Simone: We don’t.

Mark: Well O said it reminded me of a 21st century version of ‘This Land is Your Land’ by Woody Guthrie. You know that’s how it came and much it means to me sends shivers down my spine the first time and every time I hear it. You know I really mean that!!

Simone: Wow, you know I have never had a compliment that gracious in that way about it. Because you know Woddy Guthrie is a real storyteller, he knows how to tell the story of our very strange mistake of a country, yet very beautiful country. You know man I don’t know what to say!!

Mark: Well you know that song can move me to tears, amazing song!!

Simone: (softly) Really I don’t know what to say truly.

Mark: So you had some rave reviews over here for the album, it’s been critically acclaimed whatever that is!! So how’s the record gone down Stateside?

Simone: Well we have not been playing over there too much but we have been asked to do a couple of really great things there is a radio station called NPR. It’s the National Public Radio and if you get asked to do it it’s a good honour and we have been asked onto three different shows. We were also asked by Levon Helm from The Band to play over at his house, that’s one of our highlights of our time together as a band I think. We sang our songs over at his place and everyone sang along with us. You know these real Levon devotee’s said it was the best version of “Helpless” they had ever heard, that made us really proud. If that wasn’t enough Levon asked us to come up and sing “The Weight” with him I had to remember the first and third verse that’s what he asked me to sing then we all sang the chorus together. I kept looking over at Levon with that smile and it changed my life and everyone else in The Band and made us a better band too.

Mark: Do you feel that this is like a natural progression then on from your work with the Felice Brothers ?

Simone: Yea, I guess it’s always a progression, a journey train ride, raft ride down a river and this is where it’s taking us we follow our hearts and the voice in our heads all four of us. We don’t question the voice and in that we are united as a traveling church of poetry and sex and music etc.!!

Mark: I sound like I’m pissing up your back now, but I really do think you are a lyrical genius and together as a band the harmonies you create onstage are something magical!!

Simone: I’m really glad that you are here to see us live for the first time tonight because I really feel you are going to get a heartful tonight right brothers and sister!!

All: Yea, right!

Simi: We are so happy to be here!

Mark: This is a really great venue to play guys!

Simone: Yea everyone here is so lovely!

Mark: You have described the record as about growing up in America in the 80’s, like with Union St you have introduced it onstage as such – is that a fair reflection ?

Simone: Ummmmm what do you think Bob?

Bobby Bird: The only thing I’ll say is that I think the records about more than anything us giving back what we have got as listeners to. In other words we have been shaken up our lives changed and saved by music and songs by Rock’n’Roll and as long as we got Rock’n’Roll it will be alright. I think a lot of it’s looking back on the mistakes we made in our childhood in love and life and realising – Shit!! There was nothing we could do to change it so lets live right now and all sing together and have a good time. So uh for me it’s just another time that’s passed on it relates to the past the future and the present! It’s just tying all those pieces together.

Simone: When I was a kid the first song I ever got tapped into on the radio was “We are the World”. I would sit with my Walkman and listen – it was on like every half an hour. So I would watch the video on MTV and I would see Stevie like singing with Cindy Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles and fuckin’ Kenny Loggins and that was my introduction to pop music. I have never really thought of this before but we have been lucky enough to create a band were there are all these great voices singing songs together!!

Mark: Totally

Simone: And shit we are the world man!!!!! (much laughter)

Mark: You kinda took my next words I find it’s a record that’s deep slightly mournful yet full of hope!

Simone: We want our music to be full of hope, I will let the preacher talk about that!

Reverend: We talk about the American Dream but what is life without hope of a better life, so if we can spread some of that in any venue, any interview, any photograph; shed a little light into someone’s life and give them the inspiration to get to point B, where we are trying to go, then we have done our job.

Bobby: It’s interesting when a question like that comes up because it makes you really dig into yourself to understand it. When you go through something and you really face it there’s a freedom that goes along with accepting it. So you end up feeling better though it might not feel as good as you would like it to, you know you get a certain freedom from not being weighed down by things by just letting them go.

Mark: The way I feel about listening to the record – and I’m sure people get this from your shows – I don’t want this to sound like bullshit but you feel as fan you feel like you are part of a family. Do you know what I mean?

Simone: That was the mantra that I first used to talk about with my brothers when I first started to sing and play was that I want everyone who comes to see us play – be it five or five thousand – to feel like they are part of this. We want them to sing along. We are lucky that we wrote some songs that people can sing along to. We want people to feel like they are part of something you know? Like too many rock stars they get up there and say look at me look at me I’m shaking! We want everybody to look inward and all be one, you know? Union St is a place where we can all be one and we really wanna not just talk the talk, we want to walk the walk.

Bobby: When you are really looking inward you are looking outward because people are feeling the same things. So if you look inward and find the truth of what that is you will probably find you have a lot in common with the person standing next to you.

Mark: I have taken up way too much of your time already, but I must ask you what’s planned for 2010?

Simone: Well we are going to play all over Europe everywhere, wherever people want us to sing we are going to come sing. Then maybe in the fall we will go and record some new songs. Album two will be an extension of what we started except with Reverend Loveday singing some leads and Simi Stone as well and all of us really singing together as a singing band on tape. So this year we are going to be developing that onstage.

Mark: So will that include some more time back in the UK?

Simone: Yea we are coming back in February if the people want us we will keep coming!!

Mark: Fantastic, well I had a couple of shit questions I’m not even going to bother with those!!!!! (much laughter)

Simone: Well you asked all the right ones!!!

Mark: Thank you so much for your time and warmth people!!